Updated: Nov 27, 2019
A top the staircase in our home in Ireland, there hung a canvased photo of our children running into the sea - the rolling atlantic mid-summer waves of Martinique Beach in Nova Scotia, to be exact. They were ages 4, 6 and 8 when the first photo was taken.
Above the photo in captioned wall stencil read the words:
'Be your own kind of beautiful'
Children are fearless. And full of wonder.
This was the last image they'd see as they climbed the staircase on their way to bed. It was the first image they'd see in our common hallway each morning. I wanted them to know their unique beauty lies within; to be strong and fearless. And I wanted them to shine in every way they felt fit them.
And they shined, and continue to do so.
I protect our youngest child, who is trans, from the hate and polarization that brews around us. Like so many parents of young trans children, we shelter our kids as best we can, and fight for their rights and acceptance until they're old enough to weather this storm.
But, honestly, I am terrified for the day he becomes aware there are people, large numbers of people, who would wish him out of existence.
The news this past week of a leaked memo indicating the Trump administration is considering rolling back recognition and protections of transgender and non-binary people, is heartbreaking. And we don't even live in the United States but we are worried.
I'm fairly certain we share in the horror, with the Canadian LGBTQ2+ community and fellow parents of trans and gender diverse kids coast-to-coast, of the human rights being diminished for our friends to the south.
The world is burning around us - to have to debate a peoples worthiness of humanity; my child's humanity; it's unquestionable. Invisible borders don't filter bigotry and hate.
What's the memo about?
The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.
Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence
Under Trump Administration
And somewhere in Iowa, a man is burning LGBT children's literature, parents in Oklahoma declared open season on a child for using the wrong bathroom in August and pipe bombs are being delivered to 'outspoken' anti-Trump Democrats.
In Ontario there is a battle with the Ford government to ensure the visibility of gender diverse youth continues to exist in our schools through the sex ed curriculum.
And in NB a small community raised a 'straight pride' flag.
It would appear we are at a critical precipice in history, one with unflinchingly similar themes to Third Reich politics.
I think we could very much be at the beginning of a very, very dangerous period of American politics.- Charlie Sykes, conservative commentator
The President blames main-stream media.
“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” Trump said on Twitter. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
And yet the Politics play on.
Sykes, in conversation with David Common on CBC's The Current said,
"The presidency is the ultimate bully pulpit. It is the ultimate megaphone," he said. Chants of "lock her up," referring to Clinton, and "CNN sucks" regularly erupted from Trump's audience, he said.
Referring to the parallels, Historian Joanne Freeman said,
"In the 1790s, the debate, really more than anything else, was about the democratization of politics. In the 1850s, it was about the place of slavery in American society. In the 1960s, there were two very different visions of what Americans, and America, should be," she said.
"And I think this moment clearly falls in line … and during these moments, people tend to step away from rules. They tend to see everything in extremes, and there is violence during those kinds of moments."
A few years ago we took the kids to New York City. It was before our child socially transitioned. And as we strolled under the Statue of Liberty, having recently immigrated to Canada from Ireland, we reminded ourselves of the hope and wonder held by so many who came to this side of the atlantic to live freely and thrive.
Having our child's passport recently updated with full recognition of his gender marker and name, seems inconsequential, as we won't be visiting the US any time soon.
Make no mistake, ignorance and vitriol flow north of the border. Just look at online news stories focusing on trans rights or the trans community and read the comments -- better yet, don't. Take my word for it, vitriol flows north.
They're not all bots and many of them are our neighbours and they can vote; fellow Canadians writing off the existence of non-binary and transgender people. We need ally's. We need more awareness.
What are the real implications of the Anti-trans memo?
It essentially argues that transgender people don’t exist as a distinct class of people because they are already classified as male or female biologically. If people do not exist as a distinct class or are already covered by a different classification, it is much harder to legally argue that they should be protected from discrimination as a suspect class — a class of individuals marked by certain characteristics.
It means health care, it means rights to housing, it means protection from discrimination within the work place. It means a trans person who has socially and/or medically transitioned can be forced to detransition; dress and present as their gender assigned at birth; or be fired.
Together, the acts of removal of civil rights protections, nonrecognition of a class of people, purging them from civil service, and revocation of passports are extremely disturbing because they all have clear analogies to actions taken in Germany prior to 1939 to isolate and marginalize the Jewish population there.
Over the past year, as a mother, when I'm struck by the awareness of the stigma facing the trans community and our humanities lack of acceptance, I feel like a Guido Orefice in Roberto Benigni's, Life is Beautiful. He so desperately protects his child from the horrors circling them. But my child isn't so young.
How long can you keep your child's spirit safe?
How long before my son becomes acutely aware that not everyone is accepting, like his friends, his family, his teachers, his football coach and teammates, his hairdresser, school Guidance Counsellor.
My Canada currently protects the rights of all of my children. I am grateful. But I am scared. My children are beautiful. They are their own kind of beautiful and I will fight for them and for their rights and freedoms and for their future. And as an ally, I will fight for those I do not know, but who deserve all of our support.
Gwen Benaway writes in response to the leaked memo in Macleans,
When I began my transition, I thought that education and awareness could gradually deconstruct transphobia. I assumed that most people were working through new concepts around gender, and would eventually become less transphobic. I was wrong.
But Benaway is hopeful and positive. An eloquent and intelligent poet, she writes,
As history shows us, you can’t legislate a people out of existence, though you can violently suppress their ability to live healthy and fulfilling lives—and even then, love finds a way through.
and will continue to live., Macleans
Together as allys, we can build a better tomorrow for the trans community. It has to get better. And as the last US election shows us, our rights and freedoms are fragile - even here in Canada.
It's a Wonderful World. #WontBeErased