What’s the difference?

“I always knew I was different.” I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by many, including my own child. Funny thing is, I always knew he was different, too. In the early days we didn’t have a label for it.

transgenderAside from the “tomboy” behavior, there were little things in her/his behavior that, individually didn’t mean much, but when cobbled together raised eyebrows and questions. In fact, I remember at one point we bought a beautifully illustrated children’s book titled, It’s okay to be different. We wanted to reassure our young child that not everyone is the same, diversity is a good thing and that it was truly okay to be different.

Young children who don’t fit into the perceived definition of what’s normal, by either their peers or others around them, are open and at risk for ridicule, self-doubt and numerous anxieties and insecurities. Olivia always loved playing with the boys. I vividly remember a group of “mean girls” in third grade telling her that if she continued to play with the boys then they would no longer be her friends. Honestly, I think I was more hurt by these insensitive children. Where did they learn such discriminating behavior at such a young age? We’ve always taught our kids to “be nice to everyone” — live and let live.

Speaking of differences, did you know that gender identity and sexual orientation are different? I never had thought about this until recently. Actually, I didn’t really understand the notion that these two worlds have different definitions.

So, for those uninitiated, let me explain. It’s really quite simple. Gender identity is how you see yourself, the gender in which you affirm — used to be the only choices were male or female. Sexual orientation is about attraction, sexual preference. For example, my gender is female and my sexual orientation is heterosexual; I am attracted to men (only my husband, of course).  I am not going to get into the array of “preferences/attractions” in this post…suffice to say that the boundaries are moving and changing. Perhaps they always have. The good news is that what used to be viewed as “deviant” is now referred to as “variant.” Think about the autism “spectrum” and how that’s changed.

Transgender individuals have a variety of sexual attractions. A trans man (FTM) may prefer women or may identify as gay and prefer men or may be attracted to men and women. The same holds true for trans women (MTF). Just because she identifies as female doesn’t mean she prefers men. It can be complicated and confusing and full of anxiety for trans families and individuals trying to find their way. This is all uncharted territory for most of us.

Regardless of the journey, no matter the road travelled, one thing’s for certain. It’s okay to be different.

 

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