One of the biggest challenges Transkids seem to have in the world is that they can’t imagine how to be a good, healthy Transadult.
They have lots of role models around them for ways to grow up, even gay and lesbian role models nowadays.
But role models for grown up transpeople? Not so much.
There is funding to help transkids now, paid program directors, correctly trained activists, who want to reach out and help transkids find the right way to be in the world.
Most of these programs, though, do absolutely no work in trying to connect transkids to trans role models, to mentors and big sister/brother style people who can help offer some stories and some hope about being trans in the world.
The term trans kids describes sweet innocents, repressed by the system, but the term trans adults just sounds scary and icky, especially to people in their twenties who don’t trust those over thirty.
To me, it feels like someone has decided that we have to throw away all the old generations of transpeople because they are too weird, too broken, and too politically incorrect to be trusted around our precious transkids. I know that I have had the direct experience of being invited out of helping groups.
Every transperson was, at some point in their life, was a transkid. We, though, were transkids without support, without even visibility. Our struggle was enormous and not at all facilitated by the feminist or even the lesbian & gay community, who often saw us as interloping freaks.
Part of this, of course, is that transwomen are still often seen as really men in the feminist community, and therefore cannot be trusted around children. As people born male and raised as men, we are the oppressors, walking in entitlement, rather than the victims who have learned to give their voice to the group. We do not “understand intersecting oppressions.”
We had to find our own way, become iconoclastic individuals, which means that we don’t know how to empower transkids in the proper, politically correct way.
Youth leaders have seen transpeople born male on line who partake in she-male and sissy porn, have met crossdressers who retain their masculine identity, so we can be lumped together and dismissed using the simple rules of identity politics where group identities define people. These are beliefs that cannot be challenged, because just like viewers of Fox News, anything that does not match their orthodoxy is propaganda, lies designed to test their resolve,
Is preparing people for mature adulthood even part of the goal for most youth leaders? Or do they imagine that somehow, they will be the first generation that completely rewrites the economics of society, removing the need to participate in the market based life of the country? Does their resistance to the system mean that they feel the need to reject anyone who has ever learned to participate in it, feel the need to protect their charges from the evil that is Amerika?
People have learned to love binaries, drawing walls between us and them, between good and bad. Teaching transkids that somehow there is a barrier between them and transadults does not serve them, though. Those barriers stop them from seeing all the potential they have, from being a slam poet to being a corporate vice president. We need transpeople everywhere.
Support groups that only affirm abjection and not assimilation are groups which maintain false dualities that continue to oppress us.
There is no one right way to be trans, even if other people make choices that you would never, ever make for yourself. That is the way families work; we need to learn to respect and love them even when they embarrass the hell out of us.
I have no doubt that youth leaders believe that they are protecting transkids by creating separation, meaning that it is just they who can inform the kids. There may well be legal and other concerns about other leadership, but that just means there should be active, formal programs to vet and train adults, even adults with diverse ages and life experience. I am not suggesting inclusion without supervision, but I am saying that a wide range of exposure helps everyone.
A key challenge in growing up queer is that we are unlike our family of origin. This deprives us two ways, both in having role models around who understand and have experienced our challenges, and in not having people to watch over, to take responsibility for helping.
The best way to learn is to teach, and the best way to keep the gift is to give it away. Every kid knows that they have an obligation to look out for littler kids, and that doing that helps them mature and grow. If trans adults don’t have any people to be stand-up for, to help, then maturing will always be a challenge.
The way to build inclusive and robust community is by encouraging everyone to play their role, to respect and honour difference while finding shared values and objectives. We begin to build mature and inclusive political coalitions rather than just training young people to follow the pack and rely on emotional separations.
The generations who grew up before “trans kids” were even imagined are still struggling the the world, denied respect, dignity and support while they were still in their teens. We still somehow had to figure out how to be trans adults in a very binary thinking world. I have been challenged for not being enough of a “cheerleader” but no one needs just rah-rah, we need the tools to understand and change our world.
I hope and expect that today’s transkids will do better than us, finding ways to both be productive members of society and to be trans & proud, helping the next generation come along.
The best way to help them do that is to make sure they stay connected with the wide range of transgender possibilities, to let them see and think about what being a mature, adult transperson might look like. The point is not to rush them out of youth, but it is to affirm hope and possibility that being trans and grown up is possible and actually an attractive option.
The more barriers we put in the way, though, the more we disrespect transpeople of all ages who are just trying to claim their own authenticity in the world.