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Confronting Transphobia in My Family

Before you judge this post by the title, I want you to know that my Mom is not a typical Mom. Since my birthday is tomorrow (Sept. 23), I think about the person who brought me into this world as she often reminds me. I would like to say that we grew up together. She has taught me how to share my toys and write in cursive. I make her listen to trap music and she is well-known on my snapchat. Coming from a single parent household and being an only child, it was literally my Mom and I. It is almost unexplainable to describe the bond I have with her. But if I had to explain it, I would say that most people meet their besties during childhood and I met mine in the delivery room.

(Hey Mom, I know you are crying by now lol)

This was sometimes a battle and a comfort. During high school, she challenged me the most. She challenged my views and opinions in a way that I now am grateful for. Looking back at our arguments, I realize that she made me a better person and feminist. As I grew into my feminism, I took her along for the journey. Although the women in my family do not claim the label, the women in my family are feminists because it is the only explanation for their self-respect, love of each other, understanding of their worth and overall strength as individuals. Almost every topic that I encountered in feminism, I communicated with my Mom. Although there were many topics I engaged in and understood well, I began to be engaged by the marginalization of transgender issues. The visibility of Laverne Cox and Janet Mock gave me insight to the violence, discrimination and marginalization of trans women and trans women of color in particular.

Last Spring, a fellow Shout-Outer and I went to see Janet Mock speak. Of course, I wanted to discuss the issue with my Mom. I spoke about Janet Mock and acknowledged being a trans woman of color was part of her story, but not the entirety of it. I expressed that Mock was a published author, journalist, contributing editor and talk show host but, transgender stuck out for my Mom. My Mom purposefully misgendered Mock and I cannot express the disgust I felt and proclaimed to her. This was the first time I felt we were not on the same page. A lot of people would say, “Oh you just disagreed. You cannot agree with everything your parent says.” But I couldn’t do that with her.

I can disagree with a stranger because their opinion is valid to them but it does not carry a weight in my life. The opinion of my Mom is a reflection of me and the life she enabled me to have. As previously said, I expressed why that was wrong and why Mock and others alike are an integral part of women of color. Leaving the conversation, I thought about how my Mom was raised and often times the discussion of trans lives in the Black community is mostly a discussion of intolerance and lack of understanding and compassion.

I thought it would be an uphill battle, but the next time I talked to my Mom about trans issues I learned she educated herself on the issue. Due to the increased visibility of transgender individuals on television, she was able to learn from Jazz Jenning’s show on TLC called I am Jazz and television specials that acknowledge the problematic and inaccurate binary culture we live in. Also, my Mom told me about her experiences with trans individuals in her workplace who were also sex workers and she never knew how to address trans folks. After coming home for the summer, she asked to borrow my copy of Janet Mock’s book, Redefining Realness. I became more impressed with my Mom, her growth, willingness to change and the ability to recognize that she is not perfect.

As everyone else, I was captivated by the bravery of Caitlyn Jenner. But my first thought was, “What will my Mom think?” When I saw a link to the Caitlyn Jenner’s cover on Vanity Fair, I immediately screenshoted the picture of Caitlyn and sent it without a name. Almost immediately, my Mom replied and said “Who is that?” She is not very active on social media and honestly had no clue. This was not a test, but a moment to see a genuine reaction. I remember her telling me that Caitlyn’s bravery and beauty was admirable. These days, my Mom basically tells people to check their privilege and use the right pronouns. Many would be disappointed in their parent for a mistake but, I am more proud than before. In the moment, I thought I was teaching her about the marginalization of trans individuals and now I realize she taught me to continue to confront my privilege, acknowledge imperfection and enable myself to love others for who they are.

6 Responses to “Confronting Transphobia in My Family”

  1. theelephantintharoom

    I am so excited and happy that your mom was able to come to educate herself about the trans community. I feel like often people say, think, or do harmful/ hurtful things regarding different identities simply because they are not educated enough about said identities.
    Also, I am so happy to see you and your mom in such a close, understanding relationship. It’s nice to hear how you both grew in to your beliefs together. LOVE IT!

    Reply
    • eternallyfeminist

      Thanks! I think its better to confront hurtful comments in your family with an understanding of the person and hope for their evolvement.

      Reply
  2. sonder-wanderlust

    This was a really touching post to read and I’m glad you shared it! I feel like it’s important to always have conversations, ranging from common to controversial, on a foundation of understanding, love, and education and I feel like I read a great post that exemplified that.

    Reply

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