In-Laws, the Election, and being an Ally

This weekend, my in-laws came to visit us from Kentucky. You may recall that my MIL asked us why we chose not to closet K and she was also apparently physically incapable of reading a book to educate herself on “gender-creative” children. Well, a few weeks ago, MIL did finally read the book (amazing, I know) as did her husband. It was a step in the right direction, especially since after reading it, my FIL referred to himself as an “ill-informed idiot.”

Even with my FIL’s self proclaimed idiocy, I was not excited for this trip. The truth is, I have had a real difficult time with these two since November. Really it’s been a difficult for 11 years since they threatened to disown their son if he proposed to me, but November clinched my disgust with them. My in-laws were Trump supporters. Not Trump voters, Trump supporters. I feel like this is an important distinction to make. There are of course those who voted with the GOP in order to make sure they had their Supreme Court picks, etc. Then there were those who were on board with the hate that he spewed for months on the campaign trail. My FIL not only overlooked Trump’s flaws, but told us that he “has not been this excited about a candidate since Reagan.” Needless to say, this left a very bad taste in my mouth.

I tried after the election to create a relationship with them. I even went on a two week vacation with them in January… that was before the inauguration. After November 9, I started seeing more and more people being comfortable expressing their hate; they were emboldened. After all, if someone like Trump can say what he said AND become President, why should they have to hide it anymore? Once the policies started hitting in January (revoking President Obama’s recommendation for transgender students, for example), that bad taste in my mouth got worse and worse every day. So while my FIL told me he was an idiot after reading a book, I still had seen the hate that he voted for, supported, and was excited about. Naturally, I was terrified of this visit.

If K hadn’t been who she was, I may have been able to suck up my frustration and deal with things better. As it stands though, Grandma and Grandpa were excited about policies that would directly (and negatively) affect my daughter. The mama bear instinct kicked in. For the most part I operated under the idea that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I wouldn’t say anything at all. It worked until we brought them to a support group for families of transgender children. At one point, we were talking about bathroom bills. When it was my turn to talk, I started crying. I looked at them and said, “Do you really think that K would be safe walking into a men’s bathroom in rural KY, or do you think someone would beat the shit out of her?” This was an opportunity for my in-laws to show me that not only would they accept K, but they would be an ally. They could have said that they will fight against bathroom bills, that they disagree with the bills… something. Instead, my MIL replied, “We would never let that happen. We would go into the bathroom with her.” I’m sorry, what? First of all, in what world would you always be around to escort a transgender person into the bathroom? What happens when she is 15 and just out on her own? In reality she would go into the bathroom she identifies with (possibly illegally), but that’s not the point. Instead of speaking out against the violence, trying to stop the violence, standing up for my daughter’s rights, they would just escort her.

K will be lucky. Having transitioned at an early age and coming from an upper middle class family, she will have a lot of resources at her disposal. I have no doubt that she will be able to blend in when she hits puberty. But what about people who don’t have our resources? What about people who don’t identify as part of the binary? One of my best friends identifies as female, but has a masculine gender expression. She is stared at and even confronted no matter which bathroom she chooses to use. What about trans people who transitioned after puberty, who are more noticeably trans? Being an ally for my child does not just mean that you accept my child; I need you to stick up for her rights and her safety, which also means sticking up for transgender rights as a whole. You can’t truly protect my daughter until the rights of transgender people are protected and until the societal stigma surrounding the trans community is destroyed. That’s how you are an ally. Simply escorting my daughter to the bathroom does not suffice, and I am offended that they think it does.

In talking to my in laws this weekend, it was also clear that even given K’s transition, they do not regret their decision in November at all, and they would do it again in a heartbeat. They would again choose to vote against my child’s rights. I’m glad that they read the book, but it isn’t enough. Don’t tell me or the others in my support group that you are there for them. It’s like a slap in the face when you tell me that you can’t vote democratic because you are pro-life. That’s my MIL’s reason. Because that unborn baby’s life is more important than her grandchild’s. It doesn’t matter how many people these policies hurt, how many transgender children are driven to suicide because of bathroom use… as long as abortion is illegal, nothing else matters.

 

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