Sunday, January 15, 2017

Day 5 of 10 Days of Great Women

In the final days leading up to the Women's Marches across the nation, I'll be highlighting the GREAT Americans I know who have fought for our progress as a nation. I'll specifically be looking toward the women in my life that have impacted my ability to see progress, women who have inspired me, women who have pushed me to be better.

Day 5 is for a very special kind of woman, the kind of woman who had to get her outsides fixed to match her insides. The kind of woman who many Native American tribes have many names and more reverence for: a woman who was born A Man, or a 2-spirit.

When I was about 24 years old, I met this man at work who was to train me in what happened in the residences where the kids I taught lived. The kids I taught had significant problems. Many of them no longer had parents. This man was phenomenal with kids and he worked well with his colleagues. He had a smile that spread pure joy through me, kind brown eyes, and long brown hair. He threw the football with the boys and warned me of the ways that this particular kind of kid could manipulate but did so with compassion. I liked him.

We went out one night together to a party and I realized that I really liked him. We were hitting it off really well when he stopped me and told me he had something important to tell me.

He was transitioning and becoming a woman. At the time, I didn't really care. I had some really silly ideas about it, like that it didn't matter because at that point he still had the equipment that I prefer. I didn't realize how uncomfortable it would be for him to be attracted to me with that part of his body. I certainly didn't realize the repercussions of dating someone in the midst of such a change.

I did not break it off but it didn't last. He couldn't handle it. And while I thought I could at the time, I probably realistically couldn't have. He was about to be she and that was far more important than some fleeting romance. If I'm really honest about it, I was pretty hurt. I really liked this person and I liked her for who she was. I was willing to try to manage that sort of change.

But the timing wasn't right and now I'm glad. I'm married to the man I'm supposed to be married to and we have 2 beautiful children. Nikki is fine, I imagine, I hope. And she changed the way I see transgendered people.

It often seems to take a personal knowledge of another's experience to really see things. For me, it took finding out my dad was gay to get over my own adolescent homophobia and become who I am today. And meeting Nikki further opened my mind.

I recently learned that a guy I went to high school has transitioned to be a woman. I know it's a source of joking among many of my former classmates. But all I can think is, what courage it takes to become who you are.

For most of us, the courage to pursue our professional dreams is too much and we toil away at a job instead. I can only imagine the stakes then when it's actually WHO you are and not just the profession you wish to pursue.

Transgender people know what gender they are from toddlerhood. They try to tell their parents about the confusion but the parents rarely understand, rarely listen and honor what their child is telling them. It's confusing out of such young mouths.


If you're looking for a book to help you understand, read Raising Ryland by Hillary Wittington. It does a great job showing you how to treat a person who is 2-Spirited. The answer? Like a person. A whole, complex person.

Isn't that what we all want as women?

So today, Day 5 of 10 Days of Great Women is for you, 2-Spirited Women. You helped me understand another path to the female experience and instilled a new level of compassion in me. Certainly that's the stuff of Great Americans.