People have asked what made me leave the GC movement. What was it, exactly, that led me to throw in the towel? What was that last straw, that proverbial breaking point, that was enough to make me decide to finally walk away?
What made me leave?
There were initial steps I took toward leaving. Quitting my GC coalition, no longer engaging with other GC people, outside of the group, to help write Briefs or letters, then eventually not being active at all.
But those things didn’t = leaving. Even when I realized that yes, I do believe in gender-based rights and protections, and that yes, I recognize that trans women are women and trans men are men, and that yes, I consider GC thought inherently transphobic, I didn’t fully leave.
I had yet to publicly denounce GC thought, after all. I had yet to say that I’d been horribly wrong. Very few people had any idea that my thoughts were significantly shifting. When it came to the GC movement, a passive part of me still lingered at its edges, despite the serious shift in my beliefs, not quite ready (or perhaps not quite brave enough) to cut the ties of certain relationships, for good.
So, then. What exactly made me leave?
Like most kids, my 5th grader has done online schooling throughout the pandemic. Normally I wouldn’t know exactly what he’s learning. This year, I do.
Recently, his health class began their “Healthy Living” lessons. The focus was upon physical and emotional changes in puberty, as well as basic information regarding gender identity and expression, as well as one’s self-concept.
After the first class ended, S. rushed over to me.
“Do you know what Ms. — said?” he giggled. “When talking about puberty stuff, she said ‘PWAP’ and ‘PWAV’!”
“What’s ‘PWAP’?” I asked, putting dishes away.
“‘Person with a penis’!!!” He almost fell over from laughing. “Not boy! She said ‘PWAP’! Doesn’t she know what boy means? Isn’t that hilarious?”
I looked at my kid, a child who is normally kind and giving, who cares about others. I looked.
His smile fell. “Isn’t it hilarious?” He looked confused.
“It’s not, honey,” I said. “It’s not meant as a joke. PWAP makes sure trans girls and other kids are included in the puberty talk, not just cis boys. They could also say something like cis boys and trans girls, I guess. It’s meant to be inclusive. It’s not a funny thing.”
“But you always said no one can change their sex! And that gender wasn’t even a real thing!! You said to always be nice to everyone, and to call people whatever name they want, or whatever, but to remember a person can’t change their sex!” His voice raised. “And other kids thought it was funny, too, not just me! ‘PWAP’! ‘PWAP’!”
My youngest child, my mini-me, had soaked in everything that I’d been spouting for the last two years, including the highly patronizing “Pretend to believe trans people, and to be nice, even though you know it’s all fake!” crap, not to mention the underlying “I know your identity better than you do!” message. And somehow I’d believed this was good, ethical parenting?
I have four children. My eldest son had vehemently disagreed with me re GC rhetoric, but remained loving. My daughter (in uni) would agreeably listen to me, which I’d taken as a “good” sign at the time (“I didn’t really, Mom”, she told me the other day, “I would zone out, and recite all of the lyrics from Hamilton, when you rambled on about conversion therapy.”). My 7th grader (now in the monosyllabic stage of early adolescence) pretty much ignored my baptism into all things GC, other than to tell me that he had a nonbinary friend in Scouts, so to please stop talking, already.
But my littlest? He’s always been my sponge. He sucks in what I say, still young enough to believe that parents really do know best.
Was it already too late?
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked, now quiet.
“Let’s take Piper for a walk.”
“But I have a Google Meet about painters. My favourite is this weird dude named Caravaggio, who — “
“The Meet can wait. Go get the leash. We’re going for a walk.”
And so, we did, with me attempting to begin untying the knots I’d made in my child’s mind, snarls that had bound up his capacity to truly embrace diversity, identity, and difference, and had led him to believe that it was okay to laugh when he didn’t understand, rather than to try and learn.
So, that was the moment. That was my crossroads, my last straw, my breaking point.
Or rather, that was my beginning, as clearly I have a lot to learn, too.