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Sunday, August 21, 2005

How do you get to choose to be normal?

While I was gone to the South Coast to a PFLAG conference, Beloved took advantage of a not-too-busy weekend to go up to the Big City, grab our granddaughter, and head for the North Coast together. They had a blast. The guy at the motel took a liking to the irrespressible six-year-old, and handed her the remote, telling her she was "in charge" of the TV in their room. They ate what they wanted, went where they wanted when they wanted to, chased waves, fiddled around in the dunes, and drove home.

On the way, the young one asked a question.

"If a guy loves a guy, that's gay, right?"


"Uh, umm-hmm. And a girl loves a girl is lesbians."

Beloved glances over from behind the steering wheel. Kid looks like she's doing a math problem.

"That's right."

"And some people are born one way but are really the other and have to switch over."


"So, Papa Risa is a girl now, and you're a girl."

'Yes, we're both girls."

"So, you're lesbians?"

"Not really. We're kind of old, and it's sort of got to where that's not the point for us."

'Nah -- you're lesbians!" Smile.


Granddaughter rides in silence for a bit, thinking.

"So, does she still have anything up front?"

"Nh? You mean, like boy parts?"


"Yes. But she's going to have an operation."


"Yeah, ow."

Granddaughter pats Beloved on the knee.


Kids seem to me to have the purest view of the world. I don't mean that the way we often do -- like they're wearing wings and a halo. I mean that their powers of observation are relatively unclouded. They go to the hearts of things, and they also absorb the things adults are really telling them rather than the things the adults think they are telling them. They imbibe the world view without the restraints.

Granddaughter discusses LGBT people in a matter-of-fact way, because her parents regard us as a normal aspect of the world. She may not define me exactly the way I would, but I am to her a person first and an interesting topic second.

Children like her, when they spot me, read me instantly -- even though the adults with them see just another late-middle-aged lady -- and smile.

On the other -- way other -- hand, when adults do hatred, even if they don't say much, if anything, about it, the small children among them pick it up and amplify it with a clarity the adults, except for very childlike ones, lack.

These children also spot me at the mall. And even if they are as young as five, they cling tightly to Mother's hand and glare. Mother has no idea that one of "those people" -- the ones the preacher told them last Sunday were dressing up as women in order to go into restrooms and rape them and their daughters -- is passing by -- has, in fact, just used the public restroom without incident, for, like, the three hundredth time.

It's for this reason that bullying of small gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, or intersexed children begins at a very early age, by other young children, often in packs. The impulse is strictly genocidal. Once they get it that these other, rarer kids ought not to have been born, they set about letting them know it -- perhaps instinctively aware that by setting apart the "different" kids and making their lives miserable, they are doing exactly what the adult world wants done, at least by implication -- shortening the expected life span of the outcasts.

Frequently the adults don't understand why the neighborhood kids are beating up on little Johnny or little Judy. They will, perhaps, be shocked and angry when their teenager, years later, comes out to them. Often they will fail to make the connection to whatever was happening to the "rebellious, ungrateful, wrongheaded" child before them a decade earlier. If they did, of course, it might occur to them that the child's self-revelation is not the result of a decision -- except the decision to tell.

I have read somewhere, and when I find it again I'll cite it here, that although some ten percent of every generation is something other than hetero, or uncomfortable in their birth gender, or intersexed, as much as thirty percent of street kids have these conditions. The difference can be accounted for by realizing that they are being thrown out -- in large numbers -- by their own families.

It's known, though it's federal policy at present not to admit it, that a strikingly large proportion of youth suicide and other deaths, such as by alcohol poisoning, accidents, drug overdoses, and outright murder, occur to young people with sexual orientation or gender identity issues, who are responding to the messages of "go away and die" from their tormentors.

They've been successfully culled from the pack.


I remember the bullies. They went after me from the time I was two. I was hit in the forehead once, when very small, with a rock, and left for dead in my grandmother's back yard. All the neighborhood children, who had been there moments before, disappeared. The silence brought out my mom, who found me and breathed life back into me just in time. I've been a little more than half deaf ever since.

My mom's best friend helped protect me. I have a photo of a group of kids at a birthday party, her son's. He's not the one she has her arm around in the picture.

It's me. I must be about four. I remember something about that day -- not sure what -- but it was like the rock day. The bullies at the party had been busy culling me, and by keeping me with her, she was saying, "off limits."

When I was six, the bullies at Dixie Christian Service Camp in Crawfordville, Georgia, had been having a field day, so my mom decided I would sleep in the lodge in the women's side of the campground. I was packed into a trundle bed and lay staring at the shadowed ceiling though the open rafters, listening to the voices around me. The mothers were folding towels or bedclothes and their forms were silhouetted against a propane lamp on a table. I became aware of something -- something about their voices -- It was a no-brainer to me. I had been born among those not my kind. Somehow they knew; that was why I was being targeted. So these, the women, were my people. But how to let them know? I thought of getting up, folding towels, speaking the lingo. But somehow I knew this would not work out.


The adults who feel that I, and those like me, should not have been born use a specific myth to assure themselves that they are not the "bad guys." And they are passing on their attitudes to their small children -- at least to the ones that don't happen to be like me. I don't think they always realize this is happening. The myths work better -- much better -- if they're able to convince themselves that nothing was different about us when we were born.

You see, the myths are about "choice." It's not that I shouldn't have been born, oh, no -- it's that I should not have made bad decisions.

I "choose" to be something other than a straight male. Presumably, late in high school, early in college, or somewhere along the line, I'm "recruited" by a degenerate sinner to acquire a taste for sinfulness and become obstinate in my newly-acquired evil "practices." They have to believe this because if it's not so, their precious book, the one that's in every motel room in America, is wrong about me. Which would unravel the whole book, since it's not allowed to be wrong about anything ... so you can see that the stakes, for them, are very high.

But get this: we all remember being beaten up, called names, sissy, tomboy, freak, fag, girly boy, etc. from all the way back. When we were three, or five, or seven. I was, let's face it, stoned. Just like the book says to do. At a very, very early age.

So, tell me, Dr. Dobson:

When you were four years old, did you get to choose to be "normal?"

Oh? Lucky you.

-- risa b


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