Initially Published in the Raleigh News & Observer on 9/14/2016
“Children are a heritage from the Lord.” – Psalms 127:3
This past spring I witnessed this arresting avian behavior: My attention was yanked skyward as I heard loud, harsh, discordant screeching. The raucous cacophony was coming from a smaller bird chasing a much larger bird.
It was a remarkable demonstration: seeing a larger bird desperately fleeing from a smaller bird. The ruckus frequently attracted other smaller birds to join in. More remarkable is that sometimes an assorted flock of smaller birds, like sparrows or wrens, all worked together to chase off the marauding crow. These smaller birds were relentless. And fearless! And if they caught the crow, they went right for its neck.
Crows are notorious nest raiders and these smaller birds were fiercely guarding their nestlings. They know the crows will eat their eggs or chicks if given any chance. If a crow manages to snatch a fledgling, the gang of smaller birds will chase it in a fierce fury.
This seasonal sight of “parents” guarding and defending their “children” never fails to encourage me. Recently the media has depicted numerous stories and photos of LGBT parents with their LGBT children. We have seen photos of Cher with her arm around Chaz, to not-so-well-connected parents of more modest means, defending their transgender children in rural public schools. These are the sparrows and wrens – whatever their “breed” – coming together to advocate for, and defend a child.
As a man who transitioned over 33 years ago, and who was a throwaway kid born female who grew up in a children’s home, there is nothing, nothing, nothing more gratifying for me than to witness a parent defending his/her LGBT child. I believe these defending parents, PFLAG and other surrogates, who will not allow their children to be trashed, will be a major factor in society coming to understand and accept transgender people. A child has no better defender than his/her parents.
I invite you to look at the numerous available photos of brave transgender youth. You will notice that even in their contralateral gender expression, they appear typically boy or girl. There is no guile, no pretense; they are not trying to prove anything. Wearing typical kids clothing, they are just “kids being themselves.” They could not possibly be making up this most natural childlike demeanor and comportment.
At Duke we have the Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care, the director of which is a pediatric endocrinologist. It’s composed of specialists from urology, pediatric surgery and psychology.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the Williams Institute found 41 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming persons over 18 have attempted suicide, as compared to 4.6 percent of the population at large. These are staggering statistics! As a health-care provider for 25 years, I have treated nothing more potentially mortiferous. And if this were any other group, we’d be shouting outrage from the highest rooftops. And we’d be demanding and receiving funding for research.
As a precocious child I read everything. One day at age 10, I opened the Bible to the center. My eyes fell on the page; and these words leapt out at me. From the sacred Hebrew scriptures: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalms 27:10) Even in this King James Version it’s entirely without obfuscation. It’s a crystal-clear reassurance that spoke directly to me. As a child it gave me hope; and I have never forgotten it.
But today as a 64-year-old transsexual man who has lived more years as a man than as female; I can scroll through the countless images of parents with their LGBT children and be soothed beyond words.
Some folks talk about behavior which is “against nature.” For a human parent to abandon, abuse, reject, dispirit or kill their child is about as “against nature” as anything I can imagine. I can only hope that no unloving, anti-LGBT person ever finds himself the parent of an LGBT child. If so, you may please send your child to me.
My hat’s off to all you loving and defending parents of LGBT children, as parenting, the most difficult job of all, is exponentially more than just egg or sperm donation. As an adult who has never had the privilege of having children – and who as a child was never advocated for – if we should ever cross paths, I’d like to hug you loving LGBT parents in thanks. Because as you see, I’ve had difficulty finding words adequate to convey just how inspiring you are, and the hope you give to me.