What Caitlynn Jenner taught me about being a Mother.

                                                                        Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair

This week there has been so much talk about Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation from a man to a woman. My teenage daughter is a big fan of Ms. Jenner and follows all of news through social media. There have been so many different opinions and views thrown out there about this one person’s personal choice that it got me thinking about my own views and choices, most importantly how it relates to me as a Mother.

As a natural born woman, I sometimes take being a female for granted. I was born a girl, given the freedom to explore both male and female roles, then being called a “Tom Boy” and running wild through the woods dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, climbing trees, and I was never questioned about my sexuality for it. I love being a woman, it’s who I am. But what if I were born a boy and wanted to explore being a female? Would I have been given the same freedom to be who I wanted to be? Chances are 40 years ago, that I wouldn’t have been allowed as a boy to try out the softer sex.

Today our children have so many different role models to choose from, both positive and negative. I personally would rather my children have a positive self-image and seek out happiness in whatever form that brings them joy. If they felt so unhappy in their own bodies, as Ms. Jenner has said she did, then we are blessed with living in a free country where you are able to express yourself in whatever manner you so feel. But I also feel that her change was a personal choice that was exploited and sensationalized by the media and the attention addicted people she is surrounded by.

My daughter actually does look to Ms. Jenner as a role model, one for being brave enough to stand before millions and take the criticism and be outspoken for transgendered people. She also has role models like Noah Matthew Galloway, a brave Army vet who lost both his arm and leg to a roadside bomb. His service to his country, defending the freedom of American citizens to be able to have the ability to speak their minds and change their bodies almost cost him his life. At a great cost to his self-esteem, Mr. Galloway lost limbs but didn’t let that hold him back from becoming an athlete, dancer, and role model for only handicapped people but for everyone dreaming of trying something new and wondering if they are good enough. Role models are everywhere, if you know what you are looking for, but the best one in your child’s life should be you.

Ms. Jenner did something else this week, she taught a lot of people about having an open mind and acceptance. Whether you agree with her choices or not, the topic of gender reassignment challenges all of us to open up our minds to ideas beyond our comfort zones. As parents we are always being asked difficult questions. “What is God’s name?” was one of my favorite questions from my 2 year old daughter. “Where did my turtle go? He was hibernating for the winter.” After I ditched the turtle corpse only to learn that turtles can hibernate by my 5 year old son.

One of my boys actually went through a very short period of time when he thought it would be cool to be a girl and liked the “windy feel” of putting on one of the girl’s skirts with his ninja turtle t-shirts. As a Mother I didn’t want to damage his self-esteem or hinder his exploration. But really, I wasn’t sure what to do with a little boy who was happily playing with dolls in a skirt. All of my kids challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone and reach to be accepting of them as they were. My son gave up the “windy feel” in a few weeks after he moved on to wearing a cape and cowboy boots for the next year. Children need to explore their world without judgment. And I think that Ms. Jenner challenged people to actually think about how they felt about transgender people and their own ability to think beyond their circle of friends and ask “What If”.

Some of the hateful comments I’ve read about Ms. Jenner have left me stunned that people can be so cruel towards another human being they don’t even know. I can’t believe that these people are proud of the statements they publish publicly. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children about tolerance to those who are different? What happened to the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Instead we have platforms like Twitter, Facebook, ect. who give people a pulpit to preach intolerance, anger, and spout BS coming from their interpretation of the Bible. Is this what you want your children to know about you? Would you be proud to sit down with your child who tells you that they might be gay and tell them they are going to hell for being different from your background?

Bravery comes in many different forms. Bravery isn’t just for those who serve in the military or police. Bravery is for anyone who sees a situation and doesn’t run from it, those who stand up for injustice and intolerance, and yes even for those who are strong enough to stand before the world and be themselves so that others might know they are not alone. I am not sure Ms. Jenner was aiming to be a hero when she started her journey, but that is what many are calling her today. While I think that we need to have more open conversations about treating each other kindly, no matter if you agree with another’s choices or not, I am also not saying that her bravery is the same as those of people who fight for their country, firemen, police, ect. It’s a different kind of bravery.

Caitlyn Jenner and the conversations that she had started around the world about the topic of beauty, sensitivity, and acceptance shouldn’t be hid behind walls of shame or intolerance. As a Mother, I actually love the chance to get to talk to my daughter about body types, sexuality vs. sexual identity, and learn for myself a little more about the changing world that my children are a part of. In their generation they are still fighting gender roles, but also including the fight for equality and consideration for transgender people. As a parent we have the opportunity to teach our children about our views, morals, and help them to become self-confident adults. And at the same time if we are willing to listen, they are also teaching us about evolution, tolerance, compassion, and helping us as adults to be better humans.

And the answer to “What’s God’s name?” According to her lengthy conversation as she worked out the answer for herself, God’s name is Steve.

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