Today my kiddos and I went to the weekly farmers' market. I looove going. I love all the people: the mamas with babies in slings, the college kids in dreadlocks, the earnest environmentalists, all of them. I love all the rainbows on t-shirts, the hemp reusable grocery bags, and the "Save Tibet" pins. Makes me happy. While I am more mainstream-looking, these are my people.
There's one booth that is run by an interesting-appearing person. This person has breasts and also sports a beard tied in a little ponytail. S/he wears man-type clothing, but his/her voice is very female. I am happy to see him/her doing so well and being happy and not being ogled or obviously "noticed." It's got to be a challenge here in mid-Michigan for her/him to feel so comfortable ... I'm guessing.
We bought our free-range awesome eggs there, and discussed with him/her why these eggs taste and look so different from grocery store eggs (they really, really do), and the kids listened patiently. my 7 year old son raised his hand once to ask a question about the colors of the eggs (blue, green, speckled, brown). Not a word about the gender issues.
However, on the way back to the car, lugging our armloads of leeks, tomatoes, watermelon, peaches (to DIE for), onions, garlic, and honey, my daughter (10 yr. old) said, "Was it my imagination, or was that a woman with a beard?"
Well, time for another one of Those Discussions. So, as we loaded our veggies and fruit into the trunk, I briefly explained that some people are born feeling strongly that they are actually the opposite gender than their body parts show, and that there are chemicals and medicines and even medical procedures to help their bodies more directly reflect the gender they are in their hearts.
They both thought on this, and then went, "Huh. You can DO that? Wow."
And that was it.
I didn't quite want to let it go, so I pointed out how proud I was that neither asked these questions in front of this person, but rather asked me afterwards. I said that while they would certainly NOT mean any harm, that he or she would have likely experienced lots of teasing and bullying because of this situation, and that we must remember to be kind and sensitive to not step on delicate feelings. And I mentioned that it's important to remember that a person who is transgendered (yes, I explained the term) is just a regular person, who is finding their identity in this way. And that we all have to find our identities in various ways, but that they usually not so visible or public.
They both did another, "Huh. Yeah! Why would somebody tease somebody who is just trying to figure out who they are?" Of course, I know they will run up against many people who they might tease and be obnoxious to, but I'm hoping that it's something they will catch themselves doing, and stop.
You never do know what discussions you're going to have over a bag of leeks and tomatoes, do you?