Have y’all ever seen that show, “What Would You Do?” (WWYD)? You know, the one where John Quiñones & Co. set their sails against the inexorable pull of all that is overwhelmingly oppressive in this world and attempt to remind us of the power held within one small act of humanity?
Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the gist of it is that the crew sets up a culturally relevant and controversial scenario and then records the different reactions of the unwitting passersby. Earlier this year, an episode of WWYD set up a situation that is, pop culture mags be told, becoming more and more common. The scenario: “A child-expressing-a-gender-identity-different-from-the-one-they-were-assigned-at-birth walks into a toy store.” One of three things could happen:
- Onlookers glare disapprovingly as the child begs for a toy outside of the range of gendered items offered them.
- Onlookers act pretty horrifically and dub themselves “Arbiters of All That is Appropriate” and proceed to butt in with helpful outcries of “You’ll turn him gay! If you let him play with dolls, pretty soon he’ll want to wear dresses! And you know what THAT means…”
- Onlookers affirm the child’s gender expression as perfectly normal while simultaneously affirming my decision to associate with human beings.
And I have to say, it’s the people in Category 3, those who choose to act from places of love and acceptance, that really get to me. I expect folks to be a bit cruel, especially when it comes to kids and nontraditional gender expressions. But when people defy all my knee-jerk reactions and assumptions, when they become that bright spot on the horizon of progress? Well, needless to say, I cry. Every time.
So when I read about this heartwarming “What Would You Do” scenario come-to-life, I really couldn’t help myself. I grinned. I shed a tear. I felt goodwill toward all (wo)men.
The journey of Nicole Maines and her family is a beautiful glimpse into the trials and triumphs that arise when transgendered children and their families seek to live their experience truthfully and openly. Their story is wrought with a multitude of difficulties that have become unfortunate staples of the narrative for transfolks seeking to live openly in the U.S.: aggressively offensive bystanders, systems ill-prepared to protect transpersons’ rights, and political platforms that actively engage in the othering of the trans-community.
But what makes this story stand out are those good old Category 3 people. For Nicole Maines, those affirming and loving individuals in her life are her parents and twin brother. At a time when adults all around her were reacting ignorantly to her transition to living fully as a girl, the most important adults in her life, her parents, did what parents should do. They supported her, they protected her where they could, and most of all they loved her.
These stories of affirmation and acceptance of transgender folks, particularly kids, are much too few and far between. That said, the fact that families like the Maines’ exist, and are willing to speak openly about their experiences, gives me hope.
So, to all you Category 3 folks out there, here’s to you. Thank you for being capital F “Fabulous” and putting a big, silly grin on this skeptic’s face.