Saturday, April 13, 2013

Back Home Again


We're back in London, and back with Olga, who is none the worse for wear after her five days at the kennel. She's just as bouncy as ever. In fact she nearly went berserk when she saw me and Dave -- she jumped up and knocked her teeth against my face, giving me a bloody lip. Crazy dog!

Our final morning in Paris was rainy, and I spent it wandering around Montmartre, taking photos of the street art and interesting establishments like the one above, which appears to have been called "The Gold and The Salt" before it went out of business. Maybe that name was just a bit too abstract. Or maybe it's moved somewhere else and is prospering. Who knows?

I debated going out to La Defense, the skyscraper district, to see the ultra-modern Grand Arche and a part of Paris I have never experienced. But given the weather I was not inspired. It will have to wait until next time. It's always good to leave a few things undone.

Today is general cleanup and recovery, and continuing to catch up on my magazines. (I did very little of that in Paris -- who goes to Paris to read magazines?) I did read a fascinating article in The New Yorker from March 18 about the wisdom of allowing transgender children to take permanent steps toward gender reassignment before they are 18. Some people argue that delaying puberty, administering hormones early and even performing some surgeries can help smooth the transition, while others say children are too young at that age to know what they really want. According to the article, long-term studies show that only 15 percent of gender-dysphoric children continue to have those feelings as adults, though many of them prove to be gay or bisexual. "In other words," writes journalist Margaret Talbot, "many young kids claiming to be stuck in the wrong body may simply be trying to process their emerging homosexual desires."

I can vouch for this first-hand. I clearly remember in elementary school fantasizing about being a girl, and continuing for years to envy girls their relative maturity, their flexibility in fashion and other attributes. Had I been asked at the time about my inner gender, I'm not sure what I would have said. But this was my emerging identity as a gay man; as an adult, I do not want to be a woman. Then again, I'm not transgender, and I suppose transgendered people might argue that while my fantasies were just that, they experience a stronger awareness of a different identity. It's a fascinating subject, as is the fluidity with which many younger people approach the issues of gender and sexuality.

10 comments:

ellen abbott said...

Gender and sexuality are not cut and dried, black and white. It's not this or that. It's all those shades of gray between black and white. Why is that so scary to so many people?

Nancy said...

Even though we've never met in person, and you live in London (and I here in the US), I feel like you've been away and now you're back. Isn't it crazy how that works? Welcome home!

Angella said...

Glad your trip was good! Its fascinating what you write of here, your own emerging awareness of your sexuality. I am heartened by the ease my kids and their friends have around the subject of sexuality, the fluidity as you say. It gives me hope.

Lorianne said...

I just finished reading that same New Yorker article! I thought it did a great job portraying the many sides of a complex issue.

The main concern I kept coming back to was the daunting thought of making a "permanent" (i.e. surgical) decision about one's gender identity during a period when so much is under flux. Think of all the teenagers who get TATTOOS and then regret them, or all the regrettable hair and clothing choices we made as teens. (!!!)

I guess I'm a worrywart who tends to err on the side of "wait and see," although I can definitely see the value of taking action before puberty. As I said before, it's complicated, and sexuality and gender are so much more complicated than "either/or." If I were a parent of a teen, I guess I wouldn't want them rushing into a definite decision given how fluid identity is.

Lynne said...

See? I told you Olga would be crazy to see you! :) I'm glad her kennel stay went well.

I've never been to that part of Paris either. Looks like a great photo op. Next time you can take us there!

Tough choices for sure. Sounds like an interesting article.

The Bug said...

My last church had a couple of transgendered individuals. I know at least one of them might have wished she could have started the change before puberty because she had a really deep voice. On the other hand, she had children from an earlier marriage, so she would probably not have wanted to miss out on them. It IS complicated!

Elizabeth said...

I read that article on my ride home from D.C. last week and found it fascinating. I, too, was struck by the conflicts expressed, and as a parent, I imagine it would be very difficult to make the decisions, particularly for the more radical surgeries and medical treatments.

I'm glad that you're home safely and that Olga is back with her parents. And I love that photo -- there's something about that hot pink and the motorcycles that goes perfectly well with discussion of transgender issues.

Linda Sue said...

" There is nothing hotter right now than being gay" Just heard that on Bill Maher, though it would be appreciated...I never wanted to be a boy EVER! But I did want to marry all of my girlfriends...Is what it is.
A non issue really, so glad Olga fared well and that you had a great time!

Steve Reed said...

Ellen: Exactly. People think of gender as a very binary thing, but it's more of a spectrum.

Nancy: Thanks! :)

Angella: I agree that we could all learn a lot from the way young people approach these issues. They seem much more willing to consider the individual rather than the label.

Lorianne: I had exactly the same concerns. I think the puberty-delaying drugs might be OK to buy some time, but surgery at that age seems like a scary prospect. I'm a "wait-and-see" type too.

Lynne: I will get out there someday!

Bug: I'm sure your friend would not have wanted to surrender her children -- but that is another outcome of earlier surgeries.

Elizabeth: I can't imagine how parents would contend with those questions. Weighing all those factors and dealing with potentially permanent changes? Scary.

Linda Sue: Ha! Well, I'm glad I'm a hot commodity. :)

Ms. Moon said...

Having known quite well several people who are now going through transgendering, I can say that if it is real, there will be no stopping it. Now. As to allowing a child before the age of eighteen to go through surgery or hormonal treatment- I am not sure about that one.