During our travels, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a young man I liked a lot named Brad. That’s not his real name, but I think it’s best to give him a pseudonym to protect his privacy.
Brad came into the world with female body parts, so his parents named him Barbara. But by the time he was four years old, Brad knew he was meant to be a boy. This was fourteen years ago, so his parents didn’t have any idea of how to react or what to do (or not do), so they started researching their options and spoke with lots of other parents and experts in the field. I can’t tell you the whole story with any degree of accuracy, but suffice to say that today Brad is getting ready for college and very happy with his gender identity.
Early on in my adventure, we spent a few weeks at the home of two friends in New York. During our visit, I had a conversation with them about gender dysphoria and all of the related issues that I had been reading about or hearing on TV. At that point, I had never met anyone (knowingly) who had chosen a different gender than the one they were born with, so in my ignorance, I fought with one of my hosts about the idea of kids, mostly boys, choosing a different gender. At the time, it just seemed weird to me and I worried about a world gone so mad with its “wokeness.” I guess I hit the wall when people of a certain age start saying, “It sure ain’t the world I remember from my youth!”
So, what changed? Well, two things. As my New York hosts predicted, getting to know a person instead of thinking about these things abstractly makes matters much more real. Second, I was fortunate to hang out with with Brad and his family for a long time. All the while, they were extremely open and honest about their journey. There was no outward defensiveness or anger that I could see. On the contrary, what I saw was a great love and respect for one another that probably came from dealing with a potentially difficult issue.
Everything that happens to us in this life prepares us for something else if we allow it to work its magic on us. My initial discomfort with gender issues and my heated conversation with my host, for example, seeded the ground for my eventual conversion later on in the trip. So, the trick is to look at today’s discomfort or discord with another person and think, “what might this lead me to down the line?” If we can get to that place, we won’t be able to eliminate all of our discomfort, but we might be able to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel before the train hits us.