Baker McKenzie is one of our Charter signatories. It commented that it is “extremely grateful to Andrea for her guest contribution and we consider it a special addition to the other blog posts that have been written by our LGBT+ employees and allies over the years who have chosen to share their stories with their colleagues as part of LGBT History Month. Visibility matters and we believe that by sharing our stories we can all help to contribute to the level of awareness that supports a truly inclusive environment.”
We commend Baker McKenzie for involving their employees in a scheme like this, to raise awareness and understanding of the issues faced by LGBT+ professionals. We hope others in the IP Inclusive community can benefit from our sharing this blog post.
By the time she plucked up the courage to tell me, I already pretty much knew: my teenage “son” was actually my daughter. But it was important that she told me in her own time and her own way. And it was important that I told her in reply that it didn’t matter one jot; that I would always be there for her; that love is not gender-specific.
Except it does matter, doesn’t it? It matters a lot. Through no fault of her own, my daughter faces a far more difficult road than most of us are treading. Her life will be beset by embarrassment, intimidation, prejudice and discrimination. She will have to fight harder, and more carefully, to be herself than I have ever done. She has already had to battle with ignorant and unhelpful medical professionals, and undergo invasive surgery. She will take hormones for the rest of her life, a constant reminder of the adolescent trauma she carries with her. She will need tremendous courage.
It is not easy, as a parent, to reinvent some of your most precious memories using a different name and pronoun. But far more awful is to witness the thousand cuts of unkindness and insensitivity, misunderstanding and mistrust, that society is still able to heap on your child if she is transsexual. The fear and anguish she suffers; the self-harm and the depression. I had to watch my child almost waste away before me because she couldn’t bear to live in the body I gave her, yet couldn’t face the outside world’s response.
Personally, I do not care whether she is male or female, neither or both. “Male” and “female” are labels that are entirely inadequate here. Neither category can contain the love and respect I feel for her. But that is a selfish viewpoint: to her, it really, really matters. To her, this arbitrary label that we attached to her at birth was a source of intolerable suffering. If you haven’t lived through that, it is almost impossible to understand.
I think that having a transsexual child brought it home to me how privileged I am. That I am guaranteed an invitation to the party, a seat at the table, a voice on the platform. I am not scrutinised or judged in the way my daughter is. I do not have to keep aspects of myself hidden, or apologise for my presence, or answer difficult questions and jump hurdles to justify my place in the world.
What it also made me realise is that those privileges can – and should – be used to defend her. I am obliged to exploit them in any way I can to champion her cause, to raise awareness and understanding, to fight prejudice and advocate for the community she is part of. When I take to the platform, when I speak in a crowd, I must use the opportunity to influence and improve. I must make people see that if they put my beautiful daughter into a box, and attempt to condemn or constrain her, simply because the rest of us got her gender wrong at birth, they are unworthy of the chance to know her.
That’s the least I can do. I hope it helps.