We live in a world obsessed with polarities, not particularly nuanced opposites that are easy to wrap our heads around: black and white; good and evil; boy and girl.
Mere moments after a child is conceived, conversations about its sex begin.
Old wives’ tales that profess to know how to predict the birth of a boy or girl – think of dangling a wedding ring over a pregnant belly – are a popular fare at baby showers.
It is assumed the gender of that child will neatly align with its biological sex, and so pink clothes are bought for girls, while blue rompers are set aside for boys.
Parents stockpile monikers for their child, boy names in one column, girl names in another.
After the birth, greeting cards announce “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl” from atop hospital bedside tables.
“She’s so pretty,” people coo at little girls.
“Isn’t he handsome?” they remark about boys.
While the vast majority of the population is born cisgendered and have no problem identifying with one these two, clearly delineated genders, many others face a lifetime of confusion, unable to find peace with the one they were bestowed.
They embark on what can often be a tortured existence, not because there is something wrong with them – they are as innately perfect as any child – but because they disrupt society’s penchant for pigeonholing people.
The consequences are terrifying. As many as four in five transgender people have contemplated suicide.
One in every two transgender Australians have tried taking their own life.
Thank goodness for our mental health sector, which is striving to make these people’s journeys more manageable.
Headspace Bendigo is one such organisation. Not only does it facilitate a diversity group for LGBTI young people, it is now offering a similar opportunity for those young people’s parents, who also confront a world unwelcoming of their child’s gender identity.
If only everyone could understand what parents and their transgender young people know so well: that no matter our efforts to divide and conquer, our world cannot be viewed in diametrically-opposed polarities.
Put simply, our world is not black and white. It is rainbow.
- Mark Kearney, journalist