An Open Letter to That Facebook Friend

Hello, Facebook Friend,

I try to avoid this sort of thing.  I like to write brag stories of my children and genre fiction.  It is what I do and I do not entirely suck at it.  Frankly though, I’m just a dad from the ‘burbs who has on more than one occasion worn socks with sandals to do yard work.  I’m not proud of that.  My perspective is not exactly unique.  We are legion and what not, so I really try to avoid politics here.  However, there is danger in silence and injustice anywhere is truly injustice everywhere.

This morning I was feeding my ill son a bottle of formula in the sort of darkness that only exists at 1:00am.  It’s an eerie experience that is mostly just listening to the little guy drink, of course dear Facebook Friend you know what this is like for we are both fathers.  I could not get back to sleep.  I am unsure of the cause, maybe the rain softly pelting the roof of the house or the moths outside slamming themselves into the bedroom window.  I did what any sleepless human does and turned on my phone and scrolled through Facebook.

I was unaware of how big a mistake this was going to be as I scrolled right into your post making jokes about Caitlyn Jenner.  Let’s talk about this for a moment.

Our country was founded with the guiding words of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Sure, happiness started as property, but this is America the terms are basically the same.  It was the easiest edit ever.  The principle is that we can go about our business in whatever manner we see fit.  Today we raise our kids with phrases like “you can be whatever you want to be” and “the sky is the limit -except for astronauts” and “be yourself”.  Be true to your self.  The key to the pursuit of happiness is to be your own person.  Some of us take a lifetime to find ourselves.

The internet went berserk over Caitlyn Jenner in part because she found herself and is now able to look in the mirror and see what she has probably always felt was inside of her heart.  Bruce Jenner is now part of her history and she’ll take that incarnation of herself with her every where, but she went for her happiness and that is certainly part of the reason we celebrate her actions.

Caitlyn is crazy high profile too.  We celebrate Caitlyn’s actions because it may help change popular perception of transgender issues.  She may help a little girl in Dallas tell her dad that she is not Elaine, but Ed, and more importantly the dad will accept the declaration.  A teenage boy in Boise now has a role model for his own transition to his true self as Jenny, and maybe her classmates will pull together and accept her wearing dresses to finally feel comfortable.  With Caitlyn’s story out there, maybe a drunk at a bar will simply walk away from the situation instead of murdering the transgendered woman he found attractive just moments earlier.

And that’s the reason we celebrate Caitlyn Jenner.  Mothers and fathers around the world are burying their transgendered children because of fear, misconceptions and a lack of exposure.

There is one thing every culture on this planet agrees on and that is parents should not bury their children.  Especially for being encouraged to be themselves.  It is a tragedy and a failure for us all when children are put into the ground because someone could not handle a simple truth.  We are all someone’s child.

So reading that post poking fun at the ordeal was surprising to me, to say the least.  Jokes have weight and words can topple empires.  Referring to Caitlyn as Bruce was a bit offensive, but this is all pretty new so we’ll learn the proper phrasing and every one will be nice to each other.  I’m sure I fumbled over some words and pronouns here too.

As a dad the post hurt.  I spend a lot of my time telling my kids to be themselves and whoever they turn out to be, that will be their own decision.  I am going to tell them to be nice and to be polite and to encourage their friends and smile at strangers and know that in the broad spectrum of human existence there is no normal, there is no right or wrong way to be a human.  Well, the wrong way to be a human is be a giant asshole on the internet, but I’ll talk with them about that at some point too.  I really hope I do not have to tell them to be an “ally” to LGBQT issues, because in my mind that is just part of being a good person.

I will also tell them that sometimes people suck.  Jokes will be made and their feelings, or their friends’ feelings will be hurt and the best thing we can do is try to make the offender suck less.  It is now 3am, so “suck less” is about as technical as I can get.

So to finish this out, Dear Facebook Friend, be mindful of your actions.  Your words influence scores of people, but they affect some very important young persons.  Your kid is listening, watching and learning from you.  When we make fun of people for being outside of our experience of suburban dads we show the kids that those people are lessers.  There is no such thing though, and the concept is dangerous to us all.

Let’s be nice.  And maybe we should change the parenting phrase to “be yourself, and don’t be a dick.”  It’s catchy.


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