Saturday, March 07, 2020

Mary or Joseph?

BSU rallies with PRIDE / February 2012
Facebook recently reminded me of the anniversary of this photograph, taken by a friend and former student, unbeknownst to me at the time. It comes as several relevant stories have come to my attention. Our campus had rallied around a student who had been assaulted for their gender identity -- whoever was carrying the flag during the walk across campus asked me to hold it while they went to the podium here in front of our main administration building.

The moment is a reminder both of the progress we have made and the very real dangers that remain for GLBTQ people in our country and abroad. This was taken at a time when I was supporting only my students and neighbors and friends -- I did not know at the time that this would later become something I do for my family.

Young Reilly Horan
Photo: The Moth
I think of this when I contemplate a father in Columbus who attempts to censor a book about gender identity because he thinks his daughter is too young to learn that gender identity is not always what it appears to be. He publicly fights to keep that information from all of the young people in his city, amplifying his own ignorance of gender in the process (he calls transgender people "cross-dressers" for example). The very public stand he is taking while his child is young assumes that she will never need him as an ally. This could prove to be a tragic miscalculation.

A more positive story I heard around the same time was that of Reilly Horan, which she tells as part of an episode of The Moth Radio Hour entitled It's the Little Things. She was serving food at a family restaurant on Martha's Vineyard when a child's question about her khakis helped her to process a lifetime of questions about gender. It is as thoughtful an exploration of gender identity as I have heard.

I recommend the entire episode, but can also suggest skipping to 34:20 for the start of Reilly's moving reflections.

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen via NPR
Driveway moments are familiar to regular listeners of public radio. They occur when we are listening to a story while running errands, and when we stop the car, we decide to sit with the radio on because a story has so captivated us. The story of musician Katie Pruitt's debut album led to just such a moment for me, though it was in a parking lot rather than my driveway, and I have to admit that tears were involved.

What began as a typical story about the music of a young singer-songwriter turned out to be the story of her coming out as a lesbian. And then it became the story of a parent's coming to terms with her child's sexual orientation.

Please have a listen, and maybe grab a tissue first. Jennifer Pruitt has words every parent should hear.

Lagniappe

What does all of this have to do with geography?

Everything. Have a look at the blog of the AAG Queer and Trans Geographies Specialty Group for examples of spatial perspectives on sexual orientation and gender identity. I must admit I liked our previous name better: Sexuality and Space.

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