Probably the most complicated questions about how to behave in my life revolve around other people’s children. I generally have compatible ethics with my friends, so I can manage teaching moments and reprimands without too much tension there. But my job, which also involves other people’s children, is much trickier.
Coming out is an area of my life that requires repeated and sustained courage. But when is it appropriate? Do I tell a six year old I’ve just met who wants to know if I’m a boy or a girl that I’m genderqueer? And then what? I can imagine all too easily- instead of talking about what we’re supposed to be focusing on, we end up talking about me and my gender. The kid talks to other kids, and soon I’m spending chunks of my time at work talking about me instead of the kids. Some of them go home and tell their parents. Maybe it’s fine. Maybe a parent complains- if not about my gender, then, fairly, about wasted time. After all, they didn’t enroll their kids in gender school. Maybe I have to talk to my boss.
So instead, maybe I deflect. I redirect to our actual topic. I ask whether they’re a boy or girl. I let them come to their own conclusion. After all, while they might not add my high voice, my buzz cut, and my men’s clothes together and get “genderqueer”, they can identify easily enough that I don’t quite fit in. If they had the vocabulary for it, they might say “gender nonconforming”. Isn’t that enough? If the goal, as one bumper sticker says, is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, isn’t just my existence enough?
Is that cowardice? I am afraid of finding out that my boss is not supportive, or of losing a job I like. Or is it courage? I can be who I am from one day to the next without yelling. Courage isn’t always loud, sometimes it is quietly, stubbornly, working away at something.
Where do you struggle to navigate your courageous actions? Share in the comments!