A Week in the Life — 114 Days Later
The ebb and flow of ROGD life
On Sunday David Sedaris comes out as straight on network television. As a long-time fan, I am delighted that the queering of his sexuality irritates and exhausts him. The tide is turning, I can feel it.
On Monday Marcus* and I walk the dogs in the morning after Carly* leaves for school. He asks me if I’ve come across any news stories about litter boxes in schools. I tell him I have. He tells me none of it is true. “It’s been debunked,” he gloats. “Republicans love spreading misinformation.” I spend the rest of the day writing and wishing he’d gone to the office instead of working from home. I seethe, but I can’t articulate exactly why, not yet, so I keep my mouth shut.
On Tuesday an old client returns to my garage gym where I work part-time as a personal trainer. A self-declared Democrat, she tells me she’s thinking of running for a seat on the school board. “Very interesting,” I say, as I adjust her deadlift stance.
My client is concerned about late start times for elementary school kids. I tell her I have only one beef with the school board and she is all ears. Because I own my own business and pay no rent I am luxuriously free to tell her about Administrative Regulation 259, so between sets of presses and planks, I do just that.
To her credit, my client listens. She doesn’t wax weary about poor oppressed trans kids. She does not intimate that I am a bigot. It heartens me, perhaps disproportionately, that although she votes blue down the ticket she is willing to consider the hypocrisies I list and the mounting evidence that the institutionalized gender affirmative model confuses more kids than it helps.
She tells me a story about her son, a long-haired little boy on the autistic spectrum, who does NOT believe he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and nor, it should noted, does my client. On a daily basis this seven year-old is asked for his preferred pronouns, and if he is a girl. One day he hit a classmate for not letting the subject go. The little girl who harassed him got a cookie. The boy got punished. To my client’s credit, she admonished his teachers for not having his back. “He wouldn’t hit anyone if he didn’t feel it was his only and final option,” she’d explained. She was livid, and rightly so.
At the end of our hour I tell her, “Look, I hate unsolicited parental advice as much as the next mom, but it might be a good idea to emphatically tell your son that it is absolutely fine, okay and great that he knows he is a boy, and to tell anyone who tries to convince him otherwise to kindly mind their own business.”
She says, “That’s actually a good idea,” and I smile. I hope to see her in the gym again soon.
On Wednesday I watch the first two episodes of the new season of American Horror Story. Am I right about the tide turning? I wonder. Are Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk communicating a subversive shared disdain for today’s queer culture? Is it possible that Ryan Murphy feels his identity being eroded and attacked by trans activists? Is it a mere coincidence that they chose to center season 11 around gay men in the 1980s, back when girls were girls and men were men, and drag queens were gay men living exclusively in a gay adult culture? But then I think of Pose, and realize I’m probably chasing a dream. Nonetheless I find myself enjoying this season far more than previous ones.
On Thursday Marcus and I attend Carly’s “Concert Choir Backstage” event at the high school. I brace myself for an onslaught of angry glares from the progressive moms and teachers, as if they all know about that email I sent in August, demanding that the teachers and administrators stop prioritizing and encouraging her transmasc identity. No one seems to notice me at all though, which suits the new me.
In the auditorium Carly sits in the back row whispering with her friend, a blue-haired senior who identifies as bisexual. Scattered throughout the group of seventy or so students is a good percentage of queer looking kids—badly dyed hair, baggy sweaters and stacks of flag-colored beaded bracelets aren’t the typical style choices of cis-heteronormative kids after all.
Marcus* thinks it’s just a thing teens are doing these days—androgyny. He’s always downplaying the situation, and it always pisses me off. I remind him I was just like that at fifteen, sixteen. I was so thankful for 80s British New Wave style in all its loose menswear glory. My feminine body horrified me and I felt safe within the cocoon of my oversized button-down shirts. Nowadays though, girls with the same adolescent self-hatred are meant to think that because they are drawn to ill-fitting menswear that they must be boys. “Let them have their protective clothing,” I say. “Don’t confuse them about their gender identity. Reddit has forty-thousand detransitioners now. They write suicide notes there.”
My husband nods, and is struck silent for a moment. Have I made a good point, finally?
The choir director peppers us with a “community” themed speech between songs. When he starts talking about the importance of “inclusion,” I perk up. As much as Marcus dismisses me for using “right wing talking points” like “grooming” and “institutional capture” when I try to discuss my research findings with him, the left has its own bloated bag. Curious and half nauseated, I press record on my voice memo app.
The choir director says:
It’s a little counter-intuitive maybe, but we depend far more on the quantity of singers than the objective quality. Which is a weird thing to do. That’s not meant to knock the ability of the singers. They’re good, but they can be shy when it comes to the actual act of singing. And so simply having somebody to sing with emboldens people. And the more people there are, the more secure and confident we are. You just witnessed a group of seventy-something teenagers (his emphasis) singing loudly a song that is kind of meant for…kindergarteners.
The kids crack up self-consciously and heckle their teacher. He affectionately chides them, “You know this! We discussed this!”
And everyone shares a knowing giggle. What an easy A.
He goes on for a few more minutes, congratulating the sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year-olds for doing what they’re supposed to do—for singing a song meant for small children. Later on he tells us that the seniors are particularly motivated by stickers.
The infantilization of today’s teens is real, I have a front row seat, and my tax dollars are bankrolling it. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
On Friday I listen to Joe Rogan’s interview with Tulsi Gabbard. After, I can’t stop thinking about what Marcus said on Monday, about the litter box hoax. I go online to all but confirm he’s correct, but I can’t help feeling peeved. Is his point to undermine my outrage that kids are being celebrated for fictional identities? To deny their existence? On our nightly dog walk, I ask him about it.
He says his point is to highlight how conservatives run wild with misinformation. He mentions January 6. But it still feels like a mild attack—on me, now that I no longer identify as a Democrat. When I tell him, for instance that Joe Rogan told Tulsi Gabbard that his friend’s wife works in a school that has a litter box for furries, Marcus says, “Tulsi Gabbard. She’s a piece of work. Russian sympathizer.” I tell him that I like her based on what I heard, which included nothing about sympathizing with Russia but a fair share of criticism for the US arming Ukraine to the teeth. Marcus opens his mouth to argue again, but stops himself.
“The reason I became interested in Tulsi Gabbard is because she left the left for a lot of the same reasons I did,” I say. Then, “I’d really like it if I could share information with you without it becoming an instant argument. Let me say, however inarticulately, what I want to say without you jumping in to rebut. Because remember I’m your wife. We’re married. We don’t need to agree. But do we need to fight?”
He admits there and then that he doesn’t know why he gets so defensive but that it’s his problem to solve. I take it as an apology. It soothes me. We go home and have sex.
Collapsed on top of him afterwards I think back to the first time I chronicled a week in my life, how back then I was constantly on edge, losing sleep and generally terrified of what could happen to my teenage daughter.
Today, Saturday, I don’t live in constant fear. Carly knows how I feel about her identity and she still loves me. She’s not binding or harming or isolating herself. Her grades are good, we sit down for regular family dinners and she tells us what’s going on at school and with her friends.
I write the words, maybe the tide is turning.
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