A Denver based company has created a new app that helps transgender people change their voices.
So, this report was on the local NPR station while I was driving home with my son tonight.
I asked him after the fact, “Did that make sense, what the app does?”
"Kinda?" He’s 11, you may recall, and has just started middle school. The age when children really start to learn what cruelty means.
"Do you know what transgender means?"
"So it’s like … here’s an example. When a baby’s born, the doctor looks and sees that the baby’s got a penis. Doctor says, ‘It’s a boy,’ right?"
"And all throughout that kid’s life, parents and doctors and teachers call him by a boy’s name, and everyone treats him like a boy, and his parents buy him clothes for a boy. But every once in awhile you’ll get someone who doesn’t believe it. Like, way down deep, in their heart of hearts, they know they’re a little girl.." I’m tripping over my words a little here, desperate to explain this to him right, because I know what I say might stick with him for a long time, or maybe forever. “And when they get older, like a teenager or an adult or so, they might decide to start expressing themselves as a girl or a woman instead. It goes the other way too - someone raised all their life as a little girl knows down deep he’s a boy. Sometimes these folks will go so far as surgery to really seal the deal. That make sense?”
"Yeah?" he says, and I believe him. I believe that he can imagine such a person, even if he’s never met one.
"So like, this app, it helps them train their voice, so that the voice that comes out of their mouth matches the voice that speaks inside their head. It can help them be more confident in who they really are. Make sense?"
"Yeah. That’s really cool."
"You think so?"
"Yeah," he says, and I think he’s really warming up to the idea. What he may lack in vocabulary to express endorsement, he makes up for in tone and enthusiasm, like a pre-teen boy does. "That’s really cool."
"Cool, I’m glad you think so. Because out of a group of a hundred random people … well, I don’t know how many might be transgender, but it’s a pretty small number. And like anyone who’s a minority in a group, they get picked on a lot. Bullied. Beaten. Killed, sometimes. So it’s super brave for someone to really own who they are if they’re transgendered, you know?"
"Yeah," he says, in that way that I know he wants to say how it sucks, but he doesn’t really know how.
"So I mean, an app like this can help them with their confidence. And you may never know if someone is transgendered unless they tell you. But just like anyone else who’s getting picked on for some bullshit, you show compassion for them, right? Be good to them if someone is being bad."
I hadn’t planned on having this chat with him, but frankly I’m glad this report came on the radio. I hope I did right by him, explaining things as best as I understand them. There was no way to touch on all the nuances, and I can’t even pretend I totally get it, either. But … I hope it’s a good start for him to have some understanding and compassion for the first time he meets a transgendered person.
Love your approach. LOVE.