Marina Gomberg: Parents are fighting for their kids against transphobia at the Capitol

Transphobia bubbles under the surface with those feigning support for trans youth, our columnist says.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

My friend pulled up to her daughter’s school the other day and it was surrounded by the flashing red and blue lights of law enforcement vehicles. Lots of them.

California, where they live, had just experienced three mass shootings in the previous days, and she learned the police presence was due to a call about an active shooter in the school.

Adrenaline tsunami.

“Marina, I can tell you right now, there is nothing in the world that will feel like that,” she said.

She described it as her entire universe being defeated, a complete loss of control, and rage that has never been felt — all combined into a “fear bubble that you drown in until you know they are OK. Zero control over your body. It’s [expletive] crazy.”

The police call turned out not to be legitimate, and she was reunited with her 6-year-old within minutes. Her story has a positive ending (though she half-jokes she’ll now sleep in her daughter’s bed for the rest of her life).

Even minutes of worrying that she couldn’t protect her vulnerable child was life-changing.

And of course it would be. Our hardwiring changes when we become a parent and the urge — no, reflex — to protect our babes at all costs becomes primal. Unstoppable.

Scene change. Same week, but here at home in Utah.

The set is different. The cast is different. But the roles are the same: Parents, desperate to ensure the safety and protection of their children.

The threat is a slower one. It isn’t a madman with a gun, it’s fear and its violent outcomes.

Our antagonist here is transphobia, and it’s wreaking havoc.

I appreciate that explicit transphobia is now taboo, but unfortunately the sentiments still boil under the surface like lava, anxious to find an outlet. So, what we are seeing here are narratives that feign support for transgender youth, referring to these children’s access to healthcare as “medical abuse.”

“They’re too young to make decisions that alter their bodies,” say members of the society that by and large circumcises their boys, honors tribal tattoos on young people and allows piercings.

“Parents shouldn’t seek physical solutions to emotional issues,” say others while we champion exercise for mental health.

Those supporting Utah’s anti-trans bills are vilifying parents and the medical community, perhaps the two groups who know best how to ease the discomfort of gender dysphoria in our young ones.

They say parents are pushing their mental illness onto “our youth.” And while the trans experience can often be beautiful and fulfilling, I don’t perceive it to be an easy path — one that parents would try to manifest if it wasn’t there innately.

The truth is that nobody is “pushing” this experience on anyone. We are simply noticing it more because we have a name for it, we’re seeing reflections of it in our media, and we now have some institutional protections and more public accommodations.

It’s the erosion of our oversimplified understanding of gender and it’s terrifying to those who benefit most from the patriarchy (and also Gayle Ruzicka, for some reason).

Meanwhile, loving parents are having to become quick studies on a relatively rare condition that we’re all learning about as a society and jump through hoops to find treatment, only to be vilified for doing so and possibly forcefully stopped from helping their children feel at home in their bodies — when too often the outcome of that discord is suicide.

Talk about a permanent change to the body.

Adrenaline tsunami.

Fear and ignorance are powerful motivators, but nothing compares to the drive of a parent to protect their child.

No matter what happens this legislative session, the work to celebrate, honor and protect the trans experience will continue with fervor. By parents. By friends. By allies. And by lawmakers.

As advocates on the hill have said and will continue to say, “No body is illegal.”

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey, and their dogs, Mr. Noodle and Gorgonzola. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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