Glass Half Full: With gender identity, respect others’ wishes |

Glass Half Full: With gender identity, respect others’ wishes

I don’t get political very often in this column, opting instead to focus on more benign subjects. The purpose is usually to remind us of what is good and gently nudge us to count our blessings.

This week, I am compelled to be more serious, even as I remind us of what is good and to count our blessings.

In the midst of all the media hype swirling around Bruce Jenner, bills proposed in Nevada’s own legislature, and stories on the Internet about gender identification, my husband and I received an email over the weekend that informed us of the suicide of the 27-year-old child of church friends of ours in Washington, D.C.

We knew Jamie as a sweet young boy with big dark eyes and a gentle spirit. Given that we left Washington more than 15 years ago, we were not aware that he was transgender.

The loving letter that he left his devastated parents said he could no longer bear never feeling that he fit in, other than in our church community.

The friend who reported the news to us had an interesting perspective: If Jamie had been 15 years younger, perhaps he would have felt greater support from people of all ages as well as been aware of others like himself.

I continue to use the male pronoun because I never knew the real Jamie; she was too afraid to be herself in public.

Statistics show that more than 60 percent of transgender folks attempt suicide. More than 40 percent succeed.

In my long experience dealing with young people, no one ever purposely takes on such a difficult and challenging path. No child ever chooses to make life so difficult.

Most of us may not truly understand how a person biologically identified at birth as one gender can identify so completely with another gender, but we must open our hearts and minds to help prevent such truly senseless tragedies as Jamie’s.

Instead, we can learn from a 5-year-old at Lake Tahoe School whose mother reported a conversation last week. They were in a restaurant and the boy observed that he was a bit confused about someone who “sounds like a man but looks like a lady.”

His wise mother noted that this person was probably born as a boy but feels he is a girl. She added that such people are referred to as “transgender,” and some people aren’t nice about it.

“Oh, Mom, “ our young friend responded, “that’s just known as respecting people’s wishes.”

We should all want to be known as people who respect others’ wishes and, in the case of gender identity, help reduce the terrifying number of suicide attempts so that no parent, no sister or brother, will ever have to face what Jamie’s parents and so many others are dealing with right now.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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