This is what happened next.
One Saturday afternoon, I’m getting dressed to meet my mom and brother for a quick ride to Midway Airport in Chicago. I had just spent the morning working on the finishing touches for my course: How to Write About Gender, a four-week course I created after my community exploded (in the most positive way) over two webinars of the same topic that I hosted last year. I close my laptop and hurriedly grab my bookbag and some lemonade before walking downstairs to find my Uber.
The driver, Larry, is waiting out front when I step outside. He’s a Black man who looks to be in his 50s but knowing the neverending youth and vigor of Black people, he could be 80 for all I know. I put on my seatbelt and Larry starts driving. Literally a minute or two into the drive, he turns the music down and says, “Young lady can I ask you a question?” This is the conversation that followed:
Me: Yeah, sure.
Larry: I hear on the radio all this talk about this basketball player…Dwayne Wade?
I think to myself, “Oh lord, does he pick up on the fact that I’m trans nonbinary? Nah…how could he?
Larry continues, “and I want to know can you tell me what transgender is?”
I get ready to reply while thinking that the universe must be working damn overtime right now. What are the odds that I publish this course this morning and minutes later I’m being asked these questions that I’m seeking to answer for folks in my class just four or five weeks from now?
I respond, “Transgender means you identify with a gender that is different from the gender you were assigned at birth”
Larry listens intently. I can see his eyebrows furrowing from the backseat as he’s processing what I’ve just told him.
I continue, “So if you were assigned male at birth and you identify as a girl or as a woman — you are a transgender girl or a transgender woman.”
Larry: Ok, ok. Wait so they’re saying that they want to remove his son’s penis*.
Me: Yeah, no. People are making assumptions. Neither Dwayne Wade nor Zaya ever said anything about that publicly.
Larry: Ok, but why would anyone allow a child at 12-year-old to make a decision like that? That’s too young.
Me: Ok, well let me ask you something?
Me: Let’s say you have a 12-year-old son and he comes home and he says “Dad, I just went to school and I saw girls and they’re so beautiful I’m going to marry a girl one day and we’re gonna have 10 kids.”
Me: What would you say to him? Would you say “Wait a minute! You don’t even know if you like girls yet. You need to wait and grow up and then see how you feel”?
Larry: Well, of course not. I would support him.
Me: Some things are just innate, Larry. You just know.
Gender is different from sexuality — being gay or lesbian or bisexual for example. But still, you get my point? Some decisions we tell kids are okay because we would be okay with it if it was our life that was being lived. Other times, we tell kids that they need to wait to make a choice because we fear that their life, their identity, and aspirations will be different from our own.
We might even tell them they don’t know what they want because we, especially as Black people, know what happens to people when they’re different and we worry about them.
Larry: WOW. When you put it that way…I guess I was just asking because I wanted to see what people thought about this. I’m glad I asked you.
We talked more after that about gender, education, and racism. It was a good talk. It’s the kind of conversation we can use to understand what it means to be in solidarity with trans kids, trans adults, and trans communities.
I cannot believe I literally got into this Uber with Larry just after posting my course on gender that morning.
I’m glad Larry asked me.
*Zaya is Dwayne Wade’s daughter, not his son.