Liberal Youth, Fascist Battleground (Pt I)

Liberal Youth, Fascist Battleground (Pt I)

Any society that treats children as property will inevitably fight its battles on their bodies.

4 minute read

My Story

When I was 5 years old, my sister and I were playing out in the front yard with our friends. She and her best friend were both in gymnastics, and they were practicing cartwheels. They looked so graceful and free. I was so jealous! Later that night, I asked my mother, "Mom, can I be in gymnastics?"

"Oh honey, you don't really want that, do you? It's so much work!"

A month later, I was in soccer. This confused me. I did not want to be in soccer. I wanted to be in gymnastics. I chalked it up to a bug in our communication. Surely my mother had misheard. Yet, no matter what I said after practice each day, I was back out on the field the next afternoon. I guess I eventually got the point across because next year I heard nothing about soccer. I was grateful for that, since I had taken up rollerblading as a full-time hobby. From the moment I got home from school, I would strap on my skates and roll up and down the block, forwards and backwards, jumping and spinning. I loved to pretend that I was a beautiful ice skater. I watched every competition and performance that came on TV. Kristi Yamaguchi was my absolute idol. One day, the family took a trip to the ice rink at the Tandy Center in downtown Fort Worth. I discovered they had figure skating lessons. I was so excited! "Mom, can I do figure skating?"

"Oh honey, you don't really want that, do you? It's so far to the Tandy Center!"

A month later, I was in baseball. I hated it. I ran until I cried. I got hit with a ball many times. I gagged every time someone spit, which was often. I hated the way my teammates talked, and they'd always pick on me for it. This was a recurring theme for me. I would get interested in something (gymnastics, figure skating, ballet, cheerleading). My parents would take that interest as a cue that I needed to be put into something more "appropriate" for a boy (soccer, baseball, martial arts, football).

It wasn't until years later that I noticed the pattern. How it fit together with the Polaroid of me beaming from ear to ear in my sister's Sunday school dress, kept teasingly as "blackmail" for when I one day bring a girl home. My adolescent depression. My anxious and secretive body hair removal. My constant pleading to be allowed to keep my hair long that always ended in tragic, tearful haircuts. I was 7 the first time I wished aloud that I was a girl. I was 12 the first time I self-identified as a "lesbian stuck in a boy's body." I quickly learned not to do that, and spent the next 20 years completely silent on the matter. I stowed away all these inconvenient pieces of myself. I hid my feelings so well, I spent years not feeling much of anything at all.

I was 32 when I "transitioned", a process that tore my life apart and left me sobbing weekly on a therapist's couch for the better part of a year. Then I met my partner and her three children. The children had a few questions, so we looked for books that told stories like mine in ways that they could easily understand. But one thing stood out about those stories. They were transgender success stories. My stepdaughter asked me once, point blank, "Why don't you look more like Jazz Jennings?" I gave her the best answer I could, which was basically that I did not have the parental support to transition as a child. As a result, I looked and sounded significantly more like a typical man than Jazz ever had or would. I then excused myself and cried in the bathroom. After a few minutes, I realized that my bathroom crying session was actually an achievement. After 20 years, at least I finally can cry about it. A light salve on a deep wound.

Child Domination: A Common Thread

The word proletarian comes from the Latin proletarius, or "one who gives offspring." In the eyes of the state, a child is not seen as a subject in their own right, but as a resource to be exploited. A primary force behind the recent attacks on trans children is the fact that our ableist/ageist social structure makes it easy to attack children in the first place. This is not only an issue of trans rights. This is not only an issue of fascists taking control of a larger narrative for a political agenda. This is a critical vulnerability in the liberal ideological fabric, a deep wound caused by colonialism and capitalism that has completely sabotaged our ability to understand what a good society even looks like, particularly in regards to how it treats its youngest members.

It is no coincidence that a European colonial project would have this problem. It is no coincidence that a nation that only a century ago was sending its children into factories at baton- and gunpoint - and that now merely exports this phenomenon to its client states - has this problem.

We are a nation of child abusers. We are a nation that is constantly abusing its youth. Our children are a perpetual battleground precisely because they are not seen as belonging to themselves, but to those who have begotten them and the dominant culture that sanctions their family. It is easier to break a child than to support them in this society. In fact, it is explicitly preferred. Our state and its dominant culture demand an “obedient” child. A “normal” child." A child who will one day achieve the highest honor: a “good worker." These are all synonyms for broken.