Let the conversation begin.
Our gratitude to Tiffany Magana, a volunteer mental health advocate in our Hope for Mentally Ill program, for her very moving guest post this week.
This story is beautiful in many respects. Trystan Reese has been with his partner Biff Chaplow for seven years now. Biff is a social worker that used to work with homeless individuals and currently supports individuals with mental health challenges. Trystan is currently working as a social justice professional. Both Trystan and Biff regularly blog on their website, biffandi.com.
They currently have two adopted children, who, prior to the adoption were their niece and nephew. Trystan and Biff adopted the two children after discovering they were living in an abusive environment.
On July 14, they welcomed their first biological child into the world. Throughout the pregnancy, Trystan made video documentation of his experience, adding commentary along the way. Once his documentation was posted to the internet, via major news sources, debate erupted. The issue? Trystan is a transgender man.
One social media outlet, Facebook, has been the platform that has allowed individuals on a worldwide level to respond. What was supposed to be a joyous and exciting moment for this couple turned into something that was not expected.
The video, titled “Man Gives Birth,” received an abundance of hate. Hundreds felt the need to express their opinions, which varied from how “Trystan is wrong”, ”Trystan is a woman,” and that “they need help.” The anticipated public commentary was expected to be congratulatory and joyous, and yet, it was not.
Does Anyone Deserve to Hear This?
Below are several remarks that I found to be atrocious from the comments section under Trystan and Biff’s video documenting their pregnancy experience. Additionally, what I found to be even more disturbing than the comments themselves were the number of “likes” and “hearts” opposed to those showing distaste by and through “angry” and “sad” responses. Hundreds of comments essentially declared Trystan and Biff to be unfit parents.
There are thousands of kids children waiting to be adopted and both Trystan and Biff made the decision to adopt two. Although these spiteful individuals choose to comment, they have provided little proof that they had aided in the effort towards giving well deserving children homes. They choose to comment negatively rather than offer words of support and empowerment to a couple that is proud of the love they exhibit toward their adopted children and new child.
What Do I Take Away From This Hate-Filled Tirade?
After a couple weeks of feeling angry towards all the comments and commentators who felt the need to respond negatively to an incredibly positive experience, I came to terms with an extremely important fact regarding myself. I need to take more action and actively educate others.
In the remainder of this piece, I focus on explaining the differences between sex, gender and gender dysphoria.
What is the Difference Between Sex and Gender?
I dedicated time to go through the entirety of the comment section under the Facebook video on several different news sites. I discovered absurd and hate-filled comments that in turn inspired me to elaborate on the difference between sex and gender. Sex as is defined in the dictionary is “either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions”. This definition is straightforward essentially laying forth the concept that we are either male or female.
There are also intersex individuals which means humans who have both categories of sexes.
Then we come upon the definition of gender, which is “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).” Gender is something that is chosen which means that many genders exist.
An example of this is as follows. My sex is female until I fully transition, while my gender is non-binary. This is potentially difficult for certain individuals with limited knowledge around the topic of genders to grasp.
What is Gender Dysphoria? (Hint: It is Not a Mental Illness)
Gender dysphoria is the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex. Often people have the misconception that gender dysphoria is a mental illness but it is not. What is important is that stress, anxiety and depression are a big part of the disorder. This is when wanting to express their true gender comes into play. This will change their behavior, dress, and self-image.
There are different types of ways individuals change. Some will cross-dress, some will socially transition, some will want to transition medically with a sex-change surgery and/or hormone treatment. I often hear that individuals aren’t as well informed about this disorder, believing that this only occurs in gay/lesbian individuals. The fact is gender dysphoria is a condition that can happen to anyone regardless of sexual orientation.
We All Deserve to Be Happy. So Do They.
Everyone wants and deserves the same thing: to be understood and to be happy. No one deserves to be discriminated against or be on the receiving end of such public hatred. I understand Trystan and Biff and wish them and their three beautiful children all the happiness in the world. Their family deserves nothing less.