I remember “Paul” (that’s what I shall call him), he was a classmate of mine. Paul was a very quiet boy. He was ostracized by the other boys and ignored by the girls. He was bullied on a daily basis. All these years later I still think of him from time to time and hope he found peace and happiness in this world.
I remember the cruelty of my classmates toward Paul whose x and y chromosomes had somehow tangled in ways I do not understand. I certainly did not understand at the time, but I was disturbed at how he was tormented by my classmates. I think I may have been 12 or 13 years old at the time. At any rate, he had begun to develop breasts. That was confusing to me, but imagine how confusing, difficult, and challenging that was for him.
I remember the class trip we were on and how the boys got together to convince the most popular and pretty girl in our class to go ask him if he would go out with her. There was a meanness in their curiosity about him. They wanted to “out” him because they thought he was gay. They couldn’t understand him and they hated him because their ignorance made them intolerant of difference.
That “group think” took over the class and they put their plan into action. I remember one child who was brave enough to question the cruel mentality and the plan to embarrass and/or center him “out” fizzled mid-action. Thank God for that brave soul.
Paul makes me think of the “other”. Of how we treat those who are different from us. Of how we judge those people as somehow inferior or less than us. How arrogant we can be.
In today’s world we have learned more about gender and about how some people are born into the “wrong” body. It is a mysterious thing and I don’t pretend to know the answers. But, do we have to know the whys and hows to treat others with the same respect we demand and want for ourselves?
I remember when I went home after that class trip and asked my mother about Paul. She couldn’t answer my questions concerning the biological and physiological intricacies of the human body. But I do remember her admonishment to be kind and compassionate.
Today, I know of two young people who are struggling with gender issues. One I know fairly well. I see the pain she is going through and the horrible ways she’s been treated by others. I still don’t understand why this is happening to her. It is heart breaking.
Does the fact that one is born female or male really matter? Shouldn’t what is underneath the skin: the heart, soul, and be-ing matter more? Does the container, the body, really matter in the end? Shouldn’t how we treat ourselves and others be more important? I think it is. I know it is all far from simple, but I hope we will soon see a day when the body is recognized for what it is: a vessel for the soul – and may we develop better understanding and appreciation for this precious commodity, which is the essence of life; the holder of love and all things good.