Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Teenagers (eye roll)

Yesterday, my youngest daughter participated in a "lobby" day for LGBT rights at the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). She went as a member of her youth group which also serves that community. She suggested I write a blog post about it because it was a very important day. She is right, it was an important day.

I want to write mainly though, about her. This summer, she came home from camp early and as part of the process, announced that she was bisexual. My first reaction to this was "are you sure you just aren't gay?" (#parentingfail? Discuss.) She said no and so we went on. This was truly no great revelation for anyone as I already had my suspicions since she was in grade school.

As time passed, she adopted a more "masculine" physical look, cutting her long hair and choosing not to wear skirts or dresses anymore (pink was gone a long time ago). She also finally decided she was ready to tell us she was actually gay (!). Her line was "have you seen me?".

Yes, we saw her and so did everyone else. It takes courage and a firm resolve to  unequivocably show who you are, especially as a teenager. I am proud (pun intended) of her and continue to be as she conquers the world beating to her own drum.

Her friends and her school and our family and friends have been and continue to be supportive. It honestly doesn't matter and doesn't change the essence of who she is.

Lately, she has worked hard at pushing the limits much like any other kid her age. When I think on it, there is more there though. More than just a teenager experimenting with limits and trying to find herself.

In fact, she finds herself in a world that isn't truly hers. She is one foot out and one foot in. The world around her isn't mostly gay.  If you follow Buzzfeed, watch Ellen DeGeneres and go to your local pride parade, it may seem that the whole world is gay.

But it's not. It's taken until now for Barbie to come out with dolls in different body sizes. We still haven't had a woman president and the police are still killing people of color. When you look around and you see an ad with a same sex couple or a family with two moms, you remark on it. It's still different. There is still work to be done which is why its important for her to be involved in helping to advance change.

It struck me that she feels like I felt as a Jew in America. Not everyone who is Jewish feels the same, but I did. Maybe because I didn't grow up on the East Coast where "New York Values" prevail. Maybe because it was the thing which I identified with most as my core self. I am American surely, and nowhere is that clearer than here in Israel. When I look around though, my identity is reflected in the society around. Israel moves to the rhythm of the Jewish Calendar and when I pepper my English with "Jewish" words, we all smile at the commonality.

Teenagers like to bulldoze through the world around them. They either want to stand out or fit in. There is no mild in between for them. The louder they shout, the more they think you will notice them. How easy it would be if we could just give them the answers they seek about who they are and what their place in the world is. What they will become and that all their dreams will be fulfilled.

I'm not the first parent to "suffer" through these years (sorry, Mom and Dad) and I won't be the last but when it's someone else's turn, I'll be the wiser.

Let her push. Let her search. She'll discover it all soon enough and I'll be standing there, waiting for her to come home.