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By Carrie Park
It was my fault. I was mindlessly strolling through the news headlines and I took the bait. The click bait. And what I read made me see red:
Female News Anchor Fights Back After Wearing the Same Blouse 4 Months Apart
Hillary Clinton Models Namesake Heels Designed by Katy Perry
Texas Mom’s Faith is Tested by Her Child’s Transgender Journey
This was news? What was going on in the world? In the first article, a female news anchor was outed by a “journalist” who wrote a column about her wardrobe repetition. In response, the anchorwoman tweeted that she had done the math (o-m-g she does math!) and figured out that she had indeed worn the blouse 125 days ago. In contrast, her male co-anchor admitted to having worn the same blue suit on the air for an entire year. No one wrote a story about him. But perhaps he doesn’t have a stalker who works at a newspaper like she does.
The second article detailed a new shoe line that Katy Perry has created to honor her hero, Hillary Clinton. Named, “The Hillary,” the footwear comes in pink and a “bolder seafoam green.” Unclear what is bold about seafoam green, but what is clear is the heel: lucite with little suns, moons, and stars floating in it. All I can say is, what a missed election slogan opportunity: “She’s as transparent as her heels!” But I digress. On its face, I don’t have a problem with a shoe line being used to honor someone, however, I can’t help but remember the constant critique and criticism over Clinton’s appearance. Namely, her pantsuits. Was there ever a male candidate who was scrutinized to such a degree over his clothing choices?
By the third article, I was seething. I clicked on it, eyes rolling, prepared for the inevitable rhetoric that accompanies these types of stories. I readied myself for another example of intolerance, self-righteousness, and how we dwell on what someone looks like on the outside (A boy in a dress? A girl with a crew cut?) as opposed to how they feel on the inside.
But it wasn’t like that.
What followed was a beautiful story about Kimberly Shappley. Self described as a woman who was born and raised “Republican and Baptist” (maybe in that order) she had openly blamed other parents who “let” their children go down a path of transgender transition. In her opinion, the issue of transgender was a choice. The wrong choice.
As is usually the case, her feelings changed when the issue became personal to her and her family. Her child, born Joseph, was articulating to her at age 3 that he was really a girl. She said her strong faith did not allow her to accept this. But one night she overheard her son praying to the Lord to “take Joseph away forever.” She knew immediately that her choice was either a transgender child or a dead child. She sought help from a counselor who asked her the following questions:
“Would it bother you if your child was wearing girl’s clothes on a deserted island?” She said, no.
“Would it bother you if your child was wearing girl’s clothes to school?” She said, yes.
He said, “Your problem is not with God, because God sees your child everywhere. Your problem is with what other people will think of you.” At that moment, she was able to draw the distinction between faith and religion. Faith is your relationship with God. Religion is man made. She made the choice to let her child wear the dresses and change her name to “Kai.” Kimberly didn’t stop there. She held a press conference at which she publicly apologized to the LGBTQ community for her past beliefs. “I’m sorry for every time I plucked a Bible verse out of context, and hurt you with it.”
Now, I could stop there. Hooray! The world has one more accepting adult in it! But what Kimberly said at the end of the article gave me considerable pause. When asked about her daughter’s future, she said, “It’s imperative to me that Kai knows who she is and that she’s firm in her faith, so that when the world does start to attack her and tell her that she’s less than, she’s prepared for that.”
It wasn’t even “if” the world attacks her, it was “when.” What wasn’t clear in my mind was what the world would be attacking her for. Would it be for wearing a dress? Would it be for trying to use the girl’s bathroom? Would it be for going against convention? Or would it be for just being a girl?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Kai is allowed to grow up in a world that accepts her for who she is and doesn’t count how many times she wears a blouse and doesn’t care if she wears a pantsuit. Maybe someday, Kai will have the opportunity to give her own press conference and thank her mother for standing up against those who would have held her back. And then, maybe she will click her lucite heels together and say, “There’s no place like the White House.”