As a relationship expert who specializes in understanding how the dynamics between people affects who we are, it is my contention that the debate whether children should or should not watch Chaz Bono on Dancing With The Stars is very symbolic of our culture with specific regards to: the fear of change. Yet change is inevitable. As change happens, some react with openness and exploration, others try to shut the door to differences, still others become defensive and critical, some react with curiosity and interest, while some with empathy and compassion, and then there are those that use force to get others onto their side. You get the idea. There are a variety of ways people react to change that happens whether it be in their own direct lives, and/or to our culture, our society as a whole. We are a changing culture, a changing world. I believe we have to help our children confront the changes that are happening around them, be curious, interested, and live with eyes wide open with empathy for the choices of others. This does not mean one needs to make the same choices, nor even agree for that matter with the choices of others.
Dr. Keith Ablow’s editorial for FOX News as well as his interview on America Live With Megyn Kelly, as well as during his interview on The O’Reilly Factor, his position is parents should not allow their children to watch Dancing With The Stars during any episode in which Chaz Bono appears. Ablow certainly has gotten a lot of heat for his opinion. Although I strongly disagree with his opinion, the fact is, the perspective that humans model one another is valid. Also, the notion that if we allow something to be viewed as acceptable through mainstreaming, then the more acceptable it becomes, is true. Therefore, his concern that in the celebration of Chaz children will consider gender transformation as an option is not outrageous in and of itself. It actually is an option, perhaps not an option one would want for themselves, for their own child, or for someone they love, but with medical science it is an option and therefore some see it as a real option. The debate this leads to is whether transforming one’s gender through the use of medical means is acceptable or unacceptable, approved or unapproved is the matter at hand. We are all entitled to our own opinion. Being entitled to one’s own opinion is markedly different then specifically telling parents they should not allow their children to watch this show directly inferring that if their child does, he/she will be at risk for deciding to undergo gender transformation.
It is this psychotherapist and parenting expert’s stance to allow children to watch the program, and use it as an opportunity to communicate with your children. My stance is as follows:
1. The goal is not to change the transformation of our human culture by hiding our children from it.
2. It is not therapeutically wise to believe that we are protecting our children from becoming someone we do not want them to become by hiding them from the reality of others. Being fearful one’s child will choose to undergo gender transformation if they are struggling with gender identity issues by watching this program is a fear the parent should confront with their own self. Not allowing one’s child to watch a person on a dance program that went through this procedure is not a healthy form of protection, nor is it protection at all.
3. Let’s have more faith in parents and know that parents have an impact on the coping strategies and life choices that one’s children make.
4. Protect our children from their inner battles and outer struggles by helping them to be humans with healthy coping skills, armed with strategies to deal with personal and relational struggles. Help them to grow their analytical muscle by allowing them to watch Dancing With The Stars regardless of whether Bono is on it or not. This is a dance program, not the Bono show.
5. Offering children opportunities to confront the shifts happening around them with education, information, dialogue, research, and empathy is a significant way we as parents make for a better world.
Fear of what is to come:
There was a time some parents and professionals feared mainstreaming children with certain physical, emotional, and/or behavioral infliction. There was a time due to one’s race they were seated a part in fear that who they are would negatively affect the majority. Religion, gender, homosexuality, all are who a person is and there are those who are afraid that like a disease “it”, whatever the it is will rub off on others. I am not comparing categories, as each one is unique in and of itself, yet I am reminding us all that this debate and dialogue taking place on various media outlets regarding Bono is reminiscent of that.
This debate is simply symbolic for what was and what will always be which is that some are open to the changes of our ever changing times and believe that we as parents can help our children to make decisions, whereas others want to close the door to the transformations of our transforming world.
Change and transformation happen with us or without us. By living with our eyes wide open, with knowledge, education, love, empathy, and support we as parents must dialogue with our children and help them navigate through life’s struggles. Every moment is an opportunity to talk with our kids to help them to help themselves be the best self they can be towards self and others.