A Holiday Wish

The Christmas Tree at Philadelphia City Hall

The holidays were different when I was younger. Lacking the Internet, one would eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Sears catalog to your front door just around August or September. This particular catalog, known as the “Wish Book,” would hold in its many pages a treasure trove of toys your family could buy for the holidays.

The Wish Book, of course, was the basis of your letter to Santa.

I thought I was sneaky. Every year, I would comb the pages of the Wish Book, crafting a list for Santa of all the toys I might want. There was always some of the usual fare, like Hot Wheels cars and whatnot, but I would always try to sneak something in.

One year, I tried requesting a Barbie playset among the Big Jim dolls, but this was denied. Another year it was the Jamie Sommers Bionic Woman doll to go with the masculine variety, Steve Austin. That one time, amazingly, I was successful.

I knew, though, that my likelihood of success was pretty slim, of course. I also knew what my real big ask was, and that it was the one thing I knew Santa could not bring me. It was the same thing I concluded my nightly prayers with, and what I might wish upon a star for more times than I might admit.

I wanted to wake up a girl, as if none of that past of mine mattered and just be myself.

I was, I suppose, fortunate. Even in my younger years, I knew trans people existed. While some will try to tell you that transgender people somehow only emerged in the 1990s, fully-realized, I recall hearing about Renée Richards, Wendy Carlos and others in my youth. While I may not have known all the ins and outs of being transgender, I definitely knew it was a possibility.

Of course, it was this knowledge that also informed me that a gender transition wasn’t likely to show up under the slowly dying Douglas fir in the front room on the 25th of December. I knew that my parents would never approve of such anyway, so I really didn’t feel I had many options open to me. I went through some very dark times.

I began transitioning in my 20s, many years after I had given up on Santa for his gender reassignment prowess.

There are a lot of people out in the world today who will try to tell you that transgender people are somehow coerced into transition. They may call it some sort of “contagion” even. What’s worse, some of those same people pressure their lawmakers and others to shut down transgender clinics and outlaw trans care. Why, some of those people are lawmakers themselves, and directly work against the needs of out transgender people young and old.

I will sound like a broken record: these are hard times for transgender people. Hundreds of bills were introduced in 2024 to try to take away trans rights across the United States. Entire states have become all but uninhabitable for trans youth, with more poised to do the same in 2024. A presidential election comes in 2024, too, and nearly every candidate for one of the two major parties is busy trying to be more transphobic than the other.

I know there are kids out there today who are just like I was and, even though the Sears Wish Book is a part of history, these same kids are making their own lists today. In spite of everything, they are trying to give voice to their own gender, their own yearnings and their own needs.

Not all of them may make it like I did. Not in these times. Quite simply, we need to be there for each of them, and help see their own wishes come true.

This is the holiday season and I want you to think about every young trans kid out there, making their own wishes this holiday season, and hoping that they, too, will be able to wake up some day and embody the genders they know themselves to be. I want to join in that wish, and hope they will be able to feel that joy I felt when I realized that my own wishes as a child had, finally, come true.

I want to call on us all to do what we can, during the holidays and any day, to make this world a better one for each of them. Push hard for trans acceptance in a rapidly crueler world. Speak out on their behalf. Give to trans-accepting shelters and charities. Donate your time and money, when you can, to organizations that may be able to help.

What’s more, if you have a trans kid in your family — or a trans person of any age, for that matter — reach out to them. Be their friend, their ally and their champion. Show them that they matter to you, and that you are willing to help them survive. Because that’s what this comes down to.

To my trans siblings: You have got to do all you can to survive. I know these are hard, hard times, but there are a great many people — many of which you’ve yet to meet — who are out there cheering for you. We love you and, no matter what, we want you to be able to live a full and happy life.

This is my wish this holiday season: that we shall meet here again at the closing of the year, and for many, many days to come.

Gwen Smith still believes. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com.

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