Empathy for the transfan


The United States is dealing with vast controversies about people with mixed, confused or questioning identities.

In Chicago, we have managed this sort of thing for more than a century.  It all relates to baseball.

As some of you may know, we have two baseball teams in Chicago.  On the North Side you will find the Chicago Cubs of the National League.  They have many passionate fans.

On the South Side we have the Chicago White Sox of the American League.  They also have many passionate fans, including yours truly.

Generally speaking, it simply isn’t psychologically, morally or socially possible (or ethical) to be a fan of both teams.  In fact, Chicago residents are expected to pick one or the other to support.  This causes schisms in families, friendships, workplaces, church congregations and schools.

It seldom leads to violence, although it has lead to much expressive language over the years.

Each set of fans has its own place to go to cheer for their team.  Cubs supporters visit the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  Sox fans go to US Cellular Field.

But as in other burning life controversies, there are some fans who are not sure which team they support.  Their lives are torn between two identities and they merit our sympathy and understanding.

There are the transfandic.  We don’t have precise numbers for this segment of society, but estimates are that in Chicago, less than .01 percent of the population can’t decide whether they support the Sox or the Cubs – and a significantly smaller percentage supports both.

We’ve always dealt with this in a mature, commonsense manner.  Those who are coping with transfanism typically try attending a game at one venue or the other.  They may or may not feel a connection and become a team-specific fan.

In rare cases, a fan of one team or the others has doubts, thinking that perhaps they are called to support the other team.  In such an instance, the questioning fan typically attends a game at the other park, which helps them clarify their thinking.

For example, I’ve been a Sox fan for decades.  But let’s say (just for the sake of illustration – this could never really happen), I start thinking the Cubs aren’t so bad and maybe I should change allegiance.  I would attend a game at Wrigley Field, being careful not to wear any Sox attire.  That would help clarify my identity.

It also is possible for a fan of one team to attend a game at the other team’s field.  This typically happens in one of two situations.

First, the two teams occasionally play each other, which means the crowd in the park is divided.  You aren’t really attending the other team’s game – you are attending your team’s game, which just happens to be at the other team’s park.

Second, there are times when friendships can promote peaceful attendance at the other team’s field.  For example, a couple years ago my good friend Mildred Muldoon (name changed to protect the innocent) came into possession of several tickets to a game at US Cellular Field.  Although Mildred bleeds Cubby Blue, she knows I’m a Sox fan and graciously invited my wife and me to accompany her to the game.

It was a gesture of great nobility for which we were deeply grateful.  And we were especially relieved that she didn’t wear anything that would identify her as a Cubs fan.

Perhaps this story of how we deal with disagreements in Chicago can help the nation to handle other problems.  And for Chicago residents who continue to question whether they are fans of the Sox, Cubs – or both or neither – please continue your sensible practice of just not making a big deal about it.

I am conscience

photo-1418874586588-88661ed80c4aWhen an American Catholic must make a decision about morality he looks nearby (very nearby) for guidance.

He looks to himself.

A sad-but-perhaps-not-surprising survey by Pew Research Center suggests that nobody knows right from wrong better than the individual – at least in the mind of the individual.

When confronted with a moral issue, Catholics look to the following sources for guidance:

  • The Pope                                 10 percent
  • Bible                                         15 percent
  • Church teaching                  21 percent
  • Their own conscience         73 percent

This suggests that American Catholics (A) have deeply formed moral compasses or (B) suffer from delusional pride.  Based on decades observing American culture, I’m picking (B).

We Americans (Catholic or otherwise) believe we are an independent lot.  We make our own decisions and don’t want anyone – even the Pope – telling us what to do.  After all, who knows better what is good for me than me?

But while proclaiming our independence, we’re influenced by an increasingly sick culture every day of our lives.  Television, radio and social media tell us what to wear, what to eat, what music to like and what politically correct views to embrace.  We don’t want the Church telling us what to do, but it is OK if movies stars, advocacy groups and political parties shape our every move.

Let’s see; who should I look to for guidance?  George Clooney or the Pope?  People Magazine or the Bible?  Friends of the Earth or the Catholic Church?  Me or, well, me with the Catholic team of Pope, Bible and Church teaching guiding my walk in life.

For most of the decisions in my daily life I don’t need the Pope’s help.  I can select a car, match décor for my home and pick toppings for tonight’s pizza.  But I’m not among the 73 percent of American Catholics who believe they know best about the big things in life.

I need a hand.

Grandpa…this is confusing

female-44081_960_720Dear Grandpa Diff,

I have not written for a long time, but I thought you would be interested in some cultural issues we’re dealing with here in the good old US of A.

As I’ve mentioned before, lots has changed since you passed away several decades ago and likely went to a pleasant meadow behind the pearly gates.  (If St. Peter didn’t let you in, there isn’t an iota of chance for me.)

Anyway…we’re having difficulty with our bathrooms.  No, it isn’t the toilets, sinks and pipes; it is a rather gnarly debate over who uses which facilities.

I’m sure this strikes you are odd.  After all, in your day when a kid in a school needed to go, a boy used the boy’s room and a girl used the girl’s room.  Of course, in those days there was general agreement on who was a boy and who was a girl.

There likely were some confused kids back in your time, but I don’t ever remember you mentioning anyone in your circle of acquaintances being transgendered or gender questioning.

Oops…you probably don’t know those terms.  A transgendered person is someone who was born biologically of one gender, but identifies more (at least in some part of their own mind) with the other gender.  In other words, a baby boy might decide at some point he wants to be a she, start dressing like a girl and even have surgery…well…never mind about that.

A gender questioning person is someone who isn’t sure which sex they are called to be and wants to try various options.  I admit I have a difficult time understanding how this works.

This is all by way of background to the debate our society is having:  should a person use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender according to birth or their gender according to how they feel?  Is where someone pees determined by biology or emotions? Or should everyone just go into one unisex bathroom and ignore biological differences?

North Carolina passed a law to settle the issue for Tar Heels – in that state you have to use the bathroom that corresponds to your biology.  Thus, even if a boy is feeling really girly on a particular day when nature calls, he still has to use the boy’s room.

This has outraged some groups.  The governor of Washington State has banned state officials from visiting North Carolina.  (Washington has a law that says you can use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender you feel you are.)  The governor of New York has done the same thing.

Here in Chicago, the mayor has asked all citizens to refrain from traveling to North Carolina.  Hey, I never knew the mayor carried so much about toilets.  Maybe this means he’ll put a few more port-a-potties in Grant Park.

With hope…your grandson…Jim