Monday, December 14, 2015

Reconciling the Past and the Present

Transition happens not only for your transgendered child, but for your entire family.  After the acceptance of having a transgender child comes some confusion regarding the past.  I mean, I brought home a baby boy, raised him as such, and have the pictures and memories that go along with that.  And now I have a girl.

I’ve heard that some parents mourn the loss of their “former” child, and while that feels a little dramatic to me and I can’t say I’ve done exactly that, there is some truth to it.  It’s like I had this one reality, and now I have a different one, and they’re both good, but sometimes it’s hard to make the abstract connect with the present-day.

What do I do with the baby book, full of all things Max?  What about the tiny baby clothes and mementos I saved?  The framed baby shirt, with the pertinent birth information, including name, written on it?

What about all the pictures of her childhood?  Is it strange to display some?  I know it’s my house and I can do whatever I want, but does it make Allie uncomfortable? 
 
It’s hard to always feel like you have to explain things.  Which is why, when I co-hosted a bridal shower at my house last year, I removed the framed baby and senior pictures from my wall – some of the invited guests were people I’d never met (as they were friends of the bride) and I just didn’t want to get into any conversations, no matter how polite or well-meaning.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; I don’t always want to spend the energy going over this with random people.

I do feel a little bad that there are some people who I’ve not shared this with yet.  Some of them are in my running group, and it’s not that I thought they’d react unfavorably, but really – how, and more importantly why, would I bring it up in a random conversation?  “Hey, did you have a good run today and by the way, we now have a daughter…” – yeah, no.  It’s not that no one cares, it’s just that it’s not an appropriate moment.  But it feels awkward as time goes on, especially when they think we have two sons.

Still, as the years have gone by, I’m less evasive with our transitional truth, and I’m having the conversation with people who I didn’t think I would…some are older, who I mistakenly thought wouldn’t understand it (they did), and some are those who I judged solely on where they live – after all, Texas is not exactly the hotbed of open-mindedness.  Again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction of most people.  Last Monday’s blog post was yet another step in this journey for me, and once again, I was surprised by the great response.

Who knows – maybe one day this will become so much of a non-issue that I will have a simple, de facto explanation…and the recipient of said explanation will accept it as such, because there will be much more of an awareness and commonality regarding transgender people.  Until then, I continue to work at this.  I'm sure I've not done it perfectly, but hey - it's not like this is one of the parenting classes you can take when you're pregnant...but oh, wouldn't that be interesting??

34 comments:

  1. I have no idea how you must have felt simply because it's not something I have ever experienced myself.

    I would understand if you just don't mention it because you just don't walk to talk about it all the time. I can imagine everytime you tell it, you have to explain and that's sometimes exhausting.

    For years I had to explain to people why I still wasn't pregnant and when I said we didn't want children I had to explain that. Now I'm too old and that's over. And last year when I lost my voice for 6 months, I was so tired of explaining why my voice sounded like crap. It's not something you can hide :)

    In the end all that matters is how you, Jeff, Allie and Sam feel about this. If other people disagree: their loss!
    And as for the childhood things, I would keep it, if you don't it's like the first years of Allie's life never excisted.

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    1. I can only imagine how many times you got the pregnancy question...because OF COURSE, every woman of childbearing age wants to have a baby...OF COURSE. Yeah, you had way too many years of that, I'm sure. And then your voice thing last year; I'd have felt like printing up little cards with an explanation and stock answers. Of course I really wouldn't have done that, but I'd have thought about it!

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    2. We got that too. "when are you and Dennis going to have a baby?" "is there something wrong with one of you?" (yup, that was actually asked of us. At a party, by someone I'd just met and was making small talk to) And we got the "oh, poor Roz, she doesn't have kids. I bet she wants to hold our baby. (no I don't really...). We are childless by choice, and frankly, just don't feel like explaining the whys and hows of our decision. Crazy world....

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    3. Oh so recognizable: hold my baby. I didn't want that either.

      Sorry Shelley, I had to reply to this.

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    4. See, I'm a crazy baby person and even I wouldn't do that!

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  2. I can understand that being a challenge but have no answer other than "time." Time makes the difference in everything. I would say a few years from now, you will have figured it out and everyone you regularly associate with will know. New friends will only know Allie and life will go on. Bless you all as you work it out!

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    1. You are correct about the new friends - it's nice to start fresh with some people.

      Time, eh? You are right, and I'm sure I'll look back on this time, just as I can on the year 2007, and see the progression we've made

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  3. Maybe ask Allie how she feels about her childhood pictures being displayed. I'm sure she looks fondly at them and would love to share her, I'm sure what was a wonderful childhood, with friends that come to visit. I can understand the baby shower thing. With strangers in that short amount of time, it would be hard to find the right moment to explain things.

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    1. It's a conversation that we need to have (and one that I'm ready to have, as well).

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  4. It sounds to me like you are in the perfect place....acceptance and no great desire to have to defend yourself or Allie....it is what it is and you have done great....because you loved your son and you love your daughter!

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    1. Not a perfect place, but definitely a much calmer, better place, to be sure. :)

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  5. Transitional periods in life are hard to navigate, and sometimes saying nothing is easier than having to explain a complicated situation that isn't really anyone else's business until you're ready.

    I do think it's okay for you to mourn the "loss" of Max. You did have a son, and now you have a daughter. Even if it's the right decision on Allie's part, and even if you're completely supportive and happy for her, accepting this new and different life is bound to come with some emotions.

    I know it's not at all the same, but my divorce and remarriage was a hard transitional phase that I often don't talk about. Like you, I assume people will judge, and I'd rather just not bother with it. And as happy as I am with my new life, I still mourn my old one from time to time. But as Helen said, everything gets easier with time.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing in your journey. As a parent of an LGBTQ child myself, my heart goes out to you in choosing how and to whom to share your kid's identity. Hugs!

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    1. Thanks, Rachel - yes, I'm sure you have some of the same dilemmas when it comes to sharing about your child's life.

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  7. Another really good, well written, and honest post about a difficult topic. You have handled this transition with so much grace, and now you are sharing that grace with others. I do believe that you are helping people that might not even know that they need help, and others that are searching for that help.

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    1. Well thank you for this, Debby - and while I'm writing from the selfish standpoint of ME, it's nice to think that this could be helping others as well.

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  8. I guess the question could be posed to Allie about how she feels with you displaying her younger pictures. It's not like she never had a childhood and you don't have memories of that (for both of you). The coming out doesn't change the past, just the future.

    I get not explaining it to people you don't know. Sometimes the answer to an innocent question is way to complex to get into at a bridal shower :D

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    1. Makes you wonder how much anyone is actually sharing on the surface level, doesn't it?

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  9. I am just catching up on blogs. I am so out of the loop. I am so impressed with your kindness and honesty. Our children mean everything to us no matter what age. We just want them to be happy. I can imagine it is so helpful to your daughter to have such good support. Take care Shelley!

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    1. Thanks, Katrin. Good to see you again! :)

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  10. Lovely, lovely post! I'm glad you are able to share this journey with us! We may never have met in person, but I truly believe you have a wide, accepting and loving electronic circle who wish you, Jeff, Allie and Sam NOTHING but happiness and peace! And the story is yours to tell, to whom you want to, and at a time that is right. Big hug to all!

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  11. Thank you for sharing some of the process you've been going through as Allie makes these changes in her life. I know what you mean about sometimes it's just easier not to even address questions. Princess has been suffering from depression probably since middle school, but it has only recently become debilitating at times. When people ask me how she's doing at college, I usually answer with "fine" because 1) not my information 2) the true answer is complicated and 3) just how much is it anybody else's business?? But, as you wrote, it doesn't just affect her, it affects everybody in the family, and though her story is not mine to share, it's hard not being able to share the emotions and worries that I feel, the part that IS mine. I'm still working on that one. I am SO grateful for a skilled therapist!

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    1. Exactly. Her story is not yours to share...except that, you are also dealing with the angst, worry and anxiety that goes along with what she's going through. But how can you go there, without delving into her story? It's tough. I'm glad you do have someone you can safely talk to, and I'm sorry that your daughter is suffering.

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  12. "transitional truth" "hotbed of open-mindedness" GREAT!!
    I want to encourage you to cherish your baby bits- that's how it was then and it was important to you then. But, I totally get the confusion. You are one awesome mama.

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    1. I do cherish the baby bits, and I'm trying to not compartmentalize that era. Muddling through, one day at a time...

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  13. Wow. I sure am glad that I stumbled into your blog. My niece just transitioned from female to male just over a year ago. It certainly has been an interesting journey. My sister is struggling with the transition, and has difficulty calling him by his new name. Thank you for sharing your journey and I am going to share your blog with my sister.

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    1. The new name can be challenging; so can the new pronouns. Hope what I've written helps your sister - it's definitely not an easy time for any parent in the beginning, that's for sure.

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  14. Thanks for sharing. I have been living with a wonderful man for two years. I have three teenage children and my partner is a wonderful friend and adviser to them. Financial reasons keep us from getting married. We are extremely committed to each other and my kids introduce them as their stepdad because it just makes it easier. I am asked all of the time when we are getting married. I feel I have to justify our reason which is long and time-consuming. One of my kids bff parents will not let their child stay the night at our home because we are not married(these kids are 17). I was in an abusive relationship for 21 years and this same child stayed at our house many times even though they knew the relationship was bad. Now we have a loving, peaceful home. We have considered buying rings and telling people we are married so we don't have to answer questions all of the time.

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    1. Having to justify a relationship at this point sounds exhausting and ridiculous - sorry you're going through this.

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  15. About your comment that older people wouldn't be understanding, I have to say, the older I get the less things matter to me. I'm on your heels age wise, so I'm not that old, but over the years I have become less judgmental and a side effect to that is that I have become more happy.

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    1. Amazing how that works, isn't it? Kudos to you for being willing to change. :)

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  16. I think that you are totally right in that some day, people won't have these thoughts - they will just say how it is. And it's good that you are one of the people pioneering that for the future!!!

    Like with everything else in life, you gotta do you, and what feels right, and what Allie is comfortable with you sharing! There are definitely going to be uncomfortable moments, but going through them will help you handle similar ones, and new ones. Gosh, that sounds horrible the way I wrote it, but I meant it to be encouraging, LOL!!!!!

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