Fear and Beauty

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I’m having coffee with my friend Cathy and she’s talking about putting her trans daughter on cross-hormones.  Her daughter is pushing for it. But it’s keeping Cathy up at night.

“I just don’t know what to do.  She says she doesn’t mind if she can’t have kids, but how can she know this for sure when she’s so young?”

Her daughter is twelve.  She’s on “blockers” now, delaying the onset of the male puberty her body will go through if left to its own devices.  Cross-hormones – estrogen – are the next step and the girl wants them. She wants hips. She wants the same little breasts her friends are starting to sprout.

“I just don’t know what to do,” Cathy says.

“Well, what’s the alternative to starting estrogen?” I say.

“Going through male puberty – which she’d need to do in order to be able to have kids of her own.”

She has my attention now. Kids. Grandkids.  How many women my age, mothers of kindergarteners, think about grandchildren?

My mind spins. What is she saying?  Is this an option?  Can you sneak in a little teeny tiny bit of male puberty – just long enough to harvest some swimmers – and then hop on the estrogen train in time to avoid the lifelong evidence of testosterone that plagues so many trans women?

“How much boy puberty are we talking about?” I say, calculating, suddenly hopeful.

“All of it. She’d have to go through the full male puberty.”

Dammit. The whole enchilada: The broadening of the shoulders, the enlarged Adam’s apple, the deepening voice… all the myriad ways, some obvious and some subtle, that signal masculinity, maleness.  M. would be horrified. Beyond horrified. And so am I, imagining her reaction. Facial hair on my girly-girl? Unthinkable, of course.

“Oh,” I say. “Yeah. Makes sense.” My brief moment of wild hope passes.

I think I knew this already, that we aren’t going to be able to have our cake and eat it too:  a seamless transition from girl to woman, plus the possibility of her own bio kids.  But prior to this conversation, I had never confirmed the bad news. I didn’t want to hear it.  I knew I had some years before I really needed to know.

Cathy needs to know.  And she needs to make a decision very soon.

“She says if she can’t have biological kids as a mother, she doesn’t want to do it. Not as a male. She’d rather adopt.”

How many twelve year olds need to think about this?

“M. doesn’t know yet,” I say.

Cathy nods gravely, getting it.

“I dread it so much, telling her. How can I tell her she can’t be a mom?”

And when will I tell her? I wonder aloud to Cathy.  When she’s seven? Eight?

“She doesn’t know about how this stuff works yet, but when she does…”

Will M. feel the loss right away?  Or will that come later?

Cathy nods some more and gives me a sad smile. I’m grateful. A pep talk right now would be intolerable. Some things just suck about this, and this is one of them.

I’m going to need friends like Cathy in the days and years ahead…

Hey, wait a minute!  This is too damn sad!!!

I’m sorry to be a downer, friends. Let me try to raise all our spirits a bit:  The truth is that while there are some very scary and sad realities when it comes to raising a transgender kid, my daily life with M. is actually chock full of joys both large and small. She’s a happy and light-hearted little lady, and most days we’re zipping along without giving anyone’s gender much thought at all.

Kindergarten has been a breeze thus far: My little social butterfly seems to be very popular and has had several play date invitations already!  And I think she has a crush on a little boy in her class: Let’s just say that there’s a LOT of hugging going on. The boy’s mom told me he talks about M. all the time, too.  OMG, M. has a boyfriend!  (I wonder how his parents will handle it when they learn that M. is trans? Hmmm…)

In other news, M. and I are getting our first housemate soon (single mom + hefty mortgage = Mama needs money!).  A nice young woman (a friend of a friend) will be moving in with us in a couple of weeks (fingers crossed!).  When I was embarking on the housemate search, I told M. about it and asked her what kind of a person she would like to live with.

She thought for a bit, scrunching her face up in her most adorably serious and thinky manner. Finally she said, “She should have long hair.  And pretty eyelashes.”

“Long hair. Pretty eyelashes,” I said. “You got it, kiddo.” That seemed doable enough.  I had already been thinking I’d look for a female housemate, and lots of women have long hair these days.  We’d have to see about the pretty eyelashes.

“And Mama, one more thing. She should like beauty,” M. said, with a faraway look in her intense little blue eyes.  I sensed she wasn’t just talking about eyelashes now, but something both far grander and deeper. Something she loves and needs and knows it. I watched her and thought: This kid is going to rock the world.

“Beauty. Definitely, my darling. Beauty.”

8 thoughts on “Fear and Beauty

  1. I can certainly understand a mother’s or a father’s concern about a trans child and their concern about not having grandchildren, etc. Yet this whole thing called being transgendered is simply innate and unstoppable. The most important thing for the transgendered individual is to be themselves and find joy in living and for all loved ones to be as supportive as possible. Quite frankly nothing much else matters.

  2. For my trans* family member, the right to live authentically as herself matters far more than having bio kids. Re: harvesting swimmers, it’s the same process as any male donating sperm, which is a bridge too far, I think. I was hoping it would be a simple procedure, like on CSI with a dead guy…that kind of harvesting, but nope. Maybe when M gets to that fork in the road, things will be different. Best wishes for a beauty-appreciating, long-haired, fluttery eyelashes housemate!

  3. I am adopted. My mom was unable to bear children. So she adopted me. I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful mother. I think of her not as my adopted mom but as mom. When M reaches that time in her life I am sure she can follow the same path my mom did and adopt a beautiful child of her own who she will love and cherish. She will be every bit a mom and you will be a wonderful grand ma.

  4. I cannot imagine the pressure your friend must feel about choosing to make her child infertile. What a terrible burden! It is an impossible choice. Maybe when the child is an adult, she will feel sad that she can’t have her own biological children, but I doubt she will regret having her mom support her choice to live as her authentic gender. And there are already so many ways to become a parent. We don’t know what the landscape will be in ten or twenty years. Maybe the biggest trend in 2030 will be surrogates having babies for transwomen. One can hope, right?

  5. Parenting: you and Cathy are doing it right.

    I’m a trans parent, and my youngest (age 22) is gender fluid. She wants to have kids of her own and she’s capable of that.

    What you and Cathy are facing is something so completely outside my experience, I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for you. If I’d been able to transition at the age of Cathy’s daughter or even M, well I wouldn’t have my kids (my oldest is 24). I won’t say I’ve had the best of both worlds, but I don’t regret my family.

    Supportive parents of gay and lesbian kids are truly wonderful. But there seems to be a greater understanding these days of what it means to be gay and lesbian. Supportive parents trans and gender creative kids are in a league of your own. Parenting is never easy (my 24yo son is cisgender and heterosexual, and there were challenges there too). We as parents always wonder if we’re doing the right things for our kids, and it’s scary as hell.

    On behalf of the trans* communities, I thank you, Cathy, and other parents like you. You love your children, and that’s the most important thing of all.

    Respectfully,
    Connie

  6. Thank you for being AWESOME & ACCEPTING your child for who she is. You’re the true definition of a mom. I have 2 & 3 year old girls, I constantly tell them they’re beautiful the way they are; that God made them the way they are for a reason. I want to instill the foundation of acceptance at a young age. Society can be so cruel to people who don’t follow the norm. As parents, we need to show our kids that they can be whatever they want to be, or who they want to be. I always say I don’t care about who my girls want to love or if want to be the manager at McDonalds or doctor, as long as they’re happy, I’m happy. I truly commend you for standing by your child!! Keep on pushing, mom!!

    XOXO,
    Fernanda C.

  7. Definitely curious about when disclosure to potential boyfriend’s is important. Obviously they are too young to be physically, but since M is in the habit of hiding the fact that she has a penis from everyone but a select few, I’m wondering if she understands some men will not be okay with that. That some men will not react kindly if uninformed. Later in life, of course.

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