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.”