Thursday, November 28, 2013
Whenever an unconventional relationship comes up, onlookers always express concern about the children. Whether it's the mixed-race child of a biracial couple, or the black child adopted into a predominantly white family, single women or men becoming parents by choice, lesbians and gay men parenting, or non-monogamous people practicing non-monogamy while raising kids, the same questions come up: Is this good for the child? Won't it be harmful to them? What about the social stigma they'll face? Is this family--whether of gay men or of three people in a partnership or a couple that dates outside the relationship--too inherently unstable to raise children?
This concern is so common that I have even had a polyamorous friend tell me he thought it was wrong for parents to practice polyarmory while raising their children.
I, of course, have several thoughts about this.
Gosh, I Never Thought of That Before
I can't tell you how many people have told me that the Tiny Tornado might change his mind about his gender expression. People somehow believe that the first thought that pops into their heads when they hear about him is something that hasn't occurred to us in all the years we've been living in the situation.
The "what about the kids" questions about polyamory feels similar. Whether people pay due attention to the needs of their kids is independent of whether they're monogamous. Surely you can think of plenty of examples of monogamously married people who think only of their own wants and needs and not of their children's; I was raised by such people, and I'm pretty sure my brother is another one. Whether people take good care of their kids' physical and emotional needs is about whether they take good care of their kids' physical and emotional needs, not about whether they do that as a single parent, part of a married couple, as part of a trio, as someone who's been celibate for decades or someone who has a new sexual partner every time the moon is full.
This is why I'm such a fan of the good-faith question. Because I'm perfectly happy to answer those. "How have you dealt with being a parent and being polyamorous," for instance, is a good-faith question, and I can tell you a story to help answer it. "Don't you worry about your kids?" is not a good faith question, because it tells me that you think the answer is "No, I don't. I think only of my own gratification." But that's not how it is.
Last year, I dated a person I'll call Lovely Girlfriend. It was a long-distance relationship that started at a Quaker gathering, and the first time I visited her, we were sitting in her kitchen drinking tea and she said to me, "So, I'd like to talk about breaking up."
"So soon?" I said. "I didn't think we were there yet."
She wasn't dumping me. But she wanted to talk to me about how to be with each other so that if we stopped dating (and we did, about a year later), we could do it well. We both have kids; we like each other's kids, and our kids are friends. At Gatherings, we've done a lot of shared kid-activities and reciprocal child care. We have a lot of friends in common, and a relatively small, tight-knit community of people is an important part of both our lives. Lovely Girlfriend wanted to talk about how we would be with each other so that, whether dating turned out to be a long-term thing or not, we could still care for each other's kids, and we could continue to share our community.
It boiled down to being decent, and honest. And I think we were. Next time we see Lovely Girlfriend and her kids, the children might or might not sense that the relationship between us is different than it was. But her younger kid will still hug me hello (I hope), I'll still be happy to take the whole passel somewhere fun while Lovely Girlfriend fulfills a work commitment, she'll still sit with my younger kids in the cafeteria while I have a committee meeting, and the two of us will still be glad of the moments we can steal to be together in the busyness of a gathering. She'll still be one of my kids' grown-up friends, and mine, too.
Things aren't always that smooth, because people aren't always decent and honest, especially if strong emotions get involved. But that leads me directly to my next point:
My Kids Have Lost Precious Grownups. But It Hasn't Been Anybody I Was Dating
I think people who worry about relationship instability in polyamorous relationships imagine that we're doing something like telling the kids, "Hey, kids, here's Lovely Girlfriend. She's your new Other Mommy. Give Other Mommy a great big kiss!" And then a year later, Other Mommy is gone and the children are bereft.
We haven't done it that way, though. Lovely Girlfriend and I, for instance, were friends before we started dating, and we didn't announce the change to the kids, though they did notice we were visiting each other a lot more. Once when I hung up the phone, Word Boy said, "Was that Lovely Girlfriend?" and I said, "No, it was my doctor. Why?" He said, "Because usually you only answer if it's Lovely Girlfriend." So, you know, they do notice things. But they don't get real-time updates every time a relationship shifts a bit in one direction or another.
I always want to tell people, too, that being monogamous doesn't necessarily protect your kids from these kinds of losses. It hasn't protected mine. Raider used to have a friend, one of his best friends since college, who was very involved with us and our kids for years. She was so close that the kids called her "Aunt Cowrie," and my photo albums are full of pictures of her giving Baby Lego Savant bottles, playing with him, reading books to him, helping him plant flowers. She was the one who saw Word Boy's first steps, hanging out in our living room with him while I cooked dinner, and the turtle-shaped sandbox we recently got rid of was a gift from her.
And then she disappeared. She told Raider that she disapproved of our parenting so strongly that she couldn't bear to stay around and watch us ruin the children. And, just like that, one of the most important people in my kids' lives was gone.
But we still had Farina, one of my best friends, and her family. Now that was a close, stable relationship--a few years ago, Raider commented that our families had become to intertwined he didn't think we could get rid of each other if we tried. We lived about an hour apart, but visited back and forth regularly. For most of a school year, I kept their oldest son two days a week while they were experimenting with homeschooling, but that was OK because he was one of the Lego Savant's best friends. Farina repaired my front door and put new screens in the breezeway windows. I lent her money to buy her first rowing shell, and she lent me money when we were having trouble paying our mortgage during the custody fight with TT's birthfather. We took vacations together. Farina's wife became a good friend in her own right.
And then some problems Farina had with PTSD and depression got worse, and she began to lie to me, and to be verbally abusive. When I tried to talk to her about the situation, she became more entrenched, describing herself as my victim and redoubling her attacks on my character. I ended the relationship, and one more time the kids--and I--lost someone important.
You all probably know, as well, that last Christmas my dad, the kids' only surviving grandparent, disowned me for letting the Tiny Tornado live as a boy. I don't expect to see him again.
My point is, my kids have already suffered the kinds of losses that people worry about when polyamory comes up. But not because I was dating someone. We could have avoided these losses by not having best friends and a dad, but that hardly seems reasonable. (And I don't go around asking people with friends and parents whether they've really thought about the risks.)
Let Me Sum Up
My point, and it seems like such an obvious one that I can't believe I've taken so many words to make it, is that, in some ways, there is nothing special about the relationships you have when you're polyamorous, and the path they take is as varied as the paths taken by monogamous marriages, close friendships, relationships with biological family, dating relationships you have when you're single. As parents, we're making decisions all the time about who is part of our children's lives: whether to take them back to Miserable Small Town for another crappy tension-filled Penn family Thanksgiving, for instance (thank you, Dad, for solving that one for me); whether to introduce them to a certain friend; whether to trust them with that coach or that teacher. We make decisions ourselves about who to trust with our own hearts. Sometimes we get it right; sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we get it right and it still goes wrong. Sometimes somebody you thought would be there forever, isn't, and there's nothing you can do about it.
I still trust people. I trust Raider to the ends of the earth. I think we'll be together forever, but I believe that even if we're not, he will always be a great dad and a decent person. I have a girlfriend now that my kids adore, and I trust her with them. I trust her with their hearts. She might break mine, but she'll always take care of theirs.
But what I trust most is myself. I trust me to take good care of my children. I trust me to stand by them. I trust me to get into good relationships, and to get out of bad ones without drama. I trust me to explain things to my kids, as clearly and compassionately as I can, and I trust me to stand by them as they work out any confusion or sadness they feel. I trust me to do these things because I have done these things. I trust them to be smart, loving, emotionally whole, and resiliant, because they have always been these things.
There will always be losses. That is the cost of loving. I hope my kids come to feel, as I do, that the loving is worth it.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|Glad I Got a Screenshot Before the Counter Reset Itself|
The Five That Didn't Go Viral, But Might Have
Well, the quality of the sport just isn't what it used to be. In my day, every serious competitor at the national level had at least four children in at most six years; now it's all mothers-of-one. In 1978, I had to perform a near-perfect Simultaneous Bowel Movements of 8-Month-Old and Two-Year-Old in Car With Light-Colored Upholstery While Running Late to Pick Up Four-Year-Old From Preschool to win my second gold, but the multiple-child events have been completely phased out in recent years.On the subject of gender transition, I wrote this piece on what we call "the mail forwarding stage," that time when you're on-board with the new name and pronouns but your brain hasn't quite caught up. I've never seen anybody else write a piece on this phenomenon. A dozen more people should read it, at least.
The most hilarious part of the mail-forwarding stage is that your brain starts checking to see if other names and pronouns need to be forwarded as well. You call non-trans friends by the wrong pronoun from time to time as the system over-corrects. When one close friend was transitioning a decade or so ago, I was once stopped dead because I suddenly couldn't remember whether one of my closest friends--a non-trans woman, as I know perfectly well--should be referred to as "he" or "she." Tiny little postal workers in my brain were dashing around chaotically, running back and forth between stations, flipping through piles of memos, trying to find the paperwork. I was frozen and stammering for a moment until they got it sorted out.
Last year some time, I wrote this really terrific essay about how my body image changed after I came out as a lesbian. With photographic proof!The young woman on the glider drinking a Dr. Pepper is an amazing physical specimen. She can ride her bike 60 miles in a day, set up camp, and then hop back on to go exploring, riding another 10 or 20 miles before bed. Her bulging thighs and calves are like granite. But she believes herself to be basically an unfit and sedentary person, because she is so often harassed for the time she spends sitting around reading, and because she does not play any sports or do anything "athletic." She does her best to hide when the camera comes out, because even though she is in the middle of pedaling her bike over 700 miles across the state of Michigan and then up the western shore to the UP, she is ashamed of her body.
This piece is about sex and how much I like it. It's wonderfully written and edgy in just the right way to get internet attention. Yet there it sits non-virally.I had some bad sex, sure. I also had some very good sex. And I had some terrific sex with people it wasn't worth being in a relationship with.
And this is an absolutely splendid bit of Pride & Prejudice fan fiction. OK, I don't really think there are tens of thousands of people out there dying to read this. But the 300 to whom it is of interest? Should be all over it, gushing at me and offereing to sew me a new pelisse."Lord, Lizzie," said Lydia Wickham to her one day as the sisters walked out together, "I would not be married to your husband for ten Pemberleys. He is always out of sorts."
Friday, November 22, 2013
Cherishing What Isn't
Ah, you three women whom I have loved in thislong live, along with the few others.And the four I may have loved, or stopped shortof loving. I wander through these woodsmaking songs of you. Some of regret, someof longing, and a terrible one of death.I carry the privacy of your bodiesand hearts in me. The shameful ardorand the shameless intimacy, the secret kindsof happiness and the walled-up childhoods.I carol loudly of you among trees emptiedof winter and rejoice quietly in summer.A score of women if you count love both largeand small, real ones that were briefand those that lasted. Gentle love and somealmost like an animal with its prey.What is left is what's alive in me. The failingof your beauty and its remaining.You are like countries in which my lovetook place. Like a bell in the treesthat makes your music in each wind that moves.A music composed of what you have forgotten.That will end with my ending.
I love this poem, not least for its echoes of Whitman ("I sing the songs of the glory of you," said Whitman), right up until the line "You are like countries in which my love took place," at which point Gilbert just blithely removes the personhood of 20 or so women. He's a lover; they're locations in which his love plays out. So, love is something a man does in a woman, the way he might be a tourist or a scholar or an archeologist in foreign country. What metaphors didn't make it into the final draft, I wonder? Were they blank pages on which he wrote his life? Prepared canvasses eager to receive his warm, moist paint? Bleah.
I'm not too fond of "What is left is what's alive in me," either, because unless I'm mistaken, when a relationship ends in something other than death, two people walk away from it, each of them carrying their piece of it. In Gilbert's vision, the women he's loved have forgotten; only he remembers, so the music that is these women's music ("a bell in the trees that makes your music") is something only he hears and only he carries and it will last only as long as he lives.
Bit of an egoist there, Jacky-boy. As if there aren't some 19-ish women out there, for some of whom you were a love, and for some of whom you were someone they "may have loved, or stopped short of loving," some of whom think of you with longing, or with regret, others of whom certainly think of you with indifference, or not at all. Perhaps there is at least one who sings to herself a song of your terrible death. When you died last November, surely some of these women saw the obituary and said, "Jack Gilbert...he was my lover once. I remember him." Surely not everything you claim as yours belonged only to you. I expect you know that by now.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I hate when I have something to write and keep starting dead-end drafts. So screw that. I'm on the internet now. I can do a listicle.
Things I like about polyamory:
1. My girlfriends' girlfriends, boyfriends, and significant others.
Sometimes when you're dating someone, they come with a sweetheart as a kind of bonus. If the person you're dating is awesome, odds are that their sweetheart will be at least that awesome if not moreso. And you can get a kind of privileged access to the sweetheart by virtue of dating their girlfriend. I know that everyone you get involved with, whether monogamously or not, might come with friends, family members, children, and pets that get to be part of your life, too, but there's a special kind of intimacy that comes from being lovers with the same person. There's even a jargon-y name for it, metamours. I like being metamours with cool people. I like having someone else who knows exacly what I mean when I say that my girlfriend is amazing in a certain way, or annoying in a certain other way. I have had the experience of sitting next to a metamour, seeing our mutual sweetie across the room, saying, "Isn't she lovely?" and sighing contentedly in shared understanding.
I remember the first time, more than 20 years ago, that I sat down to a meal with a girlfriend, her long-term partner, and her partner's other partner. I was nervous but I liked it. I liked the cross-currents of love and affection. I liked the teasing looks my girlfriend's partner was sending my way, and I liked listening to the mattter-of-fact way the three of them worked out their schedule for the coming week.
I like the feeling of a web of affection and desire. It's that simple.
2. I like my girlfriends, past and present, and my partner, and don't want to be without them.
Love and sexual desire are notoriously bad at following rules or bending themselves to practicality. Interracial couples have always loved one another whether it was legal or not. Princesses love stableboys, and so do princes from time to time.
I have loved many people in my life, some briefly and tragically, some briefly and brilliantly, some--well, one so far--forever. I have broken many rules to have these loves. I broke the rule about not being in same-sex relationships, and I broke the popular 1990s lesbian rule about not loving trans men. Eventually I broke my own rule that I was a lesbian, and settled down with Raider. I have broken many times the rules about age differences in sexual relationships.
And every time, I'm glad I didn't let a rule stop me. "But she's a girl!" would have kept me from my first real love. "She's 25 years older than you!" would have kept me from a relationship I learned a great deal from and remember very fondly. "He's a man" would have kept me from Raider.
I'm a big fan of standards, and maybe I'll talk about what that means another time. But rules? Not so much. A rule is Robert Frost's wall, about which he says:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to knowWhat I was walling in or walling out,And to whom I was like to give offence.Something there is that doesn't love a wall,That wants it down.
Frost says, "I could say elves...but it's not elves exactly." I say it's love, particularly love in the form of sexual desire, that wants the walls down. And I will make the claim that is not been a lack of morality or an unhealthy promiscuity or a recklessness toward my own feelings or my partners' that has led me to squeeze through the narrow gaps in so many walls in search of the light I can see shining through from the other side.
It has been love, which in all its forms is ultimately the same form. And this is one of the ways I have been called to be in service to love in my life.
What I don't like about polyamory:
This is the world's shortest list. There is only one item on it. I don't like having to mold my behavior to standards that make no sense to me. I've never been good at it. I have no notion of "too much information." I am comfortable disclosing almost anything, and comfortable hearing almost anything. I have never been good at being in the closet, and once I came out never spent much time there. As a lesbian in my 20s, I accepted both the restrictions and the freedoms that being out brought with it.
But I can't be fully out right now. I can't talk in specifics. I can tell you I'm poly, but I can't tell you about anyone I might be seeing who isn't Raider, at least not on my blog or on Facebook. And there are good reasons for this. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
I hate that I know people who've lost friendships because they came out as poly; I lost friendships when I came out a lesbian, and one of the costs of being in the closet is not knowing who would stand by you if they knew. I hate that someone with a vindictive ex could lose child custody over this, or that parents could withdraw from their adult children, or that employment could be jeopardized, or church or Meeting membership, or a community lost. I dislike being discreet, I'm bad at it even when I try, and I fear harming someone else by a failure to be as discreet as I should be.
Still, many times in my life I have been the one to blurt out something "inappropriate," and it has been my experience over and over again that when somebody like me opens her big mouth and says something wildly inappropriate, there is nearly always someone listening who needed to hear it. I've had a woman tell me that a story I read helped her be brave enough to admit to some of her own sexual desires, with great results. I've had many people say "I thought I was the only one." When word got out in the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival worker camp, back in the 90s, that I had a lover who was a trans man, there was controversy--I had one crewmate who couldn't resist bringing me the negative gossip she'd overheard, of which there was apparently plenty. But I was also sought out by multiple women who identified as lesbians but had a partner who wanted to transition; or were beginning a relationship with a trans man; or had had a relationship with a cis-gendered man that they'd felt they had to keep secret for fear of being judged or ostracized in their lesbian community.
They wanted to talk to me because they knew they could tell me about these things. When I tell you how many people I've slept with or how recently I experienced sexual gratification or what I like to do in bed, I'm not just being Su Who Has Never Been Able to Keep Her Mouth Shut. At least, I'm not only being that. I am fighting a crusade against shame.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
It has been a tough couple of weeks for me parenting Word Boy, because of his anxiety. I've handled it really well, but this morning I broke down crying talking to Raider about how I just couldn't face homeschooling. Yesterday was a very challenging day that left both me and Word Boy (and possibly also his therapist) exhausted, and he's doing better today but it's a pretty thin veneer. His perfectionism leads him to have anxiety attacks when he makes a mistake in math or doesn't understand something immediately, and it has been a challenge to me to be disciplined enough to make him do math anyway. A friend who studies behaviorism says that parents are very motivated by negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant stimulus--in other words, when a parent will do anything to avoid dealing with a tantrum, that's negative reinforcement. It's not easy for me to sit down to math with Word Boy when the likelihood is high that I'll have to spend half an hour dealing with an anxiety attack in order to get through what should be 10 minutes worth of math. He's behind grade level in math primarily because I have been negatively reinforced not to do math with him.
I've been doing a good job dealing with his anxiety-fueled behaviors during the last couple of weeks, which have feature not only yesterday's epic two-hour meltdown at the therapist's office but a four-day anxiety attack the other weekend. But I'm worn out. And the idea of trying to do homeschooling with him today when his equilibrium is so fragile just felt like too much.
And, honestly, I don't know why I bother "homeschooling" this kid. He and I decided to go the library, and on the way there, he asked about an errand I ran earlier, to renew the tags on our cars. I ended up explaining vehicle registration as well as automobile and homeowners insurance. He asked about the flood we had in our basement some years ago, which led to a conversation about sump pumps and the water table. From there, he gave me an impressive run-down of the causes and stages of a tsunami, which, like so many things, I have no idea where he picked up.
By this time, we were at the library, where, in a characteristic absent-minded professor slapstick, we had quite a bit of trouble figuring out how to open the unlocked door.
Once we were in, we browsed his favorite section, Juvenile Non-Fiction. He found a book on the Arctic and Antarctic; I found him a book on predictions people in the past have made about the future, which interestingly enough is something he had asked me about recently, so he was pretty thrilled. He found a Calvin & Hobbes collection he hadn't read. I found a book on Ideas that Changed the World that I decided to bring home just in case anybody wanted to look through it, and a book on teeth I bet Word Boy will like eventually. I found a book called Real-Size Animal Babies to show the Tiny Tornado, and then I slipped around to fiction and grabbed some Beverly Cleary for bedtime reading, because TT is all about the chapter books these days.
At this point, Word Boy, who is excessively conscientious, began to be concerned that we were checking out too many books. "Do you know how many things I'm allowed to check out on my card?" I asked him. "Fifty. And you could get your own card, and also check out fifty things. And the Lego Savant could get his own card, and then we could check out..."
"A hundred and fifty things," Word Boy said. "That would be a lot to carry."
He seemed reassured, but said again as we walked toward the circulation desk, "I don't know, it just seems like an awful lot of books." I spotted the librarian, who was just finishing up a conversation, so I hauled him over to her. "Librarian," I said, "This is Word Boy. Word Boy, this is the Librarian."
"Hello, Word Boy," said the Librarian. "It's nice to meet you."
I said, "Word Boy is concerned that we are checking out too many books."
The Librarian looked at him and said, "I don't think there's any such thing."
We ran our stack through the self check-out and hauled it to the car (Word Boy: "I have an idea for a new workout...it involves putting a strap around all of your books and then carrying them around.").In the car on the way home, he started reading about Antarctica, reading aloud little tidbits that interested him. "Did you know that the largest animal that lives on land year-round in Antarctica is a tiny insect? Did you know that there is evidence that Antarctica had a subtropical climate 70 million years ago, suggesting that the land that is now Antarctica used to be located near the equator?"
I kept saying, "I didn't know that. Wow, really? That is interesting." Finally, I said, "Ha, I guess it's your day to homeschool me."
Word Boy said, "Mom, I'm just reading stuff out of a book to you!"
I said, "How do you think I do it most days?"
He's reading in the big recliner now, having dealt with the perennial post-library problem of which book to read first.
I actually bought him a curriculum this year, because with me being in school it was very hard for me to keep up with homeschool planning last year, and things really fell apart somewhere around March. I was willing to pay someone to do my planning for me. It's been a mixed thing. I bought him a fifth-grade curriculum, and much of it is focused around grammar, spelling, and vocabulary lessons he doesn't need, so we don't waste our time on that. He finds the assigned books very interesting, but they're short and he goes through them quickly. This week, to try to address that, I assigned him a book that was supposed to be two weeks' worth of reading. He finished it Monday morning. Over breakfast. And then went on to read the next book, which was supposed to be for the next two weeks. And then read half of a biography of Alexander that is part of his big brother's curriculum and that happened to be in the stack on the table. I wanted to be able to hand the reins over to a curriculum. But this curriculum is not running the show the way I hoped it would. Word Boy's insatiable curiosity and drive for knowledge is. He's a fast horse galloping ahead at full speed; I'm doing my best to keep up; and our curriculum thinks maybe he's ready to learn a genteel trot.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
When I said the other day that I was going to try to do a post every day in August, I was hoping to pull my daily readership back into the low (very low) triple digits, which is where it lives when I'm posting regularly. And then my article at Friends Journal about the Tiny Tornado's gender history went viral. I don't know how many total hits it's gotten, but
nearly over 14,000 people have "liked" it on Facebook, and it's been reblogged and linked to all over the place, including at It Bets Better, which must have given it a big boost.
The article has driven traffic to this blog as well. I got nearly 4000 hits on Friday, though today we're down to a mere 1500 (so far). I figure today's decline marks the end of my fifteen minutes, and I'm trying to accept it with good grace. By tomorrow I'll be a has-been, and by Tuesday, I hope to be poised for a comeback.
The response has been overwhelmingly good, but of course we've had the usual assortment of judgment and ignorance, and one or two actual trolls. A favorite activity for commentators is explaining why the Tiny Tornado could not possibly be a boy. We have heard all of these theories before, and we're going to hear them again. Here's what I think of them as of today.
This is a common theory. It goes like this: The Tiny Tornado, observing the sexism that is rampant in our culture and recognizing the limited options available for women, decides to be a boy to protect himself and to give himself more opportunities.
Why I love it: A child who is two or three is not imagined to know enough about his internal landscape to express a preference about his own gender expression, but is nonetheless somehow able to analyze and interpret the cultural landscape in a sophisticated way and make a rational decision to maximize his privilege within it.
2. He is emulating his older brothers.
Another popular contender. In this one, the Tiny Tornado is so enamored of his older brothers that he abandons his innate and biological sex and gender in order to be more like them.
Why I love it: The Tiny Tornado, an independent, assertive, confident, fashion-conscious, extroverted athlete who doesn't sit still even when watching TV, is almost nothing like his older brothers. If he were emulating his older brothers, he'd consider extended periods of "alone time" to be essential to his functioning; he'd sit still for hours on end, building with Lego, reading, or playing Minecraft on-line with friends. If he wanted to be like Word Boy, he'd be more interested in dissecting animals than in training them, and if he wanted to be like the Lego Savant, he'd have a passion for history. His older brothers are wonderful kids and well worth emulating. But the Tiny Tornado is a force unto himself.
3. He's never seen a girl playing hockey or wearing an oxford shirt.
In other words, he simply lacks role models for the kind of tomboy he really is.
Why I love it: The theorist imagines that ze knows what the Tiny Tornado has and has not seen, and also that something as minor as a girl playing hockey (which he owns a book about) or wearing an oxford shirt (which he has seen many times on the older girls down the street who dress very well) could shape a person's entire identity. It would be like diverting the mighty Mississippi with a popsicle stick.
3. He doesn't know that being a lesbian is an option.
To be fair, this is actually part of the gender pathway for many gender-variant kids. It is not uncommon, I am told by people who know a lot more than I do about these things, for a kid to approach puberty, begin to feel sexual attractions, become aware of lesbians and gay men through the media, and realize that they can resolve their sense of not-fitting by coming out rather than by transitioning.
Why it doesn't work for the Tiny Tornado: many if not most of our closest friends are in same-sex relationships, including TT's much-loved Uncle Toots, who is practically a third parent to him. In addition, the two women next door, who are the best neighbors in the world and also TT's mentors in the world of dog training, are an affectionate couple who love each other very much and are not exactly conventional in the femininity department.
4. He wore a Spiderman t-shirt the summer he was two, and wanted short hair.
Nobody actually thinks that wearing a Spiderman t-shirt and cutting his hair makes TT a boy. But they think I think it.
Why I love this: Because these people simply don't know us. I identified as a lesbian for much of my adult life, and have a whole string of butch lovers in my past (and maybe not only in my past). If there is one thing I know about women, it's that they can have short hair and shop in the menswear department. In fact, I'd say that one of the things I love about women is that they can have short hair and shop in the menswear department.
Also: although I currently have luxuriant curly hair, this is me in the summer of 2009, holding my newborn nephew. Why did I have that haircut? Because I wanted to. Am I a girl? Yes.
|Su Penn, who identifies as a girl, rocks her buzz cut.|
5. His parents are unable to imagine anything beyond the gender binary.
I'm being playful in this post, so I won't rant about how people seem to believe that transgender kids somehow have an obligation to be "ungendered" or "bigendered" that their non-trans counterparts don't share. I will say that I do my best to imagine what is beyond the gender binary because people I love live there. And maybe the Tiny Tornado isn't fully aware of the option to be both/and or neither/nor or "other," but he has encountered the possibility. Our kids met a both/and adult who was helping in the children's program at TransHealth, and meeting zer challenged all three of them in ways that we are still having conversations about.
6. His parents are pushing him, deliberately or subconsciously, into a male identity for self-aggrandizement or to further their own political agenda.
Yeah, OK, this one is totally true.
Ha, no. Just kidding. If anything, our love of GLBTQ people (including our own selves) and our sense that we would find it somewhat satisfying if one or more of our kids grew up to be G, L, B, T, and/or Q led us to hold back, to not take steps like suggesting male pronouns or a name change until the Tiny Tornado brought them up or was offered them by other adults, because we didn't want to push him. We were always supportive, I think, but we really forced him to be very clear with us. If you want to know more about just how slow I really was to let go of the bright, sassy girl I was sure he was going to grow into, you might want to read the story of the daisy dress in this post from last August.
I sometimes still feel a little sad when I see a black girl of 6 or 7 or 8, with her hair done up nice in braids and beads, wearing something bold like a purple skirt with red tights, and bossing somebody around. I thought he was going to be that girl. I love boys. I love being the mother of boys. I was going to love my daughter, though, just as much. I wanted that girl, no denying it, and letting her go grieved me, even as I celebrated the emerging little boy.