Nearly a week has passed since Mother’s Day, and I must admit that it has always been a rather strange and sometimes difficult day for me. But before you start thinking that it has something to do with my status as the parent of my son not being “officially” recognized as “mother” after I transitioned, let me put that notion completely to rest right here and right now.
From the very beginning, I have never attempted – not for a nanosecond – to get my son to think of me as his “second mother.” Just think about that for a moment. How incredibly confusing and potentially damaging that could have been for the 10-year old mind to attempt to process at the time! How selfish that would have been of me. What I essentially told him was the following: “I am not your mother, I did not give birth to you. I’m your Dad – and always will be – sure, I might look a bit different, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love you and will be there for you.” I went on to point out that I wouldn’t suddenly forget how to throw a baseball or a football, I would still love going to baseball games with him and would yell at the television every time my beloved New York Giants would make a bonehead play, which of late has been much too frequent . . . but I digress.
At that point in time, he needed to hear that. He needed to know that he was not losing his father. He needed to know that outwardly I might be looking different, but that inside I was still the same when it came to my parental responsibilities as his father, and making sure he had whatever he needed growing up to realize his dreams, whatever they may be. Oh, and lest I forget – that I am happy. Happier than I had ever been in my life. And you know what he got it. Why? Because he saw it first hand in how my demeanor changed. A couple of years later he came right out and told me so. He said that before I transitioned I was miserable and seemed mad all the time. Go figure. I will admit to being a bit surprised by that revelation because I had always thought I hid that very well. Guess not . . . .
Make no mistake, we have certainly faced challenges as I moved forward with my transition. I was “freak show dad” for a while, but somehow we made it through because we kept working at it. I kept working at it by doing the hardest thing a trans person who is in the throes of transitioning can do: slow down. As Neil Young once said when introducing Stephen Stills, “. . . we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re still playing together.”
Today, as a 19 year old young man who has just finished his sophomore year of college and is home for a couple of weeks with Mari and I before he goes back for summer session classes, I can say only one thing about him: he is my hero. He is laying the foundation for the rest of his life on his own terms, guided (I hope) by the values that his mother and I have instilled in him. As a parent, I have embraced the fact that, as we transition (there’s that word again) from the active parenting phase of child rearing to a more “consultative” phase (which, I hasten to add, still includes some measure of financial obligation!), we have to let them go, to find their way and create their own individual reality confident in the notion that we’ve done all that we can to enable them to embrace their dreams and face their future with determination and a zest for all that life has to offer. I’m very proud of that accomplishment.