Friday, August 28, 2015

My Gender Odyssey

I spent last weekend in Seattle, attending the Gender Odyssey conference, three days packed full of workshops designed to help those of us with trans and non-binary kids find their way in the world. Because I feel like we've been doing a pretty darn good job finding our way in the world with Allie, I went into this weekend with a certain arrogance about me, some crazy idea that I knew. it. all. Well, that hubris lasted for about 0.02 seconds and I quickly realized that I in fact did.not.know.it.all.

I don't know what I had been thinking.

But, I can tell you what I wasn't thinking.

I wasn't thinking that I would've cried in the bathroom after my first session. But I did.

I wasn't thinking that after the first day I would cancel my dinner reservation and curl up in my lonely hotel bed because I just couldn't face the world.

I wasn't thinking about how the conference would overload me with all the information and possibilities that I put on the back burner to worry about someday in the future. It was like someone dropped a giant piano full of "all the stuff you need to think about for the rest of your life" in my path so that I could worry about it all at once. No, I wasn't expecting that.

I've described Allie's journey to girlhood as slow. Organic. It's been a gradual succession of subtle changes, changes so slight that they were almost whispers. So, it was with this expectation of taking slow, steady steps, that I walked into my very own (Gender) Odyssey. And an odyssey it was.

A friend helped me describe it as taking a sip of water from a hose and then having someone turn on the fire hydrant full blast, pinning me up against a concrete wall with a constant surge of freezing cold water.

Don't get me wrong, parenting Allie is a joy. It is my privilege to be her mom and I know with complete certainty that my life's purpose is to be her advocate and an advocate for all trans individuals. She is such a bright spot in my life, that I sometimes forget that there is a down side to all of this. And there are big things to worry about that I try not to fret over on a daily basis. I mean, we all worry and fret over our children. It's human nature, especially for moms. But having a trans kid…well, that just adds a whole other dynamic.

For years, I have been able to keep at bay all the scary questions. But last weekend? Last weekend, I couldn't stop asking them. Asking, worrying, wondering.

Is she ever going to get invited to a sleepover?

Is she going to have a prom date?

Who is going to love her for who she is? 

Who is going to be able to be the careful keeper of her heart?

Who will want to marry her?

Who will be willing to brave this battlefield with her?

Is my love enough to make up for the cruelty of the rest of the world?

But after the first day, after the initial shock of the cold, fire hydrant water wore off, I started to feel less afraid and began to understand my purpose for being there.

Adam had texted me one day to check on me by asking, "How are you today?" My response: "My heart is broken wide open. But I am good. I am so good."

And I was good. Because while I was busy being pinned to the concrete wall by the freezing cold fire hydrant water, I was also being humbled.

I was being humbled by the fact, that we actually have it easy compared to some of these families who struggle oh so much more than we do.

We have the financial means to provide Allie will all the things she will need to be healthy in her mind and body. (Thank you, Adam, for all those long, tedious hours that you work. For missing activities and family dinners and for staying up late and getting work done so you can squeeze in hours with us on the weekends. Yes, I see your hard work. I see your computer out on the table, feeling that it is still warm when I am getting the kids ready for school, knowing that you have only gone to bed an hour or two earlier. I see you struggle to get off the phone while you are standing in the driveway at the end of the day, trying desperately to be both dad and professional simultaneously. I see all of that and I am grateful). Money can't buy happiness but it can buy hormones, and for a trans kid, that's a life saver. In every sense of the word.

We have access to great healthcare in a city that is much more liberal than many cities in this country. We don't have to drive or fly to a medical center far away because we have facilities and doctors close by that can and will help us.

We don't have to fight with our families, don't have to convince them of Allie's worth…because they know her worth and they love her, fiercely, just as she is.

Our child has a gaggle of friends. She is loved, accepted and respected at her school. She is happy. Healthy. Flourishing. Many trans kids are not.

I listened to stories that parents told. Heard the questions they asked. Saw the fear in their eyes. And that's when I understood. While we attended workshops on hormone blockers and safe schools and talked about bullying (all very worthwhile and important topics) I understood that those parents needed to hear that they would be okay. And when I had the chance, I found those people. And I told them, through their tears and mine, that they would be okay. Told them that they could do this. They could do this and be a happy, healthy family.

I hope I helped those people to make a transformation that weekend, because I noticed I made one of my own.

Because I was in an unfamiliar town, I took Uber many times over the weekend. When my first driver picked me up and asked why I was in town, I made up some vague, B.S. story. With the next driver, that story had morphed into my attendance of a "health conference". Which then morphed into a "gender health conference". You get the idea. Finally, on my last night, I grew a set (pun intended) and when he asked, I told the driver that I was attending a transgender conference because I have a transgender daughter. He cut me off mid-sentence and said, "And you need to learn how to prepare the world for your daughter."

Yes. I need to learn how to prepare the world for my daughter. My beautiful, smart, open-hearted daughter.