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“That’s Not Her Real Hair You Know”

I originally dubbed the theme of this year as ‘Embrace the Awkward’. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far and there has been no shortage of awkwardness to embrace. In fact, some days I’m positively smothered with it. My original hope of course was that the necessity would just fade away from conscious thought, just like that thing I was probably supposed to do but can’t for the life of me remember. If you are reading this while waiting for me to pick you up at the airport, I’m really, really sorry and probably already in bed, so…

Last weekend we took a nearly 200 mile road trip just to get a grilled cheese. I know, but this was supposedly the most awesome grilled cheese there has ever been. Even Guy Fieri said so. On the way there, my 5 year old was getting pretty antsy and was failing to recognize the jeux de vie and eclectic delight of driving for over 3 hours just for a sandwich I often make at home. We decided to pull over and find a playground where he could run off some steam and tire himself to hopefully sleep for the rest of the trip. We found one. A good one too of colorful plastic with those bouncy pads all around it, much unlike the steel frame monstrosities sunk into concrete slabs we delighted in back in the 70’s. We had it to ourselves until a little girl showed up to play.

I got my first compliment of the day when she asked our friend Amy if that was his mom over there, pointing to where my ex and I were sitting. She answered yes, and girl asked, “yeah, but which one?” Seriously, it made my day. Not long after though, when she and my son were sitting on the swings, he casually mentioned, “that’s not her real hair you know.” That’s nice, I finally get a wig that looks like my real hair and I’m blown in by a kindergartener. The little girl was too curious to let this go by and came over to question me about it. My ex thought on her feet and explained that some women lose their hair for a variety of reasons and thoughtfully excluded ‘male pattern baldness’ as one of them. She was satisfied and went back to playing.

Aside from the occasional “Mike” or “he” that is just going to come out of the mouths of people who have known me a long time, the gender shift has gone pretty smoothly with this one exception. Not the disclosure to the little girl, but having a very open and honest 5 year old. When we are out in public, I have pretty much given up any expectation of trying to pass. When I bought him a little wooden model, he told the cashier he was going to put it together with his dad. She asked a question, and he pointed right to me, “this is my dad right here!” He’s been calling me Maddy for months now after we adopted the naming convention thought up by Jenny Boylan’s sons, but somehow whenever we get in public, I’m all of a sudden back to dad.

In case I’m painting a whiney type picture, I need to say that aside from the mental expletive when it happens, this doesn’t bother me. I’m thrilled that he’s trying and that our relationship hasn’t suffered an iota since my change. The truth is that no matter what my gender, I’ll always be his dad and it’s never wrong for him to think that or say it out loud. It might catch me off guard, and it might be terribly awkward at times, but compared to what so many others go through with children, I’ll take this in a heartbeat.

But What About the Children?

I must have just a tiny bit of masochist in me, because after reading the article about Tom Gabel of Against Me! coming out as transgender, I once again scrolled down to the comments treated myself to nice big helping of angry ignorance. I’ll tell you too, angry ignorance tastes nothing like chicken; try going a bit lower. It’s the same old same old, time and time again. The ‘junior science kit’ geneticists, mounted evangelical warriors atop the paper tiger of scripture, the people who decry ‘genital mutilation’ with such rabid frothing one has to speculate about an increased blood flow to their own genitals when they are thinking about it. So chock full of misspelled zingers that queen Palin herself must be blushing with embarrassment by the association. Maybe.

The only ones that succeeded in needling me, just a little bit, were those that castigate Laura (nee Tom) about the effect on her daughter. I’m already comfortable that the genes that triggered my gestational format one way instead of another have nothing to do with my identity. I found the paper tiger dissolves with a nice bucket of water, just like the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t even need the bloody details of the corrective surgery I plan to have; the good doctors will do their thing and that is all I really care about. I do, however, have a 4 year old son who is the light of my world.

I think we can all agree, transition is no one hill marathon by a long shot. The biggest of these, which of course comes right after the starting line and is in fact in plain view from miles before we get there, is dealing with how this is going to affect our loved ones around us. The mere idea of it is generally enough to sustain our delusion for years that there is no race to begin with. Even so, the weight of its shadow is paralyzing, even asleep and a thousand miles away. Somehow though, we end up there. “How the hell did this happen? Yeah, this is really, really going to suck.”

I was hoping very much that the good I had done previously would help balance out the scales in admitting this tremendous wrong about myself. Still, I was prepared for heavy losses. I hoped not, but hey, you never really know how people are going to take it when you rip off the rubber mask and say, “Surprise! This has been the real me all along.” Friends, family, my mom, my spouse, and my son. My beautiful son. How could I take that risk?

The answer of course, and something the comment trogs can’t fathom, is that by acting I cemented my future with him. I chose to live. The old song says, better to burn out than fade away, but I say the hell with all that. I’m not going anywhere. Those who both love me and need me found it in their hearts to accept my transition, and he needs me most of all, so in my mind there really wasn’t any other choice. To those who think he’s going to need years of therapy because of this, I’m not so sure, but I am relatively certain that had I gone in any other direction he would have needed lots of it.

I think I’m going to stop already with the comments sections, well except for here where I only receive lovely responses. If I want confused hostility I’ll tune into Fox News or zap a wasps nest with the garden hose. For those who wring their hands in mock concern, ‘but what about the children’, well, my only advice is to go have some and do the very best you can. I am.

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