Saturday, August 10, 2013

A name is a name is a name? And: SORRY FOR ALL THE CAPS.

     I think one of the main reasons I'm having a hard time with calling my transgender child HE instead of SHE is that they are still going by their birth name, a female name. It feels like this would be easier if they went by a Boy's Name (tee emm). I asked if there was a name they'd like to be called now, and they adamantly, definitively, said no, not yet. So, there's that. They came out to me, and to their father, but currently refuse to disclose any details to their younger sibling. It must be said that their reluctance has nothing to do with the potential acceptance or lack of same from that sibling. In fact, the younger sibling has, more than a few times, expressed frustration to me, has said "I know something is up, why won't you tell me?" This sibling has also, many times, has expressed an accepting attitude about LGTB issues, sometimes with raised eyebrows, like, "Come on, I'll do the secret handshake, I'll wear the Tshirt, just let me in the clubhouse already."
     I've told my youngest child that it's not my secret to tell, that I wish I could tell, that it really isn't anything to worry about. I don't know if this child actually knows that their older sibling is transgender, and is patiently waiting for us to start acknowledging the purple elephant in the room, or if they don't have any idea in that direction at all. I've asked my transgender child if they want me to discuss it with their sibling, and have been told, no, absolutely not. So, three fourths of the family are in the know, with a very curious, increasingly impatient one fourth hovering on the outer circle. It must be said that this kid, the one fourth one, is outrageously put-together. If I had been as mature as her as a teen, hell, even now, as as a middle aged adult, it's entirely possible my life path would have avoided at least one hundred terrible, no good decisions. It is an uncomfortable position to be in, the mother with children who are more patient, kind, and yes, mature than she is. It should never be the child who says "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed." I've had opportunity to say that smug little phrase just once, ONCE, in all my parenting years, and, oooh was it satisfying.  So, to sum up, we can't call my transgender child, the girl-who-is-really-a-gay-boy child, HE and HIM and HIS, because that child refuses to come out to someone who would react, and you can take this to the bookies, with nothing but love and understanding and unconditional acceptance.

     So, that's a problem.
     Another knot to untie is the name. It's entirely possible that someone, a male from birth someone, has the same name as my transgender child's birth name, but this is NOT something one should take to those bookies. Thinking about your child's transgender nature can be a circular process, perhaps it's inevitable that one eventually thinks "Is a rose really a rose that's a rose?" I mean, of course you can call a male from birth boy 'Rose', or 'Daisy,' or 'Jennifer,' and will be no less of a male (and quite possibly a very understanding male, well versed in philosophy, feminism and inevitably, boxing). Except that transgender doesn't necessarily mean "A boy is a boy is a boy," does it? I don't know. I just don't know. I'm new to this; if there's an answer, I haven't gotten there yet. Added to all of that as well, my transgender kid is not the norm, if there is such a thing. They don't want to be a big, old tough guy, a man's man. They have no intention of taking hormones, and until 3D printers can print out workable, perfect genitals, they only want the so called top surgery. They still wear makeup and still think football is dumb. They'd be happiest as a real life version of The Little Prince (except with more company, and you know, not as melancholy). They could have all the surgeries (gulp) in the world, and they will never, ever look like A Man (but see, more circular thinking happens here, such as "If a Man is a Man, does it matter what he looks like? And of course, the answer is, really, mostly, No, Of Course Not, except that looks DO matter because, hey, wrong body, i.e. transgender). They could, and do, pass (more problematic wording, because even I, as a new parent to this, can sense that 'pass' is not the right word here) as the world's prettiest (and shortest) boy, no problem, so I guess it's a good thing that that particular mental affinity matches the outside, kind of, sort of (JesustapdancingChrist, why does the transgender thing have to be so complicated, I'm afraid to type more than two words some days, because I just know that I'm being offensive and insensitive in spite of wishing to be the absolute opposite).

     It may be the surest sign of my mental and emotional sluggishness but I need a boy's name for this kid. When I try to think HE, my mind automatically hiccups back to their birth name, which isn't so much a name as it is THEM, which means I think SHE. A name is not a name, even if a rose is a rose, if a name was just a name there wouldn't be fifty thousand so called Jennifer's. Instead, stay with me now, we would ALL be named Jennifer. But we aren't, because Jennifer's mother doesn't look at her and think 'Jennifer;' she thinks THIS CHILD, THIS PERSON WHO IS THE SUM AND MORE THAN THE SUM OF THEM AND ONLY THEMSELVES.  Names are important. It's as simple, as dumb, as wonderful, as awful as that. People who name their child a unisex name or an extremely feminine or masculine name, or a very simple or un-simple name do so for important reasons. A name is absolutely a birthright, for better or worse. I'd like to think that a different name, a boy-type name, would help this transition, my transition (because when your child transitions, you better believe you're in for a change, yourself), not because of rigid expectations, but because names matter to me. I read hundreds of baby name books, looking for just the right name for both babies. I could no more have named a child 'Jenifer' than I would have named her 'Baby' (not that it isn't a lovely, lovely name, I mean look at Jennifer Lawrence, and Jennifer Hudson, and your particular Jenny is a singular, perfectly named delight). It might be a precious, irritating as hell tendency from my own not-too-usual name (when I tell you NO ONE had my name, at least when I was in school, believe you me, I mean no one. It was so unusual that I insisted that my name was 'Cindy' in elementary school). I was almost in labor with my second child by the time I decided on a name. Choosing the just-right name was a big deal. If I could have chosen a name that nobody in the whole world had ever had, for those babies, I would have. When someone spells her name as 'COurTneY,' I'm as sympathetic as I am embarrassed. I get it. They are unique in all the world and would like their name to reflect that. Of course it's possible that the flip side of this Special Snowflake behavior is an almost autistic inability to separate the name from the person, as witnessed by my intractability towards thinking of my child as HIM.  I won't even mention my inner feminist, who is shrieking at me, rightfully so, that a Boy's Name is a societal construct as flimsy as wet paper. How can something that doesn't matter, matter so damn much? I don't know. I say that a lot these days. 

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