The question of baby’s sex enters our minds prior to conceiving a child. A future parent may dream of raising a little girl or boy. With that dream comes preconceived notions of what it means to be a boy or girl. Although many cultures have allowed for some blending of these characteristics, we still carry family traditions and cultural expectations of what it means to be male or female. The ability to peer at a developing child in-utero to determine the sex of the child has enabled parents to choose the color for their baby’s room or, in some cultures, even resort to infanticide.
Blue and pink pastels remain the traditional colors to welcome babies at birth. The origin of this color assignment is relatively new in the United States.
“Gender-based color schemes were adopted only at the onset of the twentieth century as plumbing, cloth diapers and color-fast fabrics became more available. However, different countries adopted different color schemes. In fact, there were heated arguments in the American popular press that pink was a more masculine color than light blue.”
-Vern and Bonnie Bullough, Historians (1)
Throughout our child’s young life, Halloween became a holiday with extra challenges. His early costumes were unisex: a jack-o-lantern, a bat. His next costume at age four was to be King. The yellow paper crown with glued plastic jewels and faux fur lined taffeta purple cape was made to satisfy his preference for sparkle and flowing fabric.
“But, I am a queen,” stated my child.
“I know you want to be a queen, but people will see you as king,” I told my son before we ventured out.
When I heard him tell his friends that he was a queen not a king, I understood that really he wanted to be a princess with all the pink and sparkle he could muster. The king costume was safe, and we were hopeful it would satisfy his regal feminine spirit.
My coaching started early. I said, “Of course you need to be who you want to be.” But then I felt I had to say, “Some will not understand, so you cannot.” It happened each Halloween. Costume negotiation started in September. The compromise: a woman character who was evil or scary. Maleficent, devil witch, and the evil queen of Snow White after her transformation were acceptable to me.
“Daddy, you be the prince and I’ll be Snow White.”
My husband always was good with pretend play and allowed his children to take the lead. My son lay quietly on the sofa with a pillow and blanket, hands crossed and eyes closed. Daddy came and, like magic, kissed him on the lips, and just like Snow White he woke.
“OK. Now I’ll be Snow White,” my husband said. And, so it went.
We signed him up for dance class early. He began ballet at age four. My intention was to support what he loved and try to harness this energy. Maybe dance would support the feminine side he so wished to expose. Ballet initially was fun, however expectations of boyness were gradually placed on him. Ballet grew more structured in technique as well as expectations. He waited to be part of the dance group as the girl he felt he was. It never happened.
Boy with Long Beautiful Hair
Our son continued to love to dance. With blankets on his head or long pieces of fabric over his shoulders, he danced in circular patterns sending his long beautiful cloth hair in flight. He reveled in these moments of freedom to be a girl.
Throughout our child’s young life, the hoodie became his favorite fashion. It came in a variety of colors and patterns; some were for warm weather, others for cold. Always, they fit loose with long sleeves that were easily pulled over his hands. It was the style, and many were available. Other fashion styles were met with ambivalence. New clothes at Christmas or birthdays frequently were new hoodies; one would be a little bit dressy, the other more casual.
Over time I began to understand the hoodie was more than a fashion statement. It was a means of getting lost. It was, in fact, a shell where he could hide and feel protected.
My Child Saw Me Weep
My tears had always been shed in private, but once the hormone treatment was initiated at age sixteen and we knew the inevitable conclusion would be surgery, the fear of the complexities of the process overcame me. What I once had strength to keep from my child vanished, and that day my child saw me weep. She was patient with me. She comforted me.
Two-spirit We’wha was an honored Zuni Pueblo cultural ambassador. She was chosen to travel to Washington DC in 1886, to share the story and values of her culture.
Where May I Pray
As a person of faith, I have been troubled by how people use religious doctrine to promote misunderstanding, lack of acceptance and even hatred toward others that are unique or express differences in gender or sexuality. In my journey to understand religions and their judgments of others, I noted differences in interpretations of biblical verses.
Deuteronomy 22:5 (King James Version)
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.
Deuteronomy 22:5 (Hebrew Literal Translation)
Never cause or force a warrior’s weapon to be used by a woman or weak person: neither dress warrior’s armor on a woman or weak person for to Yahweh, God of Host, disgusting is such that do so.
I received guidance from a transgender woman in my community.
“What are you afraid of?” Stacey asked.
“That she will ever be taken seriously,” I worriedly wept, as my mind conjured up images of characters in a carnival. “Will she be seen as so different that people will laugh or marginalize her as not quite human? Will she face people whose judgments lead to violence and murder? If her authentic self remains locked in her male body, will she become distraught and hopeless leading her to thoughts of suicide?”
“I understand, and all are reasonable fears,” Stacey responded.
My Eyes Will Always Be Blue
A day came in my process of understanding my child when I realized that her soul was separate from her gender. My daughter reminded me that her core remained the same. The spirit I gave birth to is her spirit now. I began to look into her eyes more as her outside appearance shifted from young man to woman. I looked, and found her soul remained steady and strong and flourished as the process continued.
As the body transition occurs, so must the various legal documents. It begins with choice of name and setting the court date for legal name change. At this time, gender marker change also is considered with medical documentation proving gender dysphoria disorder. Then comes the change of birth certificate, social security, driver license, school identification and passport. All require gender marker change. This process varies from state to state. Some challenge gender marker change; others are more accepting. Full consistency of all documents not only provides the person with identity papers honoring the whole person, but also provides assurance and safety for the person as they journey through life. Gender marker surprisingly carries a lot of weight in identification. Any attempt to change this from what was apparent at birth evokes strong emotions based in cultural and religious beliefs. Yet to stop one from identifying as the gender representing their spirit discredits them as a full person worthy of respect.
I want to be the first man to give you flowers on Valentine’s Day. Love, Dad
A sweet bouquet of pink tulips was placed on the kitchen counter. Her father wanted to surprise her.
An Iris Stands Tall
“I want to walk across that stage as a young woman,” my daughter said about her graduation day. Her chance came sooner than that when she attended her senior prom as a young woman. She found a richly embroidered raw silk red dress at a local vintage store, and just three weeks prior to her prom, she was gifted with a beautiful red silk coat that matched perfectly. Her drop earrings, new silver shoes, and her grandmother’s teardrop purse finished the look. She spent the afternoon having her hair done and added a light touch of makeup. She was stunning, shining with joy as she stood with the senior class girls in a group portrait.
As an iris in spring, she stood tall in full color.
Learning to be honest, living with truth, and being free to be authentic is a human quest we share. The transgender person can be considered courageous, confused, or misled depending on cultural biases or religious teachings. For my husband and me, our sons, extended family, friends, and teachers, our daughter is courageous, honest, and lovely as she continues her life journey.
She has been our teacher as much as we have been hers.