Trans Is A Teacher For All Of Us

It snowed last night. First of the season. There wasn’t quite enough to break the branches like last year, but it was enough to remind us that the season of fall, as much as I’d prefer it last forever, is simply a transition. What we’re witnessing in the seasonal display of colors is the letting go of something we’ve grown accustomed to.

Transitions, periods when something is neither one thing nor the other, boggle the mind. It would be so much simpler if the world was binary, which I think is why so many people continue to hustle that fallacy. Convince the world that things are either/or, and you can eliminate the need to deal with the grey-area transition periods, some of which can last for weeks, months, lifetimes even.

My kid has been engaged with transition for a while now.

It began with pronouns. She preferred he, and so we began to give that a go. It can be harder than you might think. I’d slip sometimes, especially in private, because I’ve grown accustomed to having a stepdaughter for seven years. I’ve gotten used to thinking of her in a number of ways, and adjusting those perceptions takes time.

Then, there was the period when, with the aid of some ace bandages, the chest of a she looked much more like the chest of a he. This made him incredibly happy, and he seemed to come out of his shell even more when presenting as a boy.

I saw him with binded chest and I remembered being seventeen, sneaking out of the house in a mini-skirt, a baby-doll shirt and motorcycle boots, with full makeup. I kept my sideburns, though. It wasn’t show-girl drag, it was gender-play.

Playing with gender felt so natural to me, and so liberating. Rather than perform masculinity in the way that I’d struggled to do for most of my young life, I gave myself permission to be something in-between.

It would be unfair of me to lacquer my memories and understandings onto my kid, thinking that what was, for me, a period of radical exploration and expression, must be the same for him. It might have similarities, but it is certainly different.

My kid is trans.

In a few weeks, the transition speeds up for him, becoming more physical. Binding will no longer be necessary, and presenting as a boy will begin to be much easier for him. Interestingly, his transition will become — in a way — fixed. His state of in-between becomes more permanent, more an extension of who he his.

For keeps.

I’m scared for him, and I still can’t completely location the reason for my fear. Perhaps it’s that transition is inherently scary, or maybe having grown up an other in this society I understand how challenging that role can be, in practical terms. To be gay has become much more fashionable, but to be trans is still very difficult. Even the people on the fringes want things to be black and white.

We want our gays and straights, our Gods and a Goddesses, our men and women, our clear, unbreakable lines between what is masculine and what is feminine. We want everything to be simple, and explainable, and assignable to whatever categories we’ve become most comfortable with. Those among us who resist the categorization, who not only accept transition but embrace it, force the rest of us to take a hard look at our assumptions. About everything.

Transition is inevitable. It just happens. The winter comes whether you’d like it to or not, so you might as well search out the beauty in the snow. Ours is not to force nature into being what we would like it to be, and neither is it mine to tell my trans kid that he really would make all of our lives easier if he could just keep being a girl.

It doesn’t work that way.

I like to think of trans people as agents of transition and transformation. They call on all of us to acknowledge that what we assume about the world is not always the case, and what we believe is fixed about humanity is often quite fluid.

To embrace trans is to embrace a truth about the world.

That’s how special my kid is.





13 responses to “Trans Is A Teacher For All Of Us”

  1. […] gender essentialism in Wicca over on his blog, Bishop in the Grove.  Inspired by a comment on a Huffington Post article he had posted about his transgender child, he posed the following question on his Facebook page: “I wonder how my Wiccan friends might […]

  2. Druidcub Avatar

    What a great article. Through my studies in third gender and as a polytheist Druid I have come to realize that all our varying genders are nothing more than our spirituals need to learn and find its own path to transcendence. I am not sure it is a guided plan by the divine so much as a guided plan my our higher selves that choose to enter into this life in the best way for our own personal growth. However I don’t think that the gods look down up on this. If you look through out many cultures mythologies there were deities that transitioned from male to female and female to male. There also were times in those mythologies where the gods put people through the transitions so that they could learn a lesson about how the opposite gender experienced life.

    But at any rate thank you for such a thought provoking article. These are the kinds of things that make people stop and think about the world around them.

  3. Karen Waxler Avatar
    Karen Waxler

    I cry reading this because it reminds me of growing up in a family that didn’t allow for any freedom of expression. And thought I am grown and whole and making my life as I see fit, I long to know that my parents approve. What a gracious journey you’ve agreed to with him. I am overwhelmed with hope.

  4. Lo Avatar

    Your kid is lucky to have such an accepting stepfather as yourself.

    As a nonbinary who has femme days and agendered days (which may eventually give rise to trans-masculine days, but it just as well might not), I love reading stories about acceptance and relatively smooth transitions. I’m very happy for your stepson, and I wish him the best of luck with everything in life. :>

  5. Eric Devries Avatar

    My wife has a lifelong friend with a teenage child(born with female parts) who recently told her that he wishes to be identified as a boy from here on out. Our son is only 4 so we have been watching how they respond with great interest. Since we became parents, how other people raise their children is all of the sudden interesting – everything is a situation we may be in later on. We ran in to them at the grocery store last week and he seems to have transitioned completely into boydom and the parents seem very comfortable with it which was nice. Mabe it’s because we live in SoCal, I have to think that there are parts of America and the world at large that wouldn’t respond to something like that way in a way that embraces or even tolerates it. I know at first his parents were confused and resistant so I was releived to see things moving along and the evident happiness and level of comfort they were experiencing. I was raised Mormom and the inability of my family to accept my gay brother and bi sister drove some serious wedges into our family, wedges that remain to this day. Transition is inevitable, and it’s OK to fear it, it’s when we allow that fear to turn into anger and hate that things go all sideways. Great entry, as always.

  6. Eran Rathan Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this, Teo. One of my dearest friends transitioned several years ago, and I know how difficult it can be, not only for the one transitioning, but those near them as well. Change is inevitable – sometimes, the best thing to do is simply step back and watch it unfold, like a flower after a rainstorm. Best of luck to you, and your son.

  7. Michelle B Avatar
    Michelle B

    What an amazing post! As a parent myself, I really appreciate learning other’s experiences. I worked as a youth pastor for many years. I found it so amazing that the young people today were so much more open about their sexuality. I had many kids come to me to discuss their sexual relationships and curiosities. More than anything that wanted reassurance that it was okay to like other boys or girls or to feel like they didn’t quite fit into their body. They wanted someone to tell them that they weren’t on a one-way ticket to hell. It broke my heart to see them confined with such fear.

    I told all of my kids/youth that they were created perfectly and that God/dess doesn’t make mistakes — humans do. It’s the humans that scare me! I believe that our youth today are amazing warriors paving the way to show others that beauty and love comes from the inside and not determined by gender. It was incredible to witness the kids’ realizations of who they are, being comfortable and proud.

    1. Mousey Avatar

      “God/dess doesn’t make mistakes — humans do.”

      I’m curious how you reconcile this idea with the interpretation of trans* folk who say they were “born in the wrong body.” I hear that a lot (and frequently feel it myself) but that seems like it implies that God/dess DID make a mistake of some sort. If my body is sacred and a gift from the divine, etc., then surely transitioning is a misuse of that gift? Piercing and tattooing are forbidden by a lot of religions for just that reason, let alone more significant body modification.

      Transition isn’t an option for me for a number of reasons, but even if it were, I would have a lot of trouble reconciling all the “love your body as it is” messages I get from the pagan/fat-acceptance movements and the idea that it’s righteous to change your body so it looks more like the way you want it to.

      1. Ian Phanes Avatar
        Ian Phanes

        I’m third-gender, but when I first knew someone who decided to transition, I asked the same question of my (also third-gender) mentor, and he replied: “How do you know it wasn’t God’s plan for her to experience transition?” That resolved it for me.

      2. David Earle Avatar

        I found this post quite by mistake, and decided to read it. I have mixed feelings about trans-gender, wanting to be at least tolerant of how others feel toward themselves. I am pleased to see that I was not the only one who had reservations concerning how the Lord and Lady might feel about such a thing, and you verbalized exactly what I would have said.

        I am bi-sexual, knowing full well that I carry traits of both male and female within me – the polarities. I also know that the male traits are predominant, hence my male-gender body. At times I feel feminine, but I know that is the female traits within me, and I am comfortable with that. Do I need to think, act, and speak as if I am a female because at times I feel womanly? No, I don’t. Can I express the emotions connected with femininity, and feel those emotions on the same deep level as a woman? Sure can, and do.

        The Lord and Lady did give us these forms to work with, but I also realize they gave us our individuality, a free will to find out for ourselves how we fit into this physical world, as the individuals we are. Are trans-gender persons physically changing their bodies in some way, such as a sex-change operation? That, IMHO, would be the ultimate insult to the Lord and Lady; however, we are free to feel and think how we like while living in these forms, and if a trans-gender likes to think of themselves as being the opposite gender than what they were born as, they should be free to do just that.

        1. Eric Riley Avatar

          Several Comments: First: most trans people don’t actually embrace the label of “Trans” identity. They are for the most part distinctly members of one or the other of the gender binary, just recognizing themselves as the gender that they are becoming or have transitioned to. The act of sexual reassignment surgery for my closest friend was actually encapsulated ritually, with myself giving her away from the world of Men to our coven sisters embracing her in the world of Women, before and after her surgery. We all recognized and appreciated who she is and where she needed to go to fully realize herself, her identity and her power as a person.

          Second: The presence of a hard and fast gender binary in Wicca was kind of a turn off for me. In the Radical Faeries in DC we expanded this concept into recognizing God-Forms as Male, Female, Both, and Neither. When theology fails you, change your theology.

          Third: When we think on the Charge of the Goddess, she says “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” When I was first coming out as a queer person that was a declaration of liberation from sexually repressive dogma. It’s not that procreative sex, or the gender binary, is holy because it brings things to fruit, though that is indeed very important. But that all unions are holy, no matter who they are or their gender. So in order to recognize and value the panoply of sexual congress that truly exists in nature we had to expand our concepts of gender and their abilities to contribute to the broad world of love and pleasure that is devotion to the Divine. It’s about what brings us together, and what drives us to be closer to one another. It is not solely a means to and end, but pleasure and love
          are ends in themselves.

        2. Star Foster Avatar
          Star Foster

          Wicca is mistakenly thought of as a male/female duality. In truth that is a very simple default stance for most of us. The duality of Wicca is the familiar and the other. There is no “right” set of opposites. Light/dark, wet/dry, hot/cold, Vikings/Packers, Ellen/Oprah are all
          oppositions that hold mystery. Our job isn’t to define parameters for “appropriate mystery” but to seek the mystery that actually exists, in however it may appear in our lives. For a trans person those mysteries
          present themselves in unique ways, and anyone who tries to belittle them needs to be told to fuck off.

          And by this logic anyone with tattoos or pierced ears have insulted the gods. Bad fucking logic.

          *white hetero woman who really hates the male/female shortsighted Wiccan orthodoxy*