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.
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.