Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Damaging My Children?

In a brief discussion on another blog, someone who calls himself "Eutychus" made this comment: "Divorce damages our children. Are you telling me that (as in your own case) that telling your children that their dad is now their mom, won't?" I've already addressed the first sentence of this comment (which can be summed up as: usually it does, sometimes it doesn't – it depends on the individual family dynamic. Sometimes it saves their lives.) Now, I'll address the second.

Damaging my children was in fact my greatest fear as I started transition. It was also an impetus to "do it now," as I feared the damage and difficulty that might accrue if I managed somehow to make it to their adolescent years presenting as a man, only to transition during their most vulnerable time. (Though that is probably moot, as I doubt that I would be alive now, or still involved with my children, had I not transitioned.)

To my surprise, I found that that fear was completely ungrounded. Instead, all evidence indicates that my transition has only benefited them. They are happy and thriving. They are well-connected with their friends and with both parents. They have not missed their "father" – indeed, Trinidad has more than once expressed his preference for his "Maddy," and both boys share a positive and close relationship with Kristin's partner. They also have close relationships with one of their friend's dad and with their uncle.

Our relationship has deepened and become closer and more meaningful. I think kids instinctively know when you're lying; they sense it, even if they can't articulate it or know it on a conscious level, and it affects trust. They trust me more now. They know I'm authentic, that I share with them the truth of who I am. And I'm more emotionally available and fun; I'm not depressed all the time. They know that they have my unconditional love.

Further, their family is still intact. Kristin's and my partnership continues even as it has changed. We are no longer sexual partners, but we remain parenting, economic, and household partners, and best friends. Through the great care we took, and the deep communication we shared during transition, our friendship and understanding have deepened and become even richer and more meaningful, and we have both grown.

This is not to say that transition does not damage children in all instances. It takes care, love, communication, and honesty. And anyway, all parents make mistakes that damage their children in some way; the point is to limit the damage, to repair it, to build a foundation relationship that can absorb and heal what damage accrues, regardless of the nature, gender, or orientation of the parent. The issue is the same for divorce. An amicable and communicative separation, placing the children at the center of care, is more likely to benefit the children than a bitter, cold, intact family where the adults' needs are so unmet they cannot interact positively with their children. Like most things, one size does not fit all, and blanket statements seeking social uniformity are bound to so many exceptions as to be more harmful than useful. We must learn to be true to ourselves. We must learn to discover what our real needs are, and to find ways to meet them. And, if we are parents, we must find ways to keep the care of our children at the center of our attention. Then, regardless of life circumstances, we can create and maintain meaning, purpose, connection, and love, and give our children the support they need and deserve.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our