News, studies, political and social commentary brought to you by our community writers - this is an area for education and debate.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Daughter is Sometimes My Son / My Father is a Woman

My Daughter is Sometimes My Son
by Connie McEntee

I have two kids, both adults, and I usually say that I have a son and a daughter. I didn’t have them myself; my ex-wife had them. I’m their father, though I’m a woman now. I was born male and named David William. Forty-one and a half years later, I began transition and chose the name Constance Anne. Most people call me Connie.

But this is supposed to be about my kids, not me.

When talking about my family in a queer sense, I usually mention that my son is cis* and straight and that my daughter is genderqueer and bisexual. Specifically, she’s genderfluid. Sometimes she’s my son, and sometimes she’s my daughter.

While our understanding of our identities evolved over time, my daughter discovered her identity at a younger age than I did. There were signs for me throughout my younger years. I just didn’t really know how to interpret them.

My daughter came out to me as bi back when I still identified as genderqueer myself. Then, it seemed for a while she felt that maybe she wasn’t bi. Shortly after starting college, she came to the realization that she is indeed bi, and eventually she realized that her gender identity if not static. Like me, she chose a name to reflect this other part of her. So while she’s usually my daughter Shannon, there are times when she’s my son Shane.

Pronouns are a simple issue for me: I use and prefer feminine pronouns for myself. For Shannon and Shane, it’s a little trickier. I usually take my pronoun cues from her presentation. If she’s Shannon, I use feminine pronouns. If he’s Shane, I use masculine.

But just because she’s usually a she, I sometimes wonder if I should avoid using feminine pronouns by default.

Other genderqueer persons I’ve met identify in different ways: androgyne, bigender, two-spirit, agender. Some of these persons prefer pronouns such as ze and sie, and possessive pronouns such as hir and hirs. Others still, primarily those I know who identify as bigender or two-spirit, prefer the singular they/their/theirs. To me, it seems these could be the better pronoun choices for the daughter-who-is-also-my-son.

I sometimes wonder how I would have parented my genderqueer child if they had been aware of their gender identity at a younger age. Doubtless I would have researched gender issues, scouring the Internet and ransacking my local libraries. Doubtless still, that would have led to my own transition starting sooner. They had trouble with bullying in school. It would have been much worse if they had been aware of themself and out as genderqueer at a younger age. But as a parent, I would not have had the luxury to shy away from such a challenge.

To those parents who have school-aged gender variant children: I salute you. Though I have such a child too, my situation is greatly different than yours. The challenges my genderqueer offspring and I face as gender variant adults are different than those faced by gender variant children. But our challenges are no less real. Being trans* is something that’s still not fully understand and often reviled even by others under the rainbow. So, people like myself and my daughter-who-is-also-my-son work on these things in our ways.

Eventually, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all.

Footnote: Cis* indicates persons whose internal gender identity is not at odds with their sexual anatomy.

My Father is a Woman
by Shannon McEntee & Shane McCarran

I enjoy making people think, making them question the norms society foists on us from early on. The first time I consciously thought of myself as differently gendered was first grade, when I heard the word “tomboy” and thought, “Yeah. I like that. That’s what I am and that’s cool.” My first time crossdressing in the traditional sense was Halloween a few years later, when I was Frodo from the Lord of the Rings series. I won a costume contest for it, thanks in great part to my father: She made a cloak for me, lent me a waistcoat and dress shirt so I’d look more like a boy. My mom helped me too, styling my hair and making me construction paper hobbit feet.

Back then, in those oh so simpler days, I didn’t think much about how it made me different, as I was used to being different by then and not having many friends. I didn’t even know how gender and sex differed, only that I was unlike other girls.

Middle school was the start of a change in that kind of innocence. I was bullied fiercely; most often taunted as a “she-male” because of my manner and choice of dress. Even when my chest ballooned around eighth grade to C cups, it continued and even worsened. People just couldn’t reconcile an ostensibly female body acting, talking, walking like a guy. “You’re supposed to wear your pants lower on your hips.” “You’d be so much prettier with makeup.” “Shave your arms, Chewbacca.” Nearly every day for three years, and like so many others I seriously considered taking my life to make the pain stop. I got to the point where I began to believe that if so many people hated me then there must be a legitimate reason for it, and I began to hate me too. High school wasn’t as bad, mainly because the gossip and such was more behind-the-back then right to my face. Music was what ultimately saved me, but that’s another story.

It wasn’t until college that I discovered the gender spectrum, in all its varied glory. I became involved with the campus PRIDE (Promoting Respect in Diverse Environments) group my freshman year on a whim, out of curiosity. I was exposed to people of so many orientations and genders, and there was a wealth of information. I began researching, questioning, discussing. I came out as genderfluid in February of my sophomore year, relieved and delighted that I’d finally ended the mystery. I knew who I was, I was free to honor it, I was on top of the moon. I bought a chest binder and started shopping in men’s sections at local thrift stores.

How does my father fit into all this? One, she unconsciously eased my coming out process by breaking the paradigm and coming out to me first, when I was still in high school. I’d seen her crossdress before and hadn’t thought much of it. To me, she’s still the same person, the only real difference being is that she’s allowed herself to come out of her shell and into herself, and I am so, so proud of her for doing that. It takes a hell of a lot of courage, and I much benefitted from her example.

Two, throughout her transition I’ve learned so much more about blurring gender lines, pronoun usage, presentation and passing than I ever would have otherwise. My brother and my mother are both cisgender, straight people and I love them dearly for supporting Dad and I in our separate journeys. I have a wondrously diverse group of straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, asexual and gender-variant friends. But having a father who happens to be a woman has given me someone familial I can talk to about all these feelings, the good and the bad. It’s a kind of support only a parent can give, in my opinion. Because of her, I refuse to hide who I am to make other people more comfortable. I won’t waste my time not being me, because whenever I tried to not be me in the past it only ended badly.

To quote Jimmy Eat World’s song “The Middle”: “Live right now / Yeah just be yourself / It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough / For someone else”.

Nowadays, I am the Public Relations officer for the Gender Umbrella club on campus, a strong advocate for LGBTTQQIAAPOD and gender-variant rights and awareness, acting in The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary and loving every minute of it. I’m genderqueer, bisexual, and I am damn proud of it. No one will ever change that.

No comments:

Post a Comment