For some reason, I am in CVS every day. Have been for years. Over the past few months, as the George/Jessie transition has ramped up (at warp speed), I have walked through those automatic doors with more than a twinge of anxiety and dread. Who would I bump into? And what would they have heard, or not heard, or want to know, or want to ask? All fair and all categories that I am always more than happy to address, but being presented with that challenge every time I left the house became burdensome. And while I refer to them as CVS moments, that “CVS” has grown to include: the market, the school, Starbucks, the gym, the mall (any mall), the bank, McDonald’s (don’t judge) and any other place that wasn’t my living room. But now that anyone who is anyone seems to know (which is all good) my CVS moments have shifted from the incidental meetings to the blossoming relationships.
Designing has long been an interest (and talent) of Jessie’s. Back in September, prior to any sort of announcement of being transgender, we enrolled her in a sewing class. She and fourteen other girls met for two and a half hours every Saturday morning and created amazing things. She went into the first class (the only boy) without hesitation. She continued to go for weeks and weeks as a boy, even after sharing her story with us. And then, on the first Saturday after her tenth birthday (which is the day, literally, that she fully embraced her true self) she was ready to go to the class as Jessie – right down to the pink jeans and sparkly sweatshirt. In the car ride over, Rich asked if I had “warned” the teachers. I snapped back, “why do I have to tell them…why can’t you?!” (gimme a break – I had been keeping this stuff under wraps and wasn’t at my most patient). To his credit, he agreed, accompanied Jessie to the door and very matter of factly told the teacher that George was now Jessie. Perhaps it was due to her having been spending all these weeks sewing with and getting to know George or just a sign of a different generation, but she was totally unfazed. In fact, I believe her response was, with a flip of the hand, “oh, no worries, I went to Sarah Lawrence”. And that was that. Easy. Especially for me since Rich took it for the team.
And now, we have another hurdle: Jessie has been having a blast at her gymnastics class. She and another little girl have become fast friends and are hatching plans beyond simple playdates (which, incidentally, are not so simple anymore. Oh wait, many of the things that were once done by nature are now more, shall we say…complicated.) but have gone so far as to decide that they want to attend camp at the gymnastics studio together this summer.
The parent 1.0 part of me is thrilled. A new friend who happens to be a sweet kid and, phew, has a cool mother. If only it were so easy. Parent 2.0 (I didn’t know I needed an upgrade, but clearly I did) cannot help feeling as though I have somehow duped this family, although it was never done intentionally. I was fully forthcoming with the issue when I signed her up for the class and the instructor tells me every week that it has never been an issue in any way. The two kids really enjoy one another and seem to connect on a level that is unlike connections in Jessie’s earlier social life. So now I am faced with a new CVS moment of sorts, I am left with the task of finding the right time, place and language to share with this mom that the little girl her daughter has been enjoying for the past several weeks has a penis. Oh my.
In this particular instance, I have no concerns about how the mother will react. (Famous last words) By a strange and beautiful coincidence, this new-to-me mom was, about twenty years ago, neighbors with my brother and sister-in-law so I already have, by association, some degree of credibility with regard to my decency. However, I still have to be proactive and allow her the opportunity to hear, take in and then disseminate to her daughter the information. I suspect it will not change the way the kids feel about one another. File under: unless you have had a transgender child, I am willing to bet that this issue has not arisen for you.
Things like this happen every day now. The original CVS moments have all but gone away now that we have gone wide, but every day has challenges of varying degrees and meaningfulness. Some are just silly, like the other day when we went to Chipotle for burritos and Jessie kept asking for more beans. The guy (at least I think it was a guy…I don’t take anything for granted anymore) gave us a look as if to say, “any more beans and you will explode” but I, in my infinite wisdom, said, “he likes beans”. Good job, Julie…outed your own kid. Some are more disconcerting. I am quite sure,for example, that I referred to Jessie as “he” more than once during my first meeting with the gymnastics mom. (Maybe that was actually brilliant. I subconsciously set her up for the information I am going to share with her. Soon. Really.) And some are downright funny. Here is an exchange that I can pretty much guarantee has never happened in a house without a transkid:
Jessie, while climbing over the sofa: “owwww, my nuts!”
Me in a vain attempt to breed some more femininity: “Jessie, little girls don’t talk about their nuts”
Jessie: “Mom, little girls don’t have nuts”.
And there you have it.