When I first began writing about Jessie and her having identified as transgender my audience was intimate and safe. I had an email list consisting of my mother and mother in-law, our siblings, their partners and our closest friends. Because her change proceeded at warp speed, each email served as an update as to where things were and what to expect. Many of the updates were stream of consciousness and touched only on the practical and pretty much ignored the psychological aspects of the transition. It was a whirlwind period during which we just scrambled to try (in vain) to stay ahead of things while supporting our child as best we could. Not surprisingly, much of that period is a blur. I do recall, however, sending this email to my mother-in-law the morning that Rich and Jessie were headed to the airport to visit her in Florida: subject: this is what is going to get off the plane tomorrow:
Once it became clear that the “secret” (which was how George referred to it) was only sort of a secret anymore we knew that we needed to go wide (in part to control the message and in part to save ourselves from having to tell everyone we knew individually). With her consent and encouragement, we embraced the world of social media and let everyone know that George was now Jessie, accompanied by this picture:
At the bottom of the shot I commented that I had been writing about our experiences and if anyone wanted to be included on the email list they should let me know. Within hours, I had over 200 people (initially people I knew, but ultimately many were friends of friends) request to be included. It struck me as curious and I wondered: why? I assumed there was some voyeuristic element to it – I realize that the topic lends itself to salacious chatter – but I got an even stronger sense that there was more to it than that. Of course I knew (and hoped) that my friends would be interested so as to be supportive and not just “nosy”, but I also knew, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, that I had struck a chord.
As the email list continued to grow (and Hotmail, thinking I was a spammer, shut me down) I moved the updates over to this blog. That was when I started to attempt getting in touch with what was happening, what was yet to happen and how would I happen to live through it. Needless to say, it was a head-spinning proposition. Starting with the very first post, I received deeply heartfelt and personal responses from both friends and strangers. Some told me of their own children who had been struggling with any number of issues. Others shared their admiration for us being so honest with the story. And still others only wanted to let me know that they supported me, Rich and the kids. Suddenly it became clear to me that while the transgender piece of this is certainly unusual, it actually speaks to everyone’s feeling, at some point or another, that they, or perhaps more importantly, their children, are, in their own unique way, just round pegs trying to fit into square holes.
Likely a result of the combination of the article in “The Boston Phoenix”, my literary agent’s (http://www.leshneagency.com/) announcement of our relationship and WordPress putting me on their “Freshly Pressed” page, yesterday this blog exploded. I started getting hit after hit after hit followed shortly thereafter by well over one hundred comments and countless subscribers. (I am not above telling you that it was very exciting) What was perhaps most remarkable, though, was that 99% of the comments (100% of which were positive) contained nary a mention of the transgender issue. It was not even secondary…it almost didn’t matter. People remarked, with great candor, about their own personal struggles, their kids’ struggles and how life can be a real bitch sometimes, but the particulars seem of little to no importance. I could swap out “transgender” with “cancer” or “dyslexia” (which, incidentally, Jessie has) or “OCD”or “anxiety” or “being bullied” or “is a bully”…or anything else you can think of. What they did seem to care about was the process by which she got from point A. to point B. (remember, we have to get all the way to Z. somehow) and how Rich, Harrison, Jessie and I have maneuvered things in such a way that it is working…for now. I only speak in terms of the here and now since my family’s world (all of our worlds actually) are way more fluid that we think. We’ve managed to establish a good rhythm…for now. Freak outs around here are over normal, everyday stuff: like a certain ten-year old who thinks it is acceptable to take a 32 minute shower. (And, one should note, her predecessor, George, did the same thing!) Today, for now, it’s all good.
We all face challenges, some bigger and scarier than others, but as much as you might be thinking to yourself along the lines of, “thank G-d it isn’t my kid who is transgender”, I have plenty of “thank G-d it isn’t my kid who is _____________” thoughts, too. Really.