Picture This

This afternoon a seven-year old-boy who has only ever known Jess as Jess (read: hasn’t a clue that she is not your “average” girl) was perusing the photos on my refrigerator door.    He asked who different people were: the responses of “that is my brother”, “she is my oldest dearest friend”, “he was my dad” all came easily.  “Who is this little boy with Harrison? He looks like Jess”…aw, shit…not so easy.


I took advantage of the seven-year old’s naiveté and explained that the little boy was a family friend which, thankfully, he bought.  As the words came out of my mouth, a wave of nausea swept over me.  I suddenly felt dishonest, disingenuous and a little bit disgusted with myself.  I had lied to a little kid, disrespected my child and put my needs (which I was not even entirely aware of) ahead of my kid’s.  I suck.

Within moments of the child leaving the house, I frantically removed all the photos from the refrigerator door, not just the ones displaying George.  Among the shots that had greeted me every time I opened the door (which is often) were my dad laughing his head off (a photo I have shared here), my grandpa holding my three-year-old hand in front of the house I grew up in, George and his piercing baby blues and one of Harrison, at three, wrapped in a talis at Hebrew school.  Now they are all packed away in a box for safekeeping…too hard to look at any more.

Yes, I am that mother of a transgender child who still displayed photos of her MtF child in his (gender choice intended) original iteration.  Admittedly, I had not updated, or changed any of the pictures in the nearly two years that have passed* since George transitioned to Jessie; it gave me comfort and, if it bothered Jess at all, she never mentioned or even alluded to it.  (In my defense, while I have tons of photos of Jess, they are almost entirely digital…not a single glossy 4”x6” exists.)  It all represents, I am realizing, a not entirely subconscious attempt to somehow keep my little boy around.

I was spared having to explain (to Jess) the clearing of the fridge.  Over the past week or so I have been de-cluttering to within an inch of my life, so the fact that I was neatening yet another space did not strike Jess as odd.  In fact, she even offered to 409 the door for me, making way for an impressive magnet display.  If she questioned my motivation, she did not let on as much.

As we near the anniversary of Jess’s (or is it George’s?) transition, I am admitting to myself (well, to you, I guess) that she is not the only one with ambivalence.  Clearly I, too, am not entirely on board; not for any other reason that a mother’s intuition that her kid is, well, ambivalent.  I still stumble when people ask me about my children, often referring to Jess as my “little one” (technically she is, being a full seven years younger than Harrison) and rarely as my “daughter”.  When new acquaintances ask about my children, I have a ping pong game in my brain, trying to figure out what to say…since my instinct is “two boys”.  I usually see a girl in front of me, but often am struck by how much of George is looking back.  And, as I have said before, it fucks with your head.

As for the seven-year old, I do wonder what will happen if Jess ever decides that she wants to be George again and how he (the seven-year old) will react.  Kids are pretty resilient and forgiving of this stuff, but I will still file under: stuff I never thought I would have to worry about…

*Can you believe it has been nearly two years?!?!

3 thoughts on “Picture This

  1. Jess wants to be herself and you need to accept that. I really believe that she has found herself..We[of the “T” mindset] can’t expect people to really understand us,but you have done a pretty good job so far.You have a son and you have a daughter,and they both love you…

  2. Sometimes it is easier to sidestep an awkward situation then take it head on. It doesn’t mean it was the right decision, but it is a normal reaction.
    I’m not sure how I feel about Rogina’s comment, I know coming to terms with transgender family member, especially when it is your child.It takes patience and time but more than anything it takes a willingness to accept someone for who they know themselves to be even when we don’t really understand.
    Julie, you have done a remarkable job. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. When so many would turn their backs you have stepped up and embraced a very difficult situation with an open heart and mind.
    As parents all we can do is our best and you have done this and more. Give yourself a little slack to be human… (meaning we all do things we rethink to death, then try and learn what we would like to do differently).
    It’s Ok.


  3. It does seem that Jess is happier now than she was a couple of years ago. She is herself, and we should applaud her on that because most people are too afraid to be themselves. When people are afraid to be themselves, they put themselves into boxes, and when they look into the mirror and see their reflection, they don’t see themselves, and instead see unhappiness. I’m so glad that Jess isnt one of those kids. She sounds like a great kid!

    Signed, a 14 year old

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