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Op-ed: A Letter to My Daughter’s Transgender Elders

Op-ed: A Letter to My Daughter’s Transgender Elders

You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I guess it started when I watched the first season of Transparent. Then I read an article about you in The New York Times, and your courage took my breath away. Transitioning in your 60s?  How did you do it? How did you keep yourself going all those decades in the wrong gender?  You must be the toughest person alive.

You see, my daughter is like you. Or you were once like her. She’s 7 years old. When she was 3, she told me she wasn’t the boy we had all assumed she was. 

This morning I watched her picking out a dress to wear to school (the one with red and yellow flowers or the blue one with sparkles?), and I thought about you and felt so sad and so lucky that it scared me and I had to put you out of my mind for a while. 

I've written about my daughter in a blog, and you read it and started writing me emails, telling me about your life — the years of secret longing, the bliss when you finally got to become you, the career and the wife and the children you lost when you did, the good man who’s loved you for 20 years.  

Sometimes you sound wistful. Sometimes you joke and ask me to adopt you. And sometimes you admit that you're jealous of my daughter. But you’re always supportive, cheering me on, assuring me that my child will be OK. When people are cruel and I get down, you tell me that jerks aren’t worth my time and that I have to be tougher. I listen. I know you know what you’re talking about.

And I know that my daughter is walking a remarkably smooth path because you have paved the way for her. Without a doubt, she is indebted to you. And yet I often wonder, and worry, about whether she will realize this.

I was having coffee recently with a friend whose transgender daughter is 13. My friend said that when her daughter transitioned at age 8, her first encounters with older trans women didn’t go very well. “Mama,” she said, “I’m not going to look like that, am I?”

No, she told her daughter, you probably won't look like that. Like my daughter, hers has access to medical interventions that you didn’t. Hers is already taking hormone blockers that suppress the male puberty her body would otherwise undergo. We sipped our coffee and shook our heads (relieved, guilt-ridden) at the miracle of it. “Can you imagine our girls sprouting facial hair?” we said. It's unthinkable.

It was unthinkable for you, too, of course, but then it happened anyway.

I sometimes think that you and my daughter are like twins separated at birth and raised on different continents: Your childhoods couldn't have been more different, and yet, on some profound level, you will always understand each other perfectly. 

Will she acknowledge you as her long-lost sister, I wonder? Will she experience some version of survivor’s guilt, as the twin raised on the kinder continent? Will you forgive her when she isn’t strong enough to take on the whole world, as you've done? Will you let me adopt you, as I’ve already done a thousand times, in secret, in my heart?

 

MARLO MACK writes about parenting her transgender daughter at Gendermom.com, and with her daughter’s help, she produces an audio podcast about their life called How to Be a Girl.

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