If we’re being precise, I’ve been a trans-parent (someone with a transgender child) for over thirty years, but I didn’t know that until about twelve years ago. The only amazing thing about my part in all this is that although I accept the concept, I still don’t understand. I often create trans characters in my writing, but I can only write what I’ve witnessed, not what I’ve felt, experienced.
Big Nose Dog and I were taking the dull walk that day, a shorter trek squeezed in between rain showers. The venture seemed ours alone – not even the buzzards had appeared. While Big Nose sniffed every blade of grass in Yorkshire, I walked and waited and walked until my mind wandered to identity.
When I was in undergrad learning my developmental psychology, we were taught that identity was the task for the teen years. If we think about ourselves as teens or about teens we know, it’s all pretty embarrassing. You might be forgiven in feeling that adolescence should happen where there are no witnesses.
But is that really about identity? I don’t think so. (And Erik Erikson rolls over in his grave.) Teens know who they are (as much as anyone can know anything in only a dozen or so years). They aren’t exploring identity, but how that person they know themselves to be will interface with society. Which is why there’s so much rebellion about it.
Anyone who’s lived through raising a toddler has witnessed their surprisingly strong personality emerge from what used to be a cute, burbling enfant. And to be honest, when my son told me he was my son, not my daughter, I felt really stupid because it was so obvious that my child had never been a little girl.
And yet what many teens learn is how to subvert their identity in order to be accepted by the society that will sustain them for the rest of their lives. We dole out pink passes to girls and blue to boys, put more money in military than education, reward beauty and athleticism over brains or innovation.
We all make compromises in order to get on, so why transition? Why not just suck it up? Transitioning isn’t an easy thing. Not physically, psychologically, medically, socially, financially. It can be dangerous. It can be fatal.
So Big Nose has found something delightful to roll in, making little growly sounds of joy. I let him, because he’s a dog, not because I appreciate smelling like fox poo. That grey, solitary landscape around us is apt for 2014 as the Year of Rejection for my writing with the only reward, a dog who smells like shit. For a brief moment, I think perhaps I should go back to my day job.
And then somehow all this connects me to my son, fiercely brave in his right to be. Identity is the only thing we’re given to get through life. A divine gift, perhaps. Something brutally inevitable, the power of ME . . . well, a person just has to do it, don’t they?