June 2, 2014

Twenty Minutes About Identity (W101)

Okay, here we go. This first one is just mean.

June 1, 2014: To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write. Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

Okay, my clock is running — I have Bach in the background and the iPhone is set to switch off when time expires. Let’s make good use of my lunch hour.

One thing that’s on my mind right now is my kids. Specifically my son, but also my kids in general. I had an issue with them this weekend, and especially with him, related to my transition and my identity. It’s weighing on me today.

It all actually started with my mother on Sunday. She and I have reached a point where we can talk pretty freely about my transition, and in fact we did talk about it in our conversation that day. But there’s one problem; she always, without fail, calls me by my birth name. Only once, in a greeting card, has she used Ali or Alison, and that was after a slah (on the envelope) or within parenthesis (inside the card). So at the end of the conversation, I decided just to mention, in passing, that I’d be happy if she started trying to get used to the name — i.e., actually start using it.

This is where the stress started. She got defensive at that point, and she offered up, in turn, three reasons why she hadn’t started using Alison. They are:

She’s been calling me by my birth name for 38 years, and it’ll take time to adjust. I conceded this point, and said I wasn’t asking her to be perfect today, just more mindful, especially since the legal process is beginning. To which she replied that legally, my name is still my birth name. Which is true. However, I pointed out to her that though I haven’t changed the name legally, I have changed it socially. Friends and family all call me Alison. She countered with the fact that my social switch is only part-time, and they still call me by my birth name at work. To which I sputtered, got frustrated, bit my tongue, and quickly ended the conversation.

So what does this have to do with my kids? Well, later that day, with my mom’s conversation on my mind, I was with my kids in the grocery store. I was presenting nicely, I thought. Still probably reading as a man to many, but maybe, you know, if someone just glanced, didn’t think much on it, and noticed that I had curves (padded bra, tight top) and some makeup on, that just maybe …. you know? I was trying, is what I’m saying.

Only, it’s my standing policy that my kids can call me “Dad” and “Daddy” as much as they want, because they’re my kids and they get a pass. So of course as we’re going through the store they’re like “Daddy, look at this!” and “Dad, what’s this for?” and “Daddy, can we have a candy?” I mean, they say Dad and Daddy a lot. And last evening I just became really, really hypersensitive to it. It grated on me and rubbed my nerves raw.

I literally had to stop myself from stopping right there in the store and asking the kids to please, PLEASE, just when we’re out in public, could they maybe, kind of, stop calling me DAD?!

I didn’t do that. I sorely wanted to, but I didn’t. Instead, I just issued a general “You’re being too loud, keep it down,” and followed it with a “Stop bugging me so much.” And I endured “Daddy” for the rest of the shopping trip.

This is my new dilemma. I want to be seen for whom I am in public, but I’m already at a disadvantage in the passing department. Having the kids misgendering me out loud in public in a crowded grocery store isn’t doing me any favors. I don’t care what they call me in private. And I feel terrible for thinking that having the kids with me in public could be in any way detrimental. But it is, or at least it can be. I’m hurting myself for the sake of my kids.

And that right there? That’s a horribly self-serving thought. And THAT is where a lot of recent stress is coming from. I’ve always been afraid of hurting my kids with my transition. I don’t want to upset them; I don’t want to push them away. But the name thing … it just might have to be something I address.

This problem is compounded by the general sense I’m getting that my son is not handling this as well as I at first assumed. He still wants me to be “one of the guys”. He still says things like “It’s the guys up front and the girls in back” when we’re in the car and he’s sitting shotgun. And apparently, he said something about my being transgender to his therapist. I don’t know what exactly, but the therapist has asked that at some point he be able to talk to me and Daniel together about it.

… and my timer just went off. PhewThat was some hefty typing. Holy crap, nearly 900 words!

I have more to say about my son, but I will save that for a more polished post. In the spirit of this whole thing … <clicks submit>



  • I can’t say that I know how you feel, because I didn’t have the same difficulties to deal with as you, but I can say I know hows it feels inside me when I was either addressed by my birth name or I was referred by my birth gender. Then I began practicing with my housemate the Nonviolent Communication model from the book, “Nonviolent Communication, the Language of Compassion” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, and what I came to realize was it was not they who were my problem, but how I responded to them. I began to say to them that “I appreciate the fact that you are trying to adjust to my new presentation (or whatever) but every time you call me by my birth name or gender, I feel angry and frustrated because I want to still regard you as a friend (or whatever) who can see and respect me as I am, even though I no longer fit your old pictures of me. I request that in the future that you be mindful of my feelings as well as your own when you address me.” I believe that this can work even with your children because I believe that children are naturally compassionate when adults are compassionate with the fact that they are not bad or wrong for being children who make mistakes, as we all do.

  • My mom never accepted my legal name change.

    Granted, my transition wasn’t as thorough as yours. Mine was about being a grown up and doing whatever the hell I want, and declaring myself to be my own person, godsdamnit. But my mother, being her, still calls me by the name she had put on my birth certificate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *