Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Introductions

A spouse of a transwoman asked for advice the other day about introducing new people to her family. In this example, one of her children was going to have a play date with a new friend and she wasn't sure if she should introduce her trans spouse to the friend's mother.

As the spouse/partner, we are in an interesting position. Most of us who have chosen to stay are not embarrassed by the fact that our significant other is a woman. Yet, we find ourselves justifying to strangers why we are married to another woman when we are not gay or that the father of our children is female.

No, it doesn't matter in the big picture that two women are married. If you have chosen to remain in this community, you can't possibly be homophobic. Trust me when I say that I know with absolute certainty where I stand on the rainbow, and where other people stand is of no concern to me. However, as the heterosexual spouse of a woman and the mother of children whose father is female... frankly... it's weird. Even after six years of this situation, I still have moments of strangeness when I feel that have to explain.

Ah, I can hear the chorus: "You don't HAVE to explain anything to anyone. It's not their business!"

That's not entirely true, especially when you're talking about introducing adults who are involved in some way with your kids.

We don't have to explain. It's easy to say, "Hi, I'm Marni, and this is my spouse Natasha." Enough said. Another parent will hear, "Hi, we're a married gay couple." Fine. But then the parent's child is playing with your child and your kid says, "Let's go see if Daddy will play video games with us."

"Daddy" doesn't seem to be around, yet your kid asks the other woman in the house to play video games. Your child's friend is going to have NO problem saying aloud, "That's not your daddy!" Then, when the friend goes home, he/she says to his/her parent, "E has a girl for a daddy," and then things go wonky.

In the case of my kids, they call Natasha "Sunny." They chose that name to mean "daddy," especially in public. Early on when Natasha was presenting as female in public, I might say at a restaurant, "Go sit next to Daddy," in front of the waiter. That would garner strange looks. Again, it's not that I cared, but the kids noticed and it sure embarrassed Natasha. For the trans person, it's like putting up a big neon sign that says, "TRANSSEXUAL RIGHT HERE!!" So, we asked the kids to come up with a new name that meant "daddy" to them, and they chose "Sunny."

Getting back to the introductions, I found it necessary to explain to teachers that if the kids talked about their Sunny, it was Natasha and if they talked about their daddy, it was Natasha, too. Sunny and Daddy were interchangeable. It was absolutely necessary because when we didn't explain at first, I'd be asked about it at the first parent-teacher meetings. Inevitably, one of the kids would talk about Sunny or Daddy to the other kids and a classmate would point out the obvious and then things would... go wonky. All I had to do was point it out to the teacher in the beginning of the year and all would be well. It was the same for the parents of our kids' friends. Sometimes, "daddy" would slip out. "Daddy's coming to see our play tonight," and poof... there's a woman walking in. Hey, wait a minute!

The spouse who asked the question wanted to know if she should contact the friend's parent before meeting her so that she would be prepared. My advice was not to do that. Other spouses agreed that even if she isn't embarrassed, to pre-warn someone is to come across as being embarrassed. It gives the other party a chance to back out before the confrontation. It's not presenting unexpected information in the moment, when it's appropriate and when you can see for yourself the reaction of the other party. If you're not embarrassed, don't act like you are. Like I said to the spouse, would you want your kid to be playing with the kid of someone who didn't accept that you were married to a transsexual? Would you want to be friends with someone like that?

There are a lot of factors that go into when/if it is time to let other parties know that your spouse is trans, but the bottom line is that at some point, people in your life will find out. The question is: how do you want them to find out? No, it really isn't other people's business whom you're married to, but when it comes to parenthood, biological relationships can be important information to know. Besides, it's really not about whose business it is or isn't. It's about the fact that the vast majority has never met a trans person. While there shouldn't be any "shock value" to it, there is, even if they're okay with it. I think it is better to just get it out of the way and let people react. Again, with the kids, I'd rather the parent choose to accept or not before my kid gets attached to the other kid.

Just my opinion. Yours is welcome.

5 comments:

Anita said...

You've built a strong and brave family. I've tried to teach my kids that they can grow up to be whoever and whatever they want: an astronaut, a physicist, a man, a woman, an artist, whatever...you inspire us and we're proud to call you friends!

Anita said...

You've built a strong and brave family. I've tried to teach my kids that they can grow up to be whoever and whatever they want: an astronaut, a physicist, a man, a woman, an artist, whatever...you inspire us and we're proud to call you friends!

Marni said...

Thank you, Anita! We miss you guy so much!! Maybe next year we can do Holi here in Los Angeles. http://www.festivalofcolorsusa.com/festival-of-colors/festival-of-colors-in-los-angeles-ca/

April Marrie said...

Being transgender myself i would say education is your key.
went to a friends house who i hdednt seen for 2 years his teenage daughters who know me stared giggling as they do once they were told about me they asked questions and then just accepted me as i am . btw they were giggling cause i had boobs and look like a girl tho i was being as boy as i could :) hope that helped April

April Marrie said...

just read your post again and its not as bad as what you think it is .
I think finaly people are starting to wake up about gender as its fluid My daughter still calls me dad she is 36 yo now she dont care its my grand children that now go you look like a girl and after a few minutes they accept me as i havent changed to them i just look diferent .......
Shock value is always there for anyone that doesnt know.accept homophobeic .on the last count i heard last week there was 16000000 trans people world wide and there the ones that have comeout