There have been a lot of big changes in my life recently, all of them surrounding being transgender. My original birth records were destroyed and updated to reflect my correct gender. Finally, the government recognizes that I was born male; it isn’t something you become. Plus, I was approved for gender confirmation surgery—legally called: sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
When you are a parent who also happens to be transgender and transition after you have children, there can be a lot of questions from your children and family. How you answer those questions depends upon the age of your child(ren).
As I go through my own process, I plan to share my experience as a transgender parent going through various aspects of transition. I also want to help answer any questions that may come up or have come up if you are in my boat.
First, we need to be clear about what transition means. A lot of people have the misconception that transition equals surgery.
Let me be clear: It most certainly does not mean surgery. SRS most certainly does not mean bottom surgery. It most certainly does not mean hormones. Transition is different for everyone. For some people, transition will involve simply living as the gender with which they identify. They may even legally change their name. For other people, transitioning can go as far as surgery.
My children are older: nearly 20 and nearly 16. They have known practically their entire lives that I was not like other “moms.” We don’t celebrate Mother’s Day, even though they call me “mum.” Their questions were pretty simple because they are already well aware about the whole process and what it means to be transgender.
The first question they had was, “What pronouns do we use when we talk about you outside of the house? I only ask because we live in a city that isn’t accepting about this whole thing.”
My answer was straight to the point, “Outside of the home, use ‘they/them/their.’ Kid2, your school will be notified and it won’t be a big deal because the school board now requires accommodation for this in all schools.”
The second question they had was, “We call you ‘mum’ at home for reasons. What do we call you outside of the home?”
My answer was pretty simple, “You refer to me as your parent. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.”
If you are a trans parent, or if you have a family member who is transitioning and are unsure how to answer your children’s questions, ask them in the comments, and I’ll answer them in a follow-up post. Please be sure to include the age of the child, so that I can craft age-appropriate answers.
Your adult child still lives at home and they want their significant-other to move in. What would you do? I said, “No problem!” Why?
With more and more post-secondary students living at home to help cut costs, “empty nest syndrome” is being delayed by many years. For my eldest son and his education situation, he could very well be still living at home well into his mid to late twenties.
My eldest (hence forth called Kid1), has been in a long-term relationship for two years now. Kid1 and his significant-other (hence forth called NKOTB) have discussed marriage after he finishes his BSc, plus his PBDE, while he teaches high school maths and science, but before he begins his MSc or MEd.
We’ve entered a new phase in life; one we weren’t quite expecting. The “empty nest while the adult child goes off to post-secondary education” phase has been replaced with “adult child stays at home and their significant-other moves in” phase of life.
This is a phase I’m sure many parents, and non-parents alike, would take issue with. Different cultural backgrounds, right down to a regional level, are likely to shape opinions.
A Little Bit More Background Information
In our home, we have a rule. The rule is: As long as you are going to school, you can live at home for free; if you do not go to school and want to continue living at home, you must get a job and pay some rent.
I’ve shared a little bit about Kid1’s school situation and his relationship status. Now, on to NKOTB.
NKOTB works very close to our home. Her other house is in a town about a 20-minute drive from my city. She doesn’t have a license—which is very common now in certain Canadian urban areas because of public transportation—and the buses to her town don’t run when she’s off shift, which can be anytime between 8 pm and midnight.
She started staying here a few days a week because it was convenient for work. Then, she just happened to be here seven days a week.
She fits quite well into this crazy household and we love having her around.
And I really like being in a position where we can help them out. Kid1 is helped because all he has to worry about is going to class, finishing his assignments, and passing. NKOTB is helped out because she can save money for their future and be in an understanding and supportive environment.
Because of our “no-school-pay-rent” policy, NKOTB pays rent in the form of helping out with the cost of groceries because that is the only bill that increases with her living here. When we brought it up with her, she was completely understanding and happily agreed to the amount. Part of me feels bad because she is so great to have around, but the rules are the rules.
Benefits of Having NKOTB Live Here
I love being able to watch how Kid1 and NKOTB interact with each other. I like hearing how they resolve conflicts and communicate. I love seeing Kid1 walk NKOTB to work or to the bus stop for work; and then pack a backpack with a cool drink in NKOTB’s water bottle, and walk to pick up NKOTB from work or meet her at the bus stop. I love seeing how Kid1 will cook dinner every night and keep a plate warm for when NKOTB gets home from work.
NKOTB made some tweet about how she likes watching Andrew and I interact and how cute she thinks it is. So, I like the fact that Andrew and I are able to model some good relationship qualities and be a guide for communication and conflict resolution and what it means to be in an equal partnership where all parties involved do little things to care for the other.
I also like that we can give both Kid1 and NKOTB a warm and loving environment, and often chaotic environment, as they practice cohabitation. A little bit of experience with chaos and crises—with some support—before venturing off alone is a good thing, I say.
I adore watching Kid1 indoctrinate NKOTB in many things geek. A few things of note: He’s introduced and hooked her on MtG; she’s learning about chemistry because when Kid1 isn’t in class, he does chemistry experiments as a hobby; and Kid1 is introducing NKOTB to Star Wars—which caused much debate in our home over which order she should watch the movies in. I assume he’s already indoctrinated her in all things Doctor Who, and will eventually move to Star Trek.
It’s Not All Positive
There is one drawback. But it’s not a huge one. The drawback is: aside from the animals, NKOTB is the only woman in the house.
For the first month or so, I quietly wondered what it is like for her to be living with four men. One day, I decided to bring it up with Kid1. He said something along the lines of, “Yeah, it’s come up a few times. Like, she’ll ask me if you have something she needs, and I’ll respond, ‘There is none of that in this house. You have to remember, you’re the only woman here.’” I assume one of these things is feminine hygiene products.
NKOTB knows I’m a trans man. She has no issues with it. She understands why Kid1 and Kid2 still call me “mum” even though my gender is man. But, I’m not sure she’s aware that I had a hysterectomy 10 years ago.
(Aside: I find it absolutely amazing how many pairs of shoes she has. This is not a negative. But, I’m fascinated over what appears to be a new pair of shoes showing up every other week. I’m a one-pair-of-shoes kind of guy.)
Another slight drawback is: No one gets a quiet night to themselves for some un-muted coitus.
Before NKOTB moved in, Kid1 would spend the odd weekend at her house. A lot of those times, it fell on a weekend that Kid2 was at his dad’s or staying at a friend’s house. So, everyone had some alone couple time.
Now, there isn’t a time when someone outside of the coupling isn’t home.
I not only feel a little stuck (for lack of a better word) in my sex life, but I feel bad that Kid1 and NKOTB also have to be consciously aware of other people being in the house during their time together.
But these things are not insurmountable. They’re just little bumps we have to navigate.
The Possible Future
I can imagine a time when children stay at home long after marriage and the beginnings of their own families. It is more economically feasible to move into a bigger house that has room for adults and new children, than it is for two separate households.
While I’m not sure if it would happen with my family because Kid1 will have a good paying job, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. I have a little bit of envy over cultures where families stay together, despite not liking how women tend to be treated in some of those cultures. If I could be around my grandbabies 24/7, and help take care of them, I’d be stoked! Andrew may have other thoughts on this issue.
My daughter is 18, and my son 16, so this is certainly on the radar. I don’t have a problem with extended family moving in, including long-term partners of my kids. Twelve years ago we bought a house with an “in-law” apartment above it so my mother could be with us, but have her own place. My nephew moved in with my mom when he started college in the area a few years ago, and with regular babysitting of my two young nieces by all of us, we have already had to deal with the frustrating but rewarding experience of extended family living.
Things like food, paying for WiFi, taking out the garbage, respecting each other’s space, etc., are all constant discussions. If one of my kids needed to live at home, and their s/o moved in, there would specific expectations beforehand. That makes is so much easier. Vague agreements like, “you’ll help out with rent” can only lead to miscommunication. “You will cook dinner for everyone three nights a week and clean the kitchen, do all yard work, and snow shoveling etc…. Having other people over is fine, but no large gatherings unless okay’ed by us, etc. And we will re-evaluate each semester” may sound strict, but is the more peaceful route. Since I’d only agree to this for an adult, serious relationship, I’d assume they would share a room.
My son already announced he wants to take a “gap year” when he graduates high school since college is so expensive and he isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do. So we’re already talking about what that means.
I have this fantasy that my kids will (like I did) go off to college and only come home to visit after that. Considering that they’re three and one right now, I’ll be able to hold on to that fantasy for a few more years yet. But I know it won’t be that simple. My parents were always willing to host our friends for extended periods of time when they needed a roof over their heads for various reasons. I expect that I’ll do the same from time to time. For adult kids with partners, I hope in the most hopeful way possible that my kids will pick cool partners who will do their share around the house and cause the least drama possible, if it comes to that.
I have no experience whatsoever on this topic but there was another article recently that touched on this and I couldn’t help but think that in other cultures, children stay with their families their whole lives. Their spouses come to live with them. Multi-generational homes! It is only here that we force a very particular strain of independence, and then judge others against it.
For the record, my children will always have a home. If it works for a family then why not? Geez Louise!
If we had the space, I’m pretty sure we’d be open to it, IF they paid rent and bought their groceries. And it would have to be a privacy-oriented living condition (MIL apartment). When we stayed with our in laws while moving to NH (for a few months) in our early married years, there was an apartment above the garage. Rough, but livable.
But I think we’d always lean toward inclusion. If our kids, adult or otherwise, need help, we are there. If they truly needed housing we’d make it work!
I do think this is something we families need to be prepared for. Except for some very outlying circumstances, my husband and I would have no problem being there for our sons and their S/Os if they need a roof over their heads. Beyond a certain age (college graduate, probably), we will fully expect some sort of contribution to the household, whether it’s financial (if employed) or service (if not employed).
The part of this where I might not have the most popular opinion is for how long we would be willing to have this setup. If our house is big enough I think we can do this for quite a while, but as a military family, we aren’t in the same house for very long. There’s no prediction of how big/small a house we might have next. Many Americans gravitate towards only getting “as much house as you need” just for the immediate members. We tend to do that ourselves. So unless we get a house with the intention of having the extended family living with us permanently (such as is the model in many other countries), we would expect our adult sons and their partners/families to live with us just temporarily.
A GeekMom who wishes to remain anonymous said:
I have no issues with my adult children coming back to the roost, if need arises. As for allowing a long-term partner to move in, that is a little bit trickier because of issues with space. But in a perfect world, if I did have the space, I wouldn’t be opposed. But we’d have the same house rules as my own kids: pick up after yourself, quiet after a certain hour for the younger members of the family, etc.
Another GeekMom who wishes to remain anonymous said:
While I was in college, my parents let my long-term college boyfriend move in with us. They even gave us two bedrooms to use as a bedroom and living room, like a private mini-apartment within the house. It didn’t seem weird to me at the time, but since becoming a parent myself it seems weird to me now! I can’t imagine doing the same for my daughters, but they are so young I can’t even imagine them ever dating. Only time will tell what kind of parents we will become, and what kind of teenagers and young adults our daughters will become. There’s just too many unknowns to make any sort of prediction about our lives in 10-15 years!
It’s interesting though to see how other cultures handle the multigenerational housing issue. It’s easy to think that they do things differently somewhere far away, so far away that it doesn’t affect us in any way. But we live on a small planet and there is always something new to learn from the people directly in our lives! I work with a lot of Indian guys, who were born and raised in India but that have been living in the US for many years. They’ve all gone through with the tradition of arranged marriages, despite living in the US. Then when they had kids, their parents and/or in-laws visited them from India for months at a time to help with the baby, meanwhile staying in their house. Every time I hear about this, I can’t help but sympathize “wow, it must be really hard to have your parents around all the time!” They always respond that it’s no problem at all because in India they would all share a home their entire lives anyway. My own mother must have gotten a taste for freedom since my at-home college days, because when she came to help me with my babies, she took an apartment in my town rather than move in with us. She said we would all appreciate having our own space, herself included!
So, let me ask you something. What are your thoughts about your adult child (future or present, depending on your family situation) bringing their significant-other into your family? Would you consider it, or is it a flat out, “No”? If the answer is “No,” why? If the answer is “Yes,” why?
Ninety-nine percent of people in my life neglected to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. The result: It was the best Mother’s Day of my parental life.
I have two children. They call me “mum.” Mother’s Day is not a thing we do in this house. In fact, because it has never been mentioned, Andrew asked, “Does Canada have Mother’s Day?”
I’m a trans man.
Oh, how confusing all of this must be for some readers. It must be. It can not only be confusing for my immediate family — Andrew, Kid1 and Kid2 — but, also, for me.
Maybe we should rewind time to nearly 19 years ago to when I gave birth to Kid1.
I carried him for just over nine months. I birthed him. The forms I filled out to register birth never asked for “Mother’s Name” or “Father’s Name.” Instead, they asked for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.”” The same followed for school enrollment forms, medical forms, passport forms, etc., etc.
However, as the result of biology, automatically, I was given the label of “mum,” never thinking that much about it.
Just over 15 years ago, the same followed when I gave birth to Kid2.
When I gave birth to Kid2, I still didn’t know much about this whole transgender thing. That would come about a year later, once I took my Abnormal Psychology class, as part of my psychology degree requirement. It was at that point that things finally started to click. I stopped praying that I was born intersex and that my parents made the wrong choice, and began my journey to accepting that I was a trans man.
Before I publicly “came out” three years ago, my children always knew that I was different than the mothers of their peers. Without prompting, they would describe me as a gay man trapped in a girl’s body. They just knew. They always got it, on some level. But, because of biology, I was still called “mum.”
Around the time that I came out in public, as my boys were older and could formulate specific questions about what it means for me to be a trans man, Kid2 asked, “Do I have to start calling you ‘dad’ now?
I thought about it for a bit and decided, no, because I am the parent who birthed them. I see the labels “mum” and “dad” more as labels to describe biological functions, rather than societal constructs. Though, most people see them as societal constructs, which can cause so much confusion.
Fast-forward to this past Mother’s Day. It was late in the day and I had realized that neither of my children, nor Andrew, had wished me a happy Mother’s Day. Andrew didn’t even know Canada does Mother’s Day, so that explained that. Late in the day, I decided to ask Kid2 why he hadn’t wished me a happy Mother’s Day for the last few years, and he said, “Well… I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate because, well… you know. It’s just not you.”
Again, my children simply “get it.” They understand all of this, without ever needing to sit them down for “talks.” If only it was that simple with the adults in my life. More on that in a bit.
Then, there was a brief discussion about how wishing me a happy Father’s Day would probably be more appropriate. However, I’m not even sure that fits because I label myself “parent,” and for most of my children’s lives, I was the parent, having to “play” both roles.
Andrew’s mum also had questions about it because they call me “mum” but I’m not a “mum.” Andrew said, “Jules is the parental unit. However, there is no Happy Parental Unit Day, so it’s just not a thing in our house.”
Each year, I get less and less “Happy Mother’s Day!” wishes. This year, I only got one, which made me feel good as, slowly, people are understanding.
Though, part of me wishes it didn’t take people so long. Most trans people I know, it took their friends only six months to stop using the wrong pronouns. Three years later, I’m still having to correct 99 percent of the people who know that I’m transgender in regards to proper pronouns, including my closest friends — the ones who signed relationships contracts.
It’s frustrating, to say the least.
As always, if you don’t know, are curious, or are unsure, simply ask the question. Especially as each transgender person has their own preferences.
Because of biology, I’m okay with the my children making use of the word “mum.” Other trans men may prefer “dad.” So ask. As for the greater world, I prefer “parent.” That is what I am.
As a reminder about pronouns, I prefer the singular “they/them” because it forces people to view me as a person instead of a gender. That said, I love it when people use “he/him” in reference to me. So that is okay, too. Or, just simply use my name instead of a personal pronoun. But, it’s never okay to use “she/her,” “wife,” “lady,” “ma’am,”or anything else that feminizes me.
There are no hard and fast rules. Each transgender person has individual wants and needs. When adding children to the mix, it can get even more confusing.
Maybe one day we’ll have a Parental Unit Day to honor families who do not fit into the “traditional” makeup.
Until that day happens, I’m just happy that I’ve finally experienced a Mother’s Day where I didn’t feel like a complete fraud, and, as a result, had a marvelous day. It may have been a slow road, but I think people in my life are finally starting to see me for me.
It feels wonderful.
If this post has brought up any questions in your mind about transgender parenting, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them in a post. While my experiences may not always work for you, like my geeky-queer wedding planning series, maybe it will help you to find the road that works best for you and your family, while knowing that you are not alone in your journey.