Saturday, January 7, 2012

Achieving Balance

The blog is generating (I initially typed genderating-pretty funny, huh?) more and more comments that are inspiring to me because I think they'll spark conversation in families who are trying to come to terms with this issue.

In my previous blog I had mentioned DJ's taking issue with my keeping photos out in our home that depicted her when she was living her life as JD, our "son."  This has been a tough issue that I'm sure other families are grappling with.  On the one hand, if your family members have transitioned and no longer present as the gender they were born and initially raised as, they certainly may take issue with having reminders around the house, and who can blame them.

But conversely, how do we as parents, grandparents, and siblings, not to mention aunts and uncles, and cousins, erase our memories of that "other" beloved family member.  It's a real conundrum because in spite of the fact that we know JD was struggling to keep DJ under wraps, and we understand as much as we're able that this must have been excruciating for her, we also interacted with that person, and he, who is really she, with us.  The pictures at the beach of DJ, living as JD, building sandcastles with her brothers, dressing up as a waiter to bring Bulldog his breakfast in bed on Father's Day, exhibiting the giant gap that two lost teeth created one summer day, wearing bathing trunks after accompanying Romeo and I down the slip and slide in our front yard....these are ironclad memories-what do we do with them?

I've seriously considered taking a number of photos and having them photoshopped with a girl's hairdo superimposed over JD's "boy" haircuts so that we can display them without making DJ uncomfortable.  It requires "erasing" some aspects of the memory which is.....strange, but necessary?  I added the question mark to that sentence because is it necessary?  Well, apparently it is for DJ, and that's reason enough.

And that brings up the idea of remembering to use the proper pronoun when referring to the past when the person you remembered looked and to a certain degree, acted, differently than she does now.  When DJ was living as JD, we completely took her as JD;  well, of course we did!!!  So now, when we tell a family story, and we're always regaling each other with those because one of our family hobbies is throwing each other under the bus for a good laugh, we have to remember to remember JD as DJ.  Even though we are recalling mental images of a little boy, we have to transpose those memories when speaking of them by saying "she" instead of "he".  Mind, we are glad to do it, but it can be challenging

Bulldog and I have been doing it for nearly two years and on a very frequent basis, so it's not difficult.  But this Christmas we spent more time, contiguously, with our sons than we have since DJ came out and they weren't as well rehearsed in this.  Subsequently, they would recall a story and accidentally say "he" in referring to DJ in the past tense.  Bulldog and I had to privately chat with them, asking them to try to be a bit more aware of this dynamic so that they could mentally censor themselves and then come up with the appropriate pronoun that reflects who DJ actually  is today (and was then, in spite of presenting as JD.)  OMG-this is complicated!!!

Goodwrench and Romeo adore DJ and will do anything for her, so naturally, they made very successful transitions to using the correct pronoun, even when speaking in past tense.  Sheesh-DJ is SO worth the efforts, but it's some mental juggling that can be a challenge.

One of my blog readers, who keeps a great blog herself, "Traveling Transgendered" -check it out- in responding to my post yesterday, shared this:

Honestly I'm kind of torn here. Of course any decent parent will try and put their childrens welfare ahead of their own, but I can't help thinking that young DJ is not the only person in your family and her feelings are not the only ones that matter. Those photos are also your memories and your husbands memories and you have a right to them. I wouldn't feel bad about not having taken them down if I were you.

The author, Kim, makes an excellent point about balance, without actually using the word.  Good relationships are defined by all members making a great effort at achieving a balance between their needs and wants juxtaposed against the needs and wants of other family members, and the needs and wants of the family as a whole.  Most of us will have multiple entities involved that we are all trying to balance.  So, how do we manage it?  

There is no pat answer, save this:  constant conversation.  Oops, here's another pat answer:  vigilant consideration of each other's feelings and comfort levels.  And another one:  willingness to compromise.  If the transgendered person is our child, we want to sacrifice for our children, but if we do that too much, we raise a self-centered child.  The fact that the self-centered child is transgender is irrelevant.  Self-centered people won't do well in relationships, regardless of gender or orientation, or anything else for that matter.  If the transgendered persons are the parents and they sacrifice too much for their children,  they risk having  unhappy and unfulfilling lives.  We all want to make concessions for the person in our family who faces the most challenges, and that is noble and righteous.  But if we make too many, we upset the balance of the family.  Somehow, we have to find a way to "Walk placidly amid the noise and haste" * of our lives and the lives of our transgender family members and balance all of our needs. 

So, maybe Bulldog and I will keep pictures of JD in a more private place, or maybe we'll have some photos altered to reflect JD as DJ so that we can display them more publicly for her sake and ours.  Maybe we'll do both and maybe we'll talk to her and explain our conundrum and she can accept our feelings and tolerate a picture or two of her when she lived as JD.  It will be an ongoing process. That's all I have to offer-sorry-I wish I had something more concrete for people who are on the same path.  Anyone have any other suggestions, 'cause I'm listening.
* The Desiderita