Sunday, December 2, 2007

Looking for a Road Map

This week I found myself wishing for a map. After the holiday, it was hard to get back into project mode and I found myself overwhelmed by everything I hope to accomplish in the next few months. My friend was talking about 'generation me' this morning, that we have too many choices and too much information so we are constantly trying to plan the next thing, but find the choices increasingly overwhelming. Perhaps this is part of my problem?

When I started this work over four years ago, I was seeking corroboration, a collection of others' experiences that resonated with my own. It had never occurred to me to look before then.

Ten years ago this month, my four-year old sister told me, "some people are girls on the inside and girls on the outside, like you and me. Some people are girls on the inside and boys on the outside, like Dad." A very memorable conversation with my father followed. My dad was becoming a woman... (s)he had been seeing a gender therapist... (s)he would start taking hormones in January... (s)he had half a closet full of women's clothing and a makeup mirror. All of this was news to me. Dad handed me a pamphlet about transgender people and I went into my room to cry. I wanted a pamphlet for me, one that explained what it meant to have a parent transition, one that made me feel less alone in my experience and gave me some sort of guidance. To be honest, I never read the other pamphlet.

It wasn't until years later when my high school friend sent me an excerpt from Noelle Howey's book that I realized I was still missing that pamphlet. I sat on the green line train in Boston, reading Noelle's story about her father's transition, and the tremors of her story ran through me. My eyes teared as I realized it was time to start talking about this part of my life. It was time to find others because, for the first time, I realized they existed.

I decided to focus my anthropology honors thesis on 'the social experience of people with transgender parents'. Surely, I would find research some brilliant scholar had completed and supplement that work with my own experiences. My library search came up with a few results: Noelle's memoir, Noelle's collection of essays by people with LG or T parents (Out of the Ordinary), and a psychological study by Dr. Richard Green stating that people with transsexual parents are 'normal'. Clearly, not enough material on which to base a thesis.

Rather than depending on secondary sources, I decided to do qualitative interviews with people with transgender parents. When I started contacting organizations and web-based support groups, everyone told me that I was doing really important work (i.e., work that still needed to be done). This revelation was exhilarating and terrifying. Was this really my responsibility? When I contacted Abigail Garner to see whether she knew of any, she echoed the need for my work and asked to interview me for her book. That summer, I attended my first Familyweek and connected to the queerspawn community and COLAGE for the first time. It changed my life and made me truly grateful that my father is a transwoman, because that fact connects me to this incredible movement and community. So began my journey into becoming a professional queerspawn.

I am finally writing the pamphlet that I'd hoped for ten years ago. It will be more like a resource guide. I am still exhilarated and a bit terrified, but I know that it's my work to do. Thankfully, there is a great organization and a beautiful community supporting me in this journey. Unfortunately, they don't have the map either. I guess that's the beauty of it... this is my path to chart myself.

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