For the past four years, we’ve been hanging a stocking for a child who is no longer here. She was our youngest, and even the act of writing about her makes me feel guilty of treason. I never imagined how attached I would be to a knitted red sock or that it would stand for the last bastion of a major transformation in our home.
In a sea of surrenders and letting go, I selfishly held onto the stocking as well as my breath in hopes that no one would notice… that it might be harmless enough to slip by. After all, we had been so good about everything else.
First went the speaking of her name, and then pronoun, then the pink ribbons, and her pretty little dresses would be folded up and sent to the Good Will along with the flowery bedding. It was not easy to be so meticulous about erasing her.
Normally when a child dies you are allowed to hold tight to the trinkets and memories. But the guidance and books that we have been inundated with have suggested otherwise. We should eradication the sight and shadow of her, pull the pictures, edit her from our history and leave no crumb behind. Do this in the name of your health new child. Your trans-gender son.
My husband and I nod and try our best to tuck in our confusion and leave our conflicted feelings at the threshold. This is not about us. We want a well adjusted trans kid, not the stunted, suicidal one that is surely promised if we don’t make the right moves and say the right things.
According to RaRE research, 48% of Trans* young people had made at least one suicide attempt in their lives… compared to 26% of cisgender young people. The numbers are higher when the youth is not being supported at home or in the community.
The progress, pride, and advancements that have been hard-won by the forerunners of the trans community have allowed my child to come out at the age of thirteen without too much of a ruffle. A decade earlier most trans people did not have access to understanding their place in the world and were most likely shunned by their family and community members. Christmas stockings were the least of their worries.
But I am a sentimental mother who wears her heart on her sleeve for better or worse. Feelings are to be expressed, examines, honored… your feelings warrant words, my feels warrant words, even if I have no idea what exactly I am feeling. As a writer, I sit with this splinter in my paw and attempt to wrangle my words, in hopes of working it out.
In my writing group, I bow my head to the woman who shares a raw piece about being in the psych ward. “Thank you for taking me someplace I did not want to go.” I say, “It is generous.” My words echo back to me as I struggle to understand my place in this conversation. And though my voice is shaky and unsure, I encourage myself to share my perspective. To just get it out, to at least attempt to make an effort to examine this complex riddle of resurrections and annihilations on the backdrop of Christmas.
At the hair salon, the locks of blond curls fall to the floor. I catch his eye in the mirror and smile. “It looks great,” I say. And it does and I love him for his steadfast courage to move in the direction of his truth. But every step he takes I feel her slip and I need to fight my motherly urge NOT to reach for her… but to just let her fall, like discarded hair.
All this shedding is not without benefits there have been other casualties in the wake of his rise that I shed no tears for. The strange anger, and debilitating anxiety the lack of confidence and failing grade I watch them melt like April snow as he springs into himself. And I am so grateful to witness this son rise. It is as audacious as you could imagine.
So when I opened the box of holiday decorations and see this old name, this “dead name” staring back at me I am surprised by the wave of shameful confusion, shame that I am still so confused. And anger, that my feelings are categorized as selfish, and disappointed in myself as I witness the effortlessness nature that some parents seem to navigate this particular situation. Or maybe they are just not talking about it.
The past three Christmases we have hung the stocking backward. Conspicuously pointing right as all the other stocking trend left. I am no Martha Stewart I could give a shit about consistency or esthetics, it just this odd little reminder that “one of these kids is not like the others”
The matching knit stockings were gifted by my mother-in-law. She had commissioned a woman to make this sweet one of a kind holiday totems. My mother in law died a few years back after suffering a stock. Getting a new stocking is not a real option. So I search the internet and order a big sew on a label that will cover the old name and honor the new.
It arrives in the mail and I find the sewing boxes and fumble with the needle, this is not one of those jobs you can take to the seamstress. Too much explaining to do. I fold the fabric over and tuck away my daughter and begin to fasten my son’s chosen name to the stocking. It’s a silent and less dramatic Sophi’s choice that I make with every stick.
My son will wake on Christmas morning and see himself as SEEN. A gift that I am grateful to give. Just another step on the long journey of being a trans-parent. But I am also keenly aware that being a trans-parent sometimes feels like I am asked to be completely void of my own feelings. Which I seem to have a lot of and they can be seen as a threat to my son’s happiness and well being.
Here is the math. I once had two daughters and two sons. Now I have a daughter, two sons and a transgender son. One day I will have one daughter and three sons. For now, we are in the transition, building the bridge as we walk it.
There will be casualties, things once held precious will need to be amputated I know this. But for now, she is tucked, folded over and hanging in the correct direction, as if to say, nothing has ever happened here.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo courtesy iStock.