Sunday, September 05, 2010

In Which I Out Myself as the Parent of a Transgender Child

…but of course, I do so on my “secret” blog.

Maverick has now legally changed his name to "Melody Lani" and sometime next week will be legally declared female. His (her) friends, and many of our family and friends are cheering enthusiastically.

Normally I do not allow my emotions about this to rise to the surface, but today I am simply a grieving mother. And it's hard to know where to go with that. My child, who I love deeply, is, of course, still living. And he (she) is still the same compassionate, creative, intuitive person as before. I have friends whose children have died and it would be inappropriate to compare this to that.

But every time I tell myself that, I tamp the pain down neatly and move to the cleaner, more antiseptic philosophical plane where gender doesn't matter all that much and my beliefs about God, sexuality and human identity are only one approach among myriad others.

I am reading Love is an Orientation, by Andrew Marin and am very impressed by it. In fact, I have barely put it down these last couple of days, taking it with me everywhere, like I did with books I loved as a kid. Though Andrew is evangelical, he has thrown off some of the key characteristics that ultimately drove me from the evangelicals when I was one: the compulsion to preach, in biblical language at people who embrace neither preaching nor the Bible (and then declare those same people “lost” and “shake the dust from one’s feet.”); the us/them attitude; the shuddering and condemnation over “sexual sin”—particularly homosexuality; the smug self-righteousness.

Andrew Marin lives, with his wife, in Boystown—a largely gay-populated area of Chicago. His goal is to build bridges between the evangelical and LGBT communities through respectful dialogue. And this sort of dialogue is what I like to do—but at the moment I am derailed by a piercing sense of loss.

When Maverick came out as gay five and a half years ago (at the age of 14), I felt as if I got “outed,” too. My progressive, spiritually diverse friends (including Jonathan, a gay man I loved like a brother) had no idea I had such traditional beliefs about sexuality. While they didn’t accuse me of being cruel and hateful when I did not want Maverick to go this direction, they did have a hard time knowing how to support both me and Maverick. The exception, ironically, was my beloved Jonathan, who we lost less than two years later to cancer. He listened patiently and validated my feelings, though my beliefs seemed to challenge his own identity. I told him that I didn’t know how he walked that kind of a tightrope, but I know he did so out of love for me. (He had also been the first adult Maverick came out to.)

Now that “Melody” has moved from gay to transgender, I find myself in a conundrum. I love my child. We have always been close, even through our disagreements about his being gay. I feel sadder every week we don’t have contact and happier when we do talk. The last we talked, Melody was interested in hearing about my feelings and in honoring them. As “she” has continued on this journey and had the support of friends and some family, she has been more able to consider my opposition as a deeply-held belief, not an attack. I appreciate this very much.

Yet I do feel my child has been stolen from me. I don’t feel I have a right to dictate my adult child’s life, but in my gut is the sense that other people, who consider themselves more enlightened, progressive and healthy than I, swept in six years ago and snatched him away.

On her Facebook account, Melody is receiving a veritable standing ovation—some of it from relatives and friends of ours who must know we are grieving. It’s hard to know where to go. This is beyond politics, beyond issues of sin and condemnation, beyond opposing sides squaring off against each other. And while I believe strongly that gender matters and that we are created male and female, I also believe that it doesn’t matter—that in Christ there is no male and female. I know I am capable of fair-minded dialogue between progressive and traditional points of view. But I must keep my emotions at bay in order to accomplish this—especially now. And so I carry this sorrow in me as a hidden thing.

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