I started this post a couple of weeks ago, I don’t often have difficulty writing but this topic has required some pondering and much discussion.
A couple of weeks ago I had a moment of dread, that cold grip in your tummy as the thought popped into my head “what if Jeremy isn’t man enough”. I said something to my bestie who said “What does that even mean!!!” and she was right, what does that thought even mean. What are my concerns really and are they genuine?
Firstly, I have a concern that my child will not look like their chosen gender when they transition. I am concerned that if they don’t they will have a greater chance of being assaulted or harassed. I read so often about assaults on transgender young people that it creates a fear in me that isn’t really reasonable. Jeremy doesn’t even think this makes sense, because in his mind if he presents as Jeremy then the world will conform and accept him as Jeremy. I hope that his experiences meet his expectations and nothing negative happens. When Jeremy starts to use testosterone he will look more and more masculine, which is the purpose of using testosterone. He is already wearing masculine clothes and has an amazing blue mohawk. There is so much more though to being masculine and where will Jeremy learn these things? Or is there, I don’t know? I am feeling particularly ill equipped on this topic.
I have always said that my sons are an interesting study in nature v nurture. Our parents are our first examples of being grown up and the parent of our gender is watched closely for clues to unlock the mysteries of how to navigate through the world. My eldest has no memory of living with his biological father and lived with his step father for almost fifteen years. Jeremy was twelve when his father and I separated. They have gone through the selection process of what they like about the behaviours of their respective fathers and what they are less in love with. I’m not saying that the parent of your gender is your only influence, that negates the efforts of single sex couples raising children, or indeed single parents who have little or no buy in from the other parent in regards to child rearing. Even the absence of a parent can be an influence in the decision making process that we go through about our behaviours. Each person is shaped by their experiences, which are unique.
The teen years are especially crucial in the decision making process about how to be, and as Jeremy is about to go through puberty again I suppose it’s like he has another chance to look at who he is and who he wants to be. Because I am eternally meddling, I am taking the opportunity now to say to Jeremy “son, consider this”;
- Take a look at my bestie’s husband, a man who thinks about the comfort of others, who is generous and warm and loving and lets the world know it through his actions. A man who sat with me and cried with me at 3 am when my world was falling apart and said that I was strong and brave and that I could manage my way through what was happening. A man who is a leader. A man who has genuine friendships and is interested and engaged in other people’s ups and downs. A man who has an unshakable love for his wife and child despite the challenges thrown at him by his work which means he has not lived in the same town as them for most of his marriage or he is away for extended periods of time.
- Take a look at my friend. A man who I have watched as he cares for his child, giving up material success to support his child with never failing patience through a difficult journey of mental illness. A man who is gentle and caring and has a wicked sense of humour. A man who wouldn’t stop the car to get a coffee for himself, but if I want a coffee……….
- Take a look at my dad, whose genius for loving made his daughters feel like princesses. A man who took care of his family, working three jobs but still finding time to read his kids stories. A man who always saw his role as washing up because he couldn’t cook and that was fair. A man who delighted in the talents of his wife and recognised that she needed more in her life than the challenges of raising three children close in age and encouraged and supported her to have outside interests. A man whose voice fills with joy when he answers the phone and one of his children is on the other end of the line.
I can teach Jeremy how to do stuff, like change a tyre, repair things, use tools, mow the lawns. Jeremy will also find his own role models. Today however, I want to gift to Jeremy the opportunity to look anew at the extraordinary talents of maleness that these men possess.