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Growing Up

Jean-Marc Nattier: Portrait of a Young Woman Painter

Portrait of a Young Woman Painter – Jean-Marc Nattier

Q: What’s more public & awkward than adolescence?
A: A transgender person’s second adolescence.

I failed my first adolescence as a teen, and a lot of people in my life have been forced to experience me as I’ve been going through my second one.

For most people this awkward time of change happens when expected, and there are allowances for the learning, the changes, and the mistakes. When a trans person is forced into “remedial” adolescence, it’s often at a time in life when they are already (reasonably) mature and functioning adults…

…So, what’s it like to be a 54 year old adult trying to move through a kind of accelerated “girlhood” into womanhood? It’s difficult, it’s amazing, parts are fun, it’s exhausting, it’s insecure, it’s bothersome to others, it’s often embarrassing. Suddenly, I am after decades as an adult, *not* “acting my age,” because I am trying to re-process what did not go right the first time. It’s a “phase,” exacerbated by a second-hormonal-puberty, and I’m growing out of it.

What prompted me to write this is some uncomfortable indirect feedback I recently received. It was difficult in that it revealed that there are ways I’ve wearied people with “girliness” that is unbecoming of my age. Ouch…BUT it’s a *good* discomfort, because it shows that I am past the point where I need to assert my femininity, and I can just “get on with life” as a woman – I’m past the point of needing to prove this to anyone…

And I *truly apologize* to those I’ve so wearied, and *appreciate* everyone’s patience with me!

…There is a sense in which I’ve suspected this for a while, but sometimes it helps to see it in “black & white,” for someone to put a “fine-point” on the issue.

In another way, the feedback was *very validating* to me: it is a way of saying “I graduate” *IF* I’m willing to “step-off the stage with my diploma.” This work is done; the walk-beyond into “post-graduate” life is what remains.

This step isn’t so-much eliminating distracting behaviors as it’s recognizing that I’ve outgrown them. As with many trans people, my transition has been an exercise in extreme vulnerability, and for me, it is a phase that is ending. I’ve no need any longer to compensate for such vulnerability: my new wings have cured enough to fly upon…

The events of the last month or so have been pushing me through a period of rapid “tying-up-loose-ends” growth in more ways than simply the way I express myself to others. What has been revealed to me here is symbolic of what has been happening in “still waters” beneath, what is happening by God’s impetus and with God’s grace.

…The people who have given me this feedback have done me an *invaluable service*, for which I am *grateful*: they didn’t just tell me to “stop being a silly girl,” they reminded me that I can safely leave my girlish-phase behind because I’ve outgrown it as woman I have already become. I am *so blessed*, so blessed!!

2

The Gift

And the parts that are "unpresentable" are treated with special modesty --Paul, the apostleLife goes on whatever our place and circumstances: love, joy, pain and loss all seem to join hands as sisters.

My father in-law is named Bill; twenty-five years ago we met when I asked for the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage. Bill is eighty-eight and in the point in his Alzheimer’s where he can barely eat, hardly moves and rarely makes a recognizable utterance. We love Bill, one of the smartest and kindest people I have ever met. His wife Barbara, a bit younger, faithfully cares for him with the help of a full-time, at-home nurse. We think that this will be our last Christmas with Pop and one of our last with Mom…

…These recent years, I have kept a low profile around Pop as Mom has gradually witnessed me transition. I am the same person, only different: always as much a daughter-in-law as I was a son, maybe more: now I look, sound and behave more a daughter than their own daughter, my spouse…

Pop’s mind has been declining for years, though he was a much sought-after engineer until his retirement at seventy-eight – his work probably saved a LOT of lives, but only God knows.

…I never told Bill that I am transgender and that I needed to become myself: a woman. He has known me as the one he entrusted to love and help his baby daughter through all her life-long illnesses. I never introduced him to Brettany, to Renee: I did not want to make his confused days even more difficult. So I smiled, spoke and touched gently, and helped move, bathe and change him. He has asked about me by speaking my old name as a question, but not to me…I held-back my name even as I lovingly spoke his…

…It has become our tradition to set-up and take-down the Christmas decorations in their home, started because this was the one thing Mom & Pop bickered about. It has always brought us joy to do this for them. This year was a bit different: We filled the tree with ornaments, and as usual, some odd dozen or three ornaments didn’t “make the cut” and get placed onto the tree…we admired the tree’s beauty and everyone left to other things. BUT I “heard” the voices of those ornaments that were left and they tugged on my heart. Use us also!! We’ve been faithful too!! This may be Bill’s last Christmas on earth, and it seemed that ALL of these small, faithful ones wanted their place of honor on what might be a final tree. So I carefully and tearfully placed each one, even the broken ones, the overlooked ones, the “unpresentable” ones…and they were all there. And the family returned and rejoiced at how much more grand the tree looked this year…

…We take turns handing out presents, and slowly open each present as everyone watches on, enjoying the sparks of joy given and received…

Last year Bill was “home” in himself enough to participate after a fashion – he didn’t seem to really know us, but he could still smile and laugh and interact with us. For most of this year, no one has been “home” in Bill’s body.

…Our eyes met, Bill’s and mine, and I smiled and then SUDDENLY his face lit and Bill was *HOME*, and he smiled his “Bill” smile in recognition and then *WINKED* at me as I began to clear new-fallen tears. No words were spoken: none were needed, as his face seemed to say: “I *know* you; I *trust* you; it’s *all* okay.” Then as suddenly, the lights turned-off and the “home” was vacant again…

…And nobody else among us seemed to witness the miracle of the gift given and received.


My family and I have spent much of the last year with Barbara and Bill, helping Mom care for herself and her dear husband of more than half a century. Our son, the gentle and compassionate young man that he is, has been able to forge a bond with his grandfather that transcends circumstances. We are so blessed.