I have been a dad for 6 years, a mom for 12, and for a time in between I was both, or neither, like some parental version of the schnoodle or the cockapoo.
I understand the reluctance many people have to play down the importance of gender, or for that matter, biology, in parenting; a world in which male and female are not fixed poles but points in a spectrum is a world that feels unstable, unreal. And yet to accept the wondrous scope of gender is to affirm the potential of life, in all its messy beauty. Motherhood and fatherhood are not binaries. And that, I’d argue, is a good thing.
All of this gives me great hope for the future of the American family, for our open-mindedness and the great potential of our sons and daughters. But just as I begin to become overly optimistic, I remember seeing some television show featuring transsexual women and their children, back in the 1970s.
My grandmother was watching it. “Oh for God’s sake,” she said, sucking on her Kent filter king, “those people aren’t women.”
“They’re not?” I said. She had no idea that I was a woman like the ones she was dismissing. How could she have known? I was just a boy then.
“Of course not,” said Gammie.
“They have children,” I pointed out. “And breasts. And — you know. Vaginas.”
She shot me a look. Ladies of her generation didn’t say vagina or vote for Democrats.
“That’s not what makes someone a mother,” she said.
“Really? What does?”
Gammie took a long drag on her cigarette.
“Suffering,” she said.
For mothers and fathers alike, there are times when the line between suffering and joy can be as vague as the line, for transgender people, between masculine and feminine. But surely it is those moments we feel everything at once — maleness, femaleness, melancholy, ecstasy — that make us most human.”