I'm a well-known sex educator and activist. I teach about coming out all the time. And I have found myself in a committed relationship with a beautiful woman who has a son that I have come to call my own. And at the time of this writing, I am almost two years into being in this young man's life and he doesn't know I am transgender. How did that happen and how come this is so damn hard for me to tell him?
My stepson has been in middle school and it hasn't always been easy. Kids get picked on, judged and bullied. I couldn't get past this idea that if it was known that I was transgender, things could only get worse.
Some who know me and my work would be very surprised that I have been slow to come out to my stepson. Some who don't know me, might criticize me. And you know what? Screw them. This is hard shit. And even for a hard core transgender activist and sex educator, confronting the shame that I may be dumping on my kids head in the middle of teenage angst and middle school has been hard to bear.
I get caught between my activist all out there persona and the place that so many LGBTQ parents find themselves in. Honestly, I counsel on this all the time. And here I am, caught in my own humanness wanting to be out in every aspect of my life. Yet, totally aware of how "who I am" can ripple, change and disrupt the lives of people that I love. How do you balance that? How do I ask a kid just entering puberty to also deal with this? Isn't just normal puberty enough to deal with? The thought of me just being who I am making his life more difficult is not easy to deal with.
Lets add to all of that, the fact that I am the first man in his and his mother's life that has really put energy into building a healthy relationship with him. He and I enjoy hanging out together doing guy stuff. I am teaching him to lift weights, taking him to the gym, and I do his science projects with him. We have bonded and with all of that wonderful male bonding there is also a part inside of me that wonders how coming out to him that I was born a biological female would change that bond.
Let's face it: Kids grow up in a gender-biased and binary world. Yet, he knows that I am a diversity trainer that specializes in LGBTQ and gender issues. Because of this, as a family, we have had many discussions about diversity and we have friends of all flavors that he has is exposed to. Still, there is "Guy Stuff" and "Girl Stuff" and "Father and Son Stuff" and "Mom, you can't understand this 'cause you're a girl stuff and I want to talk to Mac Stuff." And this is a kid being raised in a home that celebrates LGBTQ issues all the while not knowing a huge part of my history and the journey that has helped make me who I am today.
I'm scared. That is honest. I have just celebrated my very first "Father's Day" with this fabulous boy. We did all the normal father/son things. And it felt wonderful. I don't want to lose this. I don't want him to lose this. That's the great unknown of "coming out." What will we lose? What will we gain? Is full disclosure worth the risks? When is the right time to tell him to minimize any hardship of this. How much does he need to know? These are all details to figure out that can be hard to know until you are in the middle of it all.
Recently, I picked him up from frisbee camp, as soon as got in the car he confided in me that he gets tongue tied around pretty girls. This was something that was "between us guys." I can't exactly put into words how precious all of this is to me. How I was able to counsel him; how we shared a laugh and this knowing knowledge "about girls."
Can his mind expand enough to take in that I am still his step-dad and that he can still talk to me about all of the feelings that he has? Feelings that in this binary world he lives in belongs to cis gendered males only? Can he understand that nothing between us has changed, or will this be too much for him to process at his age. It sure feels like it's asking a lot of a thirteen year old. Yet, this is our family and in living the very public life that I live. It's past time to talk with him.
I continue to be challenged by my deep concern that I am handing this beautiful boy a world of trouble that he didn't sign up for. He will have to learn who it is appropriate and safe for him to share this personal knowledge of his family with. He will have to deal with the haters. He will have to learn how to manage having a dad who is a way out of the box. Well, maybe he already has already mastered that one! We will see.