The Love Story of Elizabeth and Her Transman Deen: Meet Their Parents

After 10 years of their "queer" children being together, the parents met only a few months ago during the month of Ramadan.
11/26/2010 01:39pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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This is the second part of a two-part series. Read the first part here.

Meet the Parents

After 10 year of their "queer" children being together, the parents met only a few months ago during the month of Ramadan. Deen's parents were fasting, but they were happy to talk about the weather and the garden.

Sitting at a restaurant in the East Village, the couple recalled the long-anticipated tête-à-tête. "It went off totally fine," they agreed, grinning at each other.

Unfortunately, Deen's older brother, who had started out being okay with his sibling's transition, has now become distant, even while living in the same city. "I guess he has a block to seeing his sister as anything but his sister," said Deen.

While Deen calls Elizabeth's parents "Mom" and "Dad," Elizabeth calls Deen's parents "Uncle" and "Aunty," which is an Indian way of referring to elders, even if they are not related.

The Uncle-Aunty reference, however, came after several years of patient getting-the-parents-to-like-you tactics. After a while, saying "Dr." seemed "ridiculous" to Elizabeth, and she finally took the plunge by addressing an e-mail to "Aunty."

And the reply came back signed "Aunty." "I'm in," laughed Elizabeth, pumping her fists in the air.

It's been very important for Elizabeth and Deen to take their parents along on their journey of love and self-discovery. After years of confusion, crying and anger, life is calmer now.

"Family is everything to us," said Elizabeth. "Deen was in so much pain, but we never gave up on his parents, and we've never felt rejected by them."

When Deen's physical changes became obvious, the couple sent a packet of reading material to their parents about what would happen to him.

Elizabeth's mom, a teacher who grew up in Tennessee, and her father, who served in the Navy, both did the reading and welcomed Deen into their family like another son-in-law.

"They even went and got the books on the list," said Elizabeth. "They seem to have adjusted really well."

Even Elizabeth's Presbyterian grandmother, who is in her 90s, invited the very butch woman she met at the wedding of Elizabeth's sister to join the family photograph.

A few years later, however, when Deen looked like a man, Elizabeth found herself "freaking out" about what her grandparents would think when they met him on a family holiday.

But Elizabeth's mother, 65, had already had that difficult conversation with her mom. "I know how hard it must have been for her," Elizabeth said, tears springing to her eyes. "As hard as it would have been for me, I'm still protected. It's my mother who would be judged on how we were brought up."

Although the couple never asked for money, it was Elizabeth's parents who paid for Deen's expensive surgery that put an end to his breast misery. "They just saw how uncomfortable he was," she said.

And Now...

2010-11-23-deen2.jpgDeen and his parents have fallen into a relaxed pattern of acceptance, but they're still not comfortable with relatives knowing about their daughter becoming a transman, especially family back home in India, where they often visit.

Initially, Deen resented the secrecy. "It felt as if they were ashamed of me," he said. "But now I think it's not that they're ashamed of me but they want to protect me."

Whatever their reasons, Deen isn't mounting another battle. All he said was, "My grandmother is in India ... it's weird that I won't see her again."

While others may view Deen and Elizabeth's decade as quite the roller coaster, they see it as the regular set of hoops that any two people, fighting to be together, may have to jump through.

These days, Deen is a playwright and Elizabeth is a media relations specialist. They live together in Brooklyn.

Marriage is in the cards, but Elizabeth goes back and forth on the idea of getting legally hitched. "I don't need a piece of paper to say that we're legitimate -- we are legitimate," she declared, but at the same time confessed to worrying about the future.

"You know things like hospital visitations or if we want to buy a house together," she said. "We want to be legally protected like family members."

While the tumultuous quest of making peace with their families may be winding down, the couple is facing new challenges, and one biggie is deciding whether to have children.

For Deen, kids are eventually going to happen at some point. "Thinking about my future children, I can hear them calling me daddy," he said.