As we approach the second TransParent Day (Sunday, November 7, 2010) I put down some thoughts on the celebration and the impact so far and some feedback I have received since we launched TransParent Day in 2009.
The Genesis In the summer of 2009 my good friend Erica Fields talked to me about a concern that her daughter had about celebrating "Father's Day" in 2009, a first for Erica and her daughter. Her daughter indicated that it just did not feel right. She proposed that they pick another Sunday in the year to celebrate their relationship. I would be a day for them to recognize Erica's new status as a "Trans Parent" and Erica and the family could celebrate. They would even call it "TransParent" Day. They picked the first Sunday in November to observe the event as that had been a day of celebration in Erica's family due to the fact the she, and and other family members, had been adopted.
When Erica relayed this story to me I told her the idea was way to good to keep to herself. I immediately registered TransParentDay.org and the two of us formed a mission to spread the word about TransParent Day throughout the world. Our first stop was the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, GA with a little more than a month away from the first TransParent Day in 2009.
We pounced on the conference with our pink, white and blue wristbands. And spread the word virally about TransParent Day. People got it instantly!
Several hundred wristbands later we had achieved our goal for those days. Get the word out enough so that somebody else knew. Donna Rose blogged about it, Chloe Prince promoted it, Ethan St. Pierre featured an interview with me on his show on TransParent Day 2009. We had made an impression.
It has been a year since that time and a lot has come to pass, all good.
Transgender Mothers and Fathers
I have had a lot of questions posed over the last year with respect to TransParent Day. Things like "Can a transwoman be a mother?" "Is a transman, who has birthed a child, a mother?" I would consider the answer to both questions is a qualified "yes." If we take the biological into the question, any human that gives live birth to another should be considered a "mother", kind of without question. But from there it gets cloudy. Adoption, marriage, divorce, surrogacy, foster parentship, and a whole host of other conditions make unusual mothering, and fathering, situations very possible, and even common. Add being trans to the question and it just adds an additional set of outcomes.
So who decides you are mom or dad or something else? My contention is "we", the transitioners, do not get to decide this. The kids do. Meaning, if they think you are mother, or father, or maddy or whatever, they get to decide if your gender has significance on a day of recognition. You do not get to pick. So if your kids think of you as mom, then you are. 'Nuff said.
What begs the question more is, if you are your children's biological father, can you also be their mother? For you I will offer the answer, I do not know. A lot of this depends on your situation, the relationship you have with your kids, and quite frankly the relationship you have with their mother, or the person they call "Mom", who was not you. To my knowledge, no transwoman has yet to give birth. The same is not true for some transmen. [Note to readers, if you are a transwoman who has given birth contact me immediately I want the rights to your story!]
For me the question is easy, I am not their mother. They have a mother, and it is not me, I did not do the nine months of heavy lifting required. My ex did. And as such, she owns Mother's Day, and should, and for me to try and horn in on it is not only rude, but disrespectful. My children have known me as Dad, and in many ways still do. And that, is ok with me.
And yet I see some biological father transwomen wanting recognition on Mother's day from their kids and others. Seriously? Talk about rewriting history. Talk about ego. I always joked when people showered compliments on the appearance of my newborn sons. I would tell them I was only present for the "initial input." At least from a biological perspective this was true. And so why would a transwoman demand equal billing with the mother of her children? And my personal take, I believe, is the real answer, because Father's day does not work for them anymore.
Some are not going to like that statement as they will claim it perpetuates the gender binary. Sorry. And although I cannot really see the perspective of transmen, who have kids, and Father's day, especially if there is another Dad in the picture I imagine that Mother's day holds similar angst.
Of course all of this pales by comparison to what your kids might actually think. Did you bother to ask them about it? I did. The reality is they, at least in my case, don't care. Yeah, that can hurt too. Mother's and Father's days are something you grow to appreciate as you get older. As you realize what your parents did, or did not, do for you. But we go through the motions with the kids too. The goal I suspect is to teach them that others make sacrifices for their benefit. And for my money that is a good lesson for any person to learn regardless of lineage or gender.
So that leaves us with this problem space. What to do? Nothing fits, or that which does seem to fit often feels awkward.
And so last year my friend Erica and I started TransParentDay and TransParentDay.org to try and fill that gap. And the reason was we wanted to do this is to create a safe place where we can forget about all of this conflicting gender and parenting stuff, if for only a day. The idea is pretty straight forward. If you are trans, in any variety, and you have kids, you can celebrate the day with your kids, without any of the traditional trappings, angst or pain.
We do not want this to detract from anybody that prefers to use Mother's or Father's day. Please, by all means, if that is what you normally do, then go right ahead, it is not a competition. Call it augmentation, or an alternative. And if you do celebrate then by all means let us know so we can share your experiences with others.
To date we have produced 3500 wristbands. They have been distributed in places like Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Portland OR, Seattle, Harrisburg, New Haven, St. Louis, Anchorage, Winnepeg and likely many other places I do not know about. I know our reach has become global with folks in the UK and Germany sporting wristbands. I am always thrilled when I see somebody I have never met posting a photo online and look, there is a wristband.
On TransParent Day 2010 I know of celebrations that will be held in Alaska, Oregon, Minnesota and here in my home state of Maryland. I know many of these will involve TransParented families. And it does my heart good to see that almost all of these efforts are going without my, or Erica's, direct involvement, meaning this idea belongs to everybody, I am merely a messenger, as are now all of you too.
Reflections On The Year
In June 2010 we made a second splash at the Be All Conference in Chicago, this time in coordination with the conference organizers. Every attendee got a wristband. In September Erica, and a cast of others, were doing the work in Atlanta again. The word is out and grows.
I now find when I travel to a "trans" event, people are sporting the wristbands, even before I get there, and even though I do not know who they are, and they do not know me. I often will ask what is it? Just to see how clear the message has traveled. I am never disappointed.
Upon meeting a person who asked me for a wristband she explained that she had given hers away. I asked to whom, she stated she was at the National Cathedral in Washington DC and had given it to the Dean of the Cathedral. I heard from transgender ministers, who wanted to celebrate the day in their church and would I send them wristbands.
I have heard from countless support groups, physicians and therapists (who keep them in their offices), friends of friends. Never have I seen an idea spread in a community with such ease and lack of effort.
And mostly I hear about hope. Hope that estranged families might be reconnected on this day. That families with discord, are planning on putting it aside for a day to celebrate each other. These are all good things.
TransParent Day has given me faith that the goodness in people transcends gender and stereotypes. That folks do realize that there are many, many excellent transgender parents out there that love their children and that there are many children that hold that same love for their parents. This is a very good thing.
Happy TransParent Day to you and your children. May we all live in peace.