My stepson is transgender. When Ian was born, he got stuck in the wrong body. Since I pretty much ignored science after fifth grade I’m not sure if this kinda thing is the fault of the stork, the universe, or some argument between a sundry of sperm and the single egg.
I began thinking on this little conundrum last night. I mean, I started thinking about it and then went down a different path and randomly blurted out to my husband, “You know, I don’t know you by your intestines or your blood.”
This was out of context from any conversation we’d had earlier, so he nods, that kind of husband-nod and says, “Okaaaaaaay…..Go on.”
I continue, “It’s so weird that something intangible lives inside something tangible. You know you have an earth suit. It’s your body. Your blood. Your guts. Your brain. But that’s not how I know you. I know you as, Doug the nice guy.”
“Uh huh,” now he had the husband-tone, the one that just encourages me to continue even though he has no idea where I’m going ….
“So if you like, have a heart attack, your earth suit quits working. It’s just a heart that quit. But Doug, the nice guy can’t stay in the earth suit, because the heart quit working.”
“You mean your body is the host to your soul.” He stated it like a fact.
“Yeah!” I smile. And then realize something, “You call it a soul too? Because in my old Jesus-churches that scared people, you know the one where my mom’s friend Beulah smelled the devil, we called it our Spirit. But that sounds too scary, so I changed to soul just like what you are saying, you know the same thing.”
He nodded again. And then we went into a whole life mission philosophical conversation which is off topic of Ian, and right now this post is about Ian. He was stuck. He was stuck in a body that felt like it belonged to someone else.
When your earth suit comes with the wrong parts between the legs, it’s a little more complex than returning a size eight pair of jeans when you meant to purchase a size ten. There’s no saying, “I’ll be right back, I’m going to exchange my penis for a vagina it fits better.” And until a child can begin to assume the gender of their soul, their earth suit makes them miserable.
This misery is different than the soccer field mommy who must have size DD silicone titties because she can’t cope with her earth suit’s preprogrammed size A breasts. That’s body image bullshit inflicted by Hollywood or mean girls in middle school. Get some therapy. Get over it. Or get some new titties.
I know you’re thinking all kids hate their body. But most of them don’t hate it to the extent they want to gouge a vagina between their legs or sew on a handmade penis. I’m not saying Ian was performing surgery in the bathroom at midnight, quite the opposite, he started with what he knew.
He went to the mall got his ears pierced. There were additional purchases; high heels, womens underwear, skirts, and bras. Along with that there was visible ornamental alterations to his earth suit; purple nail polish, shoulder length hair, and makeup.
And like all teenage girls there were many mishaps that flirted with bringing down the value of our home such as; body wax that became permanent texture to the bathroom tile, clogged shower drains choked with long hair, and bathroom counters that had purple flecks of nail polish.
During those years I’d say to Doug, “You know he has several other Insta and FB profiles, and he probably has a whole persona in other communities. You know that right?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“And,” I add in, “You know he has a name he probably goes by, right?”
“Yes. It’s Danielle.” Obviously Doug knew more than me.
“Could he not have chosen a more interesting name?”
We called him Ian through high school as he was slowly sharing his Danielle lifestyle with those his age, and hadn’t yet openly discussed Danielle with the family.
When Ian turned 18 he began HRT. For those outside of the trans loop, or the menopause vernacular, this means hormone replacement therapy. For menopausal women, the doctor makes a concoction of hormones so you won’t kill your family or permanently set the air conditioner to 65 degrees. For the trans person, the doctor mixes up a concoction that will help your body match the gender of your soul and a scientific process begins to slowly sync up your earth suit.
Ian moved out in July after high school to work part time and attend junior college. We’d see him a couple times a week, for dinner, and an errand or two, and then he and Doug had this thing. They’d drive the loop, the one that circles our city. They’d do this over and over again on one drive, not because they needed to see our city skyline, but this was transgender chat time. Ian was slowly bringing Danielle into the family circle.
This chat time evolved over a few months, and then there was an official conversation. Ian was ready to discuss changing the name label on his earth suit. He asked Doug, “Will you choose my middle name since you chose my name when I was born?”
“You know what I name I chose?” Doug asked me. Just the way he said it, I could tell he was proud of the choice.
“Jenner. Danielle Jenner.”
“Ok, that’s really cool.” And I meant it. For a fifty year old bald white guy, I had to give him some cool points.
I asked, “What did Ian think?”
“He thought I was joking, and then I think he realized I was serious. ”
Doug specifically chose Jenner because it was a name they could both identify with. Doug was a college athlete all four years, and he admired Bruce Jenner’s athletic abilities. Caitlyn Jenner had ventured to a life Ian would soon be a part of.
“Does he expect you to call him Danielle?”
“I told him I probably would always call him Ian, because that’s what I named him at birth and he said he understood.”
Maybe she understood, maybe she didn’t. That part doesn’t matter anymore.
Somewhere out there she is at peace and relaxed in her eternal earth suit. What that suit is, doesn’t matter, it’s the suit that matches her soul.
Yesterday as I was writing this I came to the paragraph above this one and I was like, “How would you like me to finish this?”
It wasn’t that Danielle told me exactly how to close out this post. It happened when she met us for dinner while I was cutting some zzz’s between midnight and six. This would totally make sense to her and it would make sense to you if you have read my blog post about Anna, she died in my bedroom, not while I lived in it, but before me.
There were three of us for dinner; Doug the nice patient guy whom I’ve been married to since 2008, Danielle and myself. We met at a zero ambiance restaurant that was decorated much like a nursing home.
When dinner was done we arose from the table and that’s when I noticed Danielle’s attire. She was in a lovely navy gingham pressed shirt, beige pants that fit perfectly, all paired with an amazing wool-cashmere calf length coat. I hate to use that cheeky term, dressed for success, but she exuded confidence, and that’s the most universal cliche I can think of. She looked awesome, all put together. And of course, she had her same luxurious long hair.
She stood there to say good bye. I went to grab my leather coat from the back of my chair, but it wasn’t there. Some time during dinner it had fallen on the floor and got trapped under her chair. It was a newer coat, like for real, I really have this coat in my earth suit life, and it’s BRAND NEW, never worn. I pull the coat from under the chair and look at the sleeve. There was an imprint from the chair leg. I hold the sleeve out to Danielle and say, “What are you going to do about this?”
The twelve years old petulant Ian would have responded with a vertical eye cut, the matured Danielle looked over at her dad with a smile. Doug responded back with a wink that said, “You know your step-mom…”
And you know what she did? She hugged me.
When Danielle lived in her earth suit, she was the one needing hugs, needing assurance, needing guidance. But something happened, she flipped on me, and she was now the hug-giver. This had to be the first time she ever initiated a hug of comfort. I know, because she hadn’t been coached on the unspoken rule of the time limit for a hug.
I tried to say in a kind way, “Time limit. Hug time limit. Whoa. Time. Time.” But she just held the embrace and wanted me to understand it was her turn to say something, which was, “This hug is really not about the jacket …”
I gave up. She was so kind. So patient just like her dad. And finally she let go after I acquiesced, that I get it, it’s not about the jacket. And for the first time ever, Danielle took the lead to be the comforter. But still….there’s people like me…..we perseverate. And we have to have the last word to leave our impression upon you.
I looked back down and rubbed the mark on my sleeve. I said, “You know, this won’t like get better on it’s own. There’s a cleaners…” and I looked up to tell her about what she should say to the cleaners people, and *poof* she was gone.
This time it was Danielle’s turn to leave an impression on me, rest in peace.
Danielle Jenner Yost
Dec 11, 1996 – April 17, 2017
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