Since I was a teen, I have been keeping notes in journals about how I would parent differently than my mother and father. Mostly, these are all notes on permission, honesty, and at what intervals information would be made available to my future theoretical child.
My parents forbid me and my brother from watching The Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. My mom had an almost preternatural sense for when we were watching something we weren't supposed to. Several times I remember her shouting from the basement, “Turn that crap off!” no matter how quietly I watched Degrassi. But she did not review our reading material or consider the implications of what she did review. Out of a desire to encourage her bookish child, Mom bought me a book to explain when I asked how babies were made. It was called Mommy Laid an Egg and discussed how mommies and daddies—depicted as stick figures—could “connect” to make a baby. There was a two-page spread showing different places mommy and daddy might connect including the expected (in a bed), and even the more perplexing (in a hot air balloon or while wearing clown noses). Though it wasn't meant to be, I think this was my first introduction into kink.
At age ten, I convinced my mother to let me have a book called A Spell a Day during my early fascination with witchcraft. She thought this was just an extension of my obsession with Harry Potter, a pretend pursuit of magic as innocent as calling baking and cooking “potion making,” not imagining I might actually try to make magic work for me. She did not vet this book either.
The volume was laid out like a daily calendar, assigning a new spell for each day of the year. Once I was alone in my bedroom, I sat cross-legged below my window that looked out on our south Texas backyard and flipped immediately to my birthday, sure that the spell on that page would have some special significance to guide my path in life.
“June 22: A Spell to Aid Conception.”
It described anointing a candle with oil before consummating under a waxing moon, the growth of which was supposed to represent a woman’s expanding womb. Horrified, I flipped to the page for Christmas as if it would cleanse me of the thought of sin. I don’t remember what was on that page. I felt dirty reading any mere mention of sex. This was the same year I discovered masturbation, the same year my friend showed me her My Body and Me book that described periods and the growth of breasts, the latter of which I lingered over for reasons I felt were probably related to my preference for wearing our Catholic school’s uniform pants over skirts, but I did not yet have the language for why those two were connected.
I hated that the spell on my birthday, my favorite day, was related to womanness, related to sex. Why couldn’t it have been a spell for power or protection or really anything else. My mother does not understand my continued interest in witchcraft, but one of the hobbies we do have in common is hating our bodies.
I love the many ways there are to be a woman, to perform womanness, but I prefer to be a spectator to them. Every day when I apply my testosterone gel, I check my upper lip for the progress of my pathetic mustache. It isn’t patchy, but it is faint. It is mostly only visible to my webcam and to other trans mascs who know to look for it. Still, the growing hair is visible evidence of my work to make my body something I can love.
I do not think my mother would understand what I mean when I say I am saving some dresses in my closet for when my mustache is finally full and lush. She does understand that loving one’s body is slow going, a lifelong project. She was almost 60 when she finally decided that to be more comfortable in her own body, she deserved the cosmetic surgery that she had envied for years. Cis people get gender-affirming surgery all the time. Would it be juvenile to tell my mother she was my inspiration when I debut a surgically-flattened chest?
My mother is afraid my complicated feelings about my unruly body are among her mistakes as a parent and have scared me away from parenthood. She’s incorrect in her fear.
Even 8 months on T, I continue to have a menstrual cycle. I don’t want to use the fertile-ness of my loins, but I want to parent. While I reject womanness, I still want to cultivate gentleness and beauty, to teach and see how someone else interprets that.
I think my mother wishes she had taught me to manage my unruly body better, especially as she continues to manage her own.
My mother is a theatrical yawner. When she’s sleepy, she stretches and lets out an exaggerated sound from her mouth that is something like, “Haaaaaaw.” I did not realize it was possible to yawn quietly, silently even, until I was nine or 10 years old when a classmate accused me of being rude for stretching and yawning, “Yawwww,” in class.
What I’m saying is, parents will inevitably screw up their children, give them misinformed attitudes about their bodies—about anything, really. This will manifest in ways that are almost entirely impossible to anticipate, and how do you contend with that?