Yesterday was a momentous one for our family. Hannah came out to us as transgender. Her preferred pronouns are “they” and “them”. They now wish to be referred to as Ezekiel or Zeke, for short.
A couple of days ago, Zeke told us that they had been in a depressive phase for a while. Anke and I both assumed that it had to do with the lack of success on the job front. (Not to mention that, new gender identity notwithstanding, they continue to do things like staying up until 4:00 AM!)
Zeke had a lot of anxiety surround their coming out to us. Who wouldn’t? We told them that we’ve always viewed the hetero cisgender norm as a patriarchal construct, developed in order to maintain an artificial male dominance in modern and post-modern culture, so it was no big deal. Actually, what we told them was that we always have and always will love them, regardless of sexual or gender identity. We have always affirmed the various identities of our children’s friends, not to mention the members of our direct family and family of choice. But when it comes time to say, “Mom, guess what”, a heaping portion of anxiety is in order. Zeke is a Deibler, after all!
Zeke first told Anke, and then asked Anke to tell me. They didn’t think they had the emotional energy to do it twice in the same evening. Anke told me after she picked me up from having dropped a car off for Julia, who was working. I was a little irritated that Anke was taking so long. Turns out the reason she was taking a little longer than I would have liked was because our son was acting upon one of the most momentous decisions of their life. Mine and Anke’s responses were identical. Our first response was an accepting, matter of fact “OK.” Our unspoken internal response was, “Well, I’m not surprised.”
Names are powerful things. They define us in ways both conscious and unconscious. I look back across Zeke’s life and can see the arc toward this day. Their declaration, from fairly early on of hating the name “Hannah”; their efforts later to recast themselves first as “Iz” and then as “Kat” (Not to mention our rejection of such efforts, seeing them as an obtuse adolescent attempt at reject parental confines and redefining themselves in their own image. Well, yeah. No shit.); their going by “Deebs” in college. It gives me pause to wonder about the power of the feedback loop between Asperger’s and Gender Non-conformity. The difficulty with social interaction, resulting in social anxiety, multiplied by the effect of not understanding/being non-accepting of one’s own assigned gender…
The long and the short of it is, as much as we loved our daughter, Hannah, we love our son, Zeke, all the more. And not only because we have witnessed a new level of honesty and openness in our relationship with them. We love them all the more, because of their bravery and grit. We’ve always been proud of them (Magna Cum Laude from Univ. of Alabama. Hello?”) But to take this kind of step in one’s life; to venture into this place of candor and vulnerability is truly remarkable.
I’m not going to ask for your acceptance because in our family, I know that this is a given. I know that you will continue to love Zeke, as you loved Hannah. I am unendingly thankful to God/god/the universe/the fates/chance/the witches from The Scottish Play that Zeke was born into this family. This is going to be a difficult path for Zeke and, as parents of a child who will face unnecessary challenges and discrimination, for us. Your continued love and support mean everything to them and to us.
As a side-note, the name change takes a while. I still catch myself saying “Hannah” on impulse, even though I’m making every effort to monitor myself and make sure. But a habit of 22 years isn’t going to change over night.
In closing, I would like to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for being available, patient, and loving towards Hannah. And thank you for being available, patient, and loving towards Zeke.
And yes, we will be hiring a therapist.
All our love,
Eric & Anke