Jennifer Finney Boylan -- an accomplished writer, academic and activist -- reads her own essay about coming out as transgender to her two young sons.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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might work. After all, Last year of my father's life, he started the sleepwalk. I was twenty seven back in my parents house to help with his care in the middle of the night adheres heavy footsteps. Coming up to the third floor, where I live. In a room locked with a deadbolt he'd creep through the hallway and open the door to the spare room diagonally across the hall from mine and lie down in the guest bed after while eat start to snore, and I know it was okay, at least until morning, when you wake up confused and angry God, damn it he'd say: where am I What the hell am I doing here. He didn't know I was transsexual or if he did, he never said anything about it. I doubt it even knew the word transsexual or transgender surely could not have explained the difference between the two, but that's okay. For a long time, I couldn't figure it all out either.
Once, though, when I was in high school, my father was clicking through channels on the tv and came upon the rocky horror picture. Show this is the scene where Frank and further as Watson around and fish net stockings singing. Well, you got caught with a flat. Well, how about that. my father raised an eyebrow and said Beryl is Jim. Your biggest fan for single terrified. Second, I feared that he knew exactly what was going on in my room when the door was locked. Was it possible? I wondered that from the very getting. My father had understood the thing that had lain in my heart and which I had apparently so completely failed to conceal. Dickie, later my two children in my wife and I were sitting around the kitchen table eating dinner. I was mid transition
My older son Zach gave me a look what I said he was seven at the time. We can't keep calling you daddy. He said if you're going to be a girl, it's too weird, oh the whole bait and switch as I call it was nearly over. It seemed like it had been going on for years and in a sense it had. Since the days of my father's sleep sleepwalking since I'd walked through the woods as a child in Pennsylvania, hoping I could be cured by love, praying to God
make me whole in the end. The prayer was answered, although not in the way I'd expected because of the love of my spouse, DD, not to mention that of my boys. I found the courage somehow to traverse the weird ocean between men and women to make the voyage not only from one sex to another, but from a place where my life was defined by the secrets I kept to new one, where almost everything I'd ever held in my heart could finally be spoken out loud. Oh well, I said to my sons. My new name is
Jenny. You could call me Jenny, Zack, just laughed derisively Janni, that's the name. You'd give a lady mule. I tried not to be hurt, ok, fine. What do you want to call me? The important thing boys said daddy is that you pick something you're comfortable with thought it over. He was pretty good at naming things for, while we'd had a hermit crab named grabber later on, we owned a snake called biter how he said. Let's call you Maddie, that's like half, mommy and half daddy anyway I know, a girl at school named Maddie, she's, nice, his younger brother, Sean, said or Dami. We all laughed even Sean laughed Dami. What a dumb name for a transgender parent after the hilarity died down. I nodded
hmm Maddy might work, I said Matty might just work. by the time my boys were in middle school, our family began to seem pretty normal to us again. I will, we went up in the morning I make refaced. I got Sean to practices. Horn and Zack his three quarter size, tuba deity, was in charge of and shepherding the boys through their homework and Coaching Sean's traveling soccer Socrates. After a time dealing, I even began to seem familiar to tweets. again and the things that have changed in me seemed incredibly less important to duty than what had remained the same.
Was she crazy to stay with me after I'd denounced my intention to transition? Maybe whenever the reason she decided that her life was better with me in it than not, and if this makes her nuts fine have it your way? She's nuts sweet, though in the fall we picked apples in the winter we skied in summer. We, on long pond. Most of the time we forgot there was anything extraordinary about our family and who knows, maybe there's not. but even though we had now crossed that wide strange ocean of gender together and come to rest at last and unsettling questions still haunted me usually at night
I found myself awake in the We hours. What kind of men would my boys become? Having been raised by a father who became a woman, I hear the clock ticking ass. I lay in the dark thinking about my own precarious boyhood, with its secrets and it's dead bolts, and I wonder how I was paid Simply going to help my son's become themselves, I'd even hear a voice in my heart demanding an answer to the same question. My harshest critics had asked of me what about the children? What about your boys, and then it happened Nearly two years ago, Zack came home from school one afternoon and told Didi in me. They needed to talk to us about something serious. He said, he'd reached two very important personal decisions,
Didn't I exchanged glances, we've been expecting something like this ever since my transition began years before any The both of my boys have gotten this far without any apparent psychological trauma from having me as a parent, we'd, never stopped worrying. Okay, said Zach as we gathered in the living room. His brother wanted no part of whatever this was about and headed downstairs to the Xbox. First off I've decided he looked down and dd, and I looked at each other uneasily. I've decided that I want to become What what did he want to become? I've decided I want to become pacifist dealing. I exchanged glances relieved, a pacifist. I said yes, I want to work for peace. There was a moment of silence then did he spoke?
well good for you, Zach we're proud of. You will go online, see if we can find like some peace marches. We can all go to if you want yeah, I said cautiously, but you said you'd. in two decisions. What was the other one? You want tell us about the other decision. Yeah, okay, this is the hard one blushing he looked at me Maddy. I really don't want to disappoint you. It's all right son. I shot him a look
and I wondered briefly if my look with similar to the look my father had given me when we shared the glimpse of frank and further dancing in his fish nets aright, he said. I think I want to stop playing the tuba and to start playing the irish fiddle. That's it said daddy. I went over and hugged him. It's ok, I said: You were great on tuba. I know you'll be great on fiddle heaved a sigh, he said, five, how really hard sack
how much I loved his tuba playing and apparently he was afraid that if he made the big switch from tuba to fiddle somehow I might love him less. Needless to say, I empathized, I knew with that kind of fear felt like, but what I did not know and would soon learn about, was the depth sex empathy. For me, a month later, he had read an essay for school about an experience that a change them. This is what he wrote. An experience that changed me is that my dad is transgender and became my Maddy. a person who is transgender, has a lifelong sense of being born into the wrong body I was about for when Mattie began. The transition.
Don't really remember the experience well because it was over nine years ago, once the transition had taken place. I was comfortable with it, but I was worried what my friends would think. I kept it secret for a little bit, but eventually they all found out. They accepted it a lot better than I thought they would. Maddie is funny and wise. We go fishing and biking. We talk a lot. about anything that is on our minds. One night, the spring Mattie and I had a fancy dinner at a restaurant in water will it was a special night. I wore a jacket and a tie. I had a stake. It made me feel like Mary, and I were really close. Mary said that she thought I was growing up and that she was proud of me
times. It's true that I wish I had a regular father, but only because I don't remember what it was like to have a normal family. Sometimes it's hard to have a family that is different, but most of the time. I think I am the luckiest kid on earth, even though my family's different, I can't think of any way that life could be better. What about the boys? I had wondered what about my kids from when I could see. The kids are all right. Car max gives you the freedom shop. However, you, like you, can shop for a car on mine and on the lot once you find the right car you can buy. However, you want via mine and get home delivery and select markets, or
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Yeah now run nice. I'm same is risky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at annoyed times, dot com, slash games. This podcast is his support, by the new Showtime original documentary Cyprus Hill Insane in the brain part of show times hip, hop. Fifty seller, Asian Grammy, nominated group, Cypress Hills, unique ability to blend hip, hop and rock, had icons from all over the map, praising them as profits of the legal weed movement. Cypress hill defied the stigma of the nineties and cemented their legacy as hip. Hop superstars Cypress hill in in the brain premiering this four hundred and twenty only on Showtime, I love spelling bee my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together, I mean sitting next to each other play individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed.
We may have happened again. I have one friend icu I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was getting nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that. Me and my dad. We like a sponge together and I wish to out that it see K, P, o t Jack Jack, yeah right I'm same as their escape- the digital passes, editor for the New York Times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at an why times, dot com, flash games, Jennifer, Finney, boiling reading, her Essie Mattie just might work after all, It's been seven years since Jenny wrote that essay Hauser
only doing today. She'll tell us, after the break support for modern love. The pod cast comes from living proof, the science behind healthy hair, I'm Katy from living proof, and we get love letters off a time like this one dear living proof. I started using your product several years ago, my friends and family started complementing me on my hair and asking what I done. Six of them now used living proof products love tomorrow
use. The code, love for a free travel size, dry shampoo, with your twenty dollars order, Livingproof, dot com, we're back. It's modern love, the podcast, I'm LISA, Mullins, Infer, Meghna, Chakrabarti, here's a postscript from Jennifer Finney Boylan. Will that piece ran in two thousand and nine and so here we are seven years later and those little boys are now college students, My wife and I are still together this year celebrate our twenty eighth year of marriage. We've been together for twelve, as husband and wife and fish in years going on sixteen years now as wife and wife, and so our family is fantastic. When I came out as Trance. I remember one of the last people in one the hardest people I came out to was my mother and I finally came out to her and I started to cry and she put her arms
I mean she was eighty five years old and have Angelica Christian, a conservative person republican. She got out of out of her chair and she put her arms around me and she said I will never turn my back on. My child and I said Yeah, but you know when everyone finds out, I'm your daughter now won't that be an embarrassment and she said well, quite frankly, yes, but I will adjust and then she literally wiped the tears off my cheeks and said: love will prevail. So here I am a transgender woman, lesbian married to a straight cisgender, woman and arm bridges is a traditional monogamous marriage. It's not an open relationship in some ways. We couldn't be more true.
when I'm home we sit turn on the fireplace surround. Five thousand five hundred and fifteen will have a glass of wine talk about the follies of the day and was a big dinner, and then we get into bed with some and then we read them. You know I can understand why people think we're so far out of the mainstream, with a life that crazy Jenny can joke about it, but it can be tough to tune out people's concerns and opinions, especially when it comes to her children from the time I first came out even people who said they were going to support me. They would kind of you know shake their heads at and say well, you know who I feel sorry for those children, those poor boys- and you know it to me. It felt like a kind of secretly
or maybe not subsequently aggressive way of blaming me for something that was in fact not my fault, and it made me mad because it was as if people were saying you cannot be trance and be a good mother. You should be ashamed of yourself. One of the reasons that our family thrived is because we all pledged to stand by one another. My wife stood by me. We both stood by the children and the children stood by their parents. I do know this that having a father then became a woman help to make my son's into better men and has made them more compassionate dismayed. The more open hearted is made them more, not just tolerant, but embracing of diversity and its many forms, and I couldn't be more grateful.
Jenny's mom once told her it's impossible to hate anyone whose story you know so storytelling is key to our work as an advocate for transgender people and their families. Especially as she dips her toe into reality, tv, specifically, the E network documentary series. I am Cait the show follows Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as the athlete is Jenner through her transition from male to female original. wasn't supposed to be on that show. I was supposed to be a consultant to try to help them get the stories right, but I guess there was one day when I went to to talk to her had dinner together and they filmed it, and the next thing that I knew I was on the show and worst about it. Is that in some ways I think it's the most radical subversive show on television. You would never hear transgender women speaking in their own voices. Talking about discourse talking about,
Family talking about identity and dating, and everything in between you would never hear that conversation anywhere else on tv. There are a lot of people who don't experience. What I experienced there are a lot of people who, when they come out as transgender, lose their children, whose wives and husbands leave them who are thrown out of their houses, who lose their jobs and who wind up, homeless and unemployed, and it could have all come out very differently for me and I'm aware of that all the time. But you know what everyone deserves: to live their lives in peace and with love and I mean my story should be the rule and not the exception: Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and reader. This week's essay she's a professor of Bush writer in residence at Barnard, College, she's, written thirteen books
including the best selling memoir she's. Not there a life in two genders And he's next book is a novel, long, black veil, it's going to be released next spring. And now a word on this week's piece from modern love. Editor Daniel Jones, Jenny, me piece was potion the column about five years from when the column started. and I don't remember, receiving a singer. I from the point of view of a transgender writer and to tell you the truth: Jenny Borderlands, please didn't come in that way. Either I went out looking for it. It was about to be published and Thology and I contacted her and said I would love to run this piece in modern love. Heard piece does so well It normalizes an It's that
It's so easy for people to think of as being so. Abnormal and Jenny, just as a great job. taking a reader of any background and and saying like we, people with families, for people with kids and Just think like this is such a loving family there going to be all right. That's Dan Jones, editor of modern love for the New York Times. If you and already check out Dan's anthology of the best essays from the early years of the column a modern love. Fifty true extraordinary tales of desire, deceit and devotion? next week on modern love, Conny Britain, whose for her work on NBC Friday, night lights and a Nashville. She the story of a mother's heart, wrenching decision after adoption doesn't go as planned in cases like
We can make a rematch with another baby. The one in charge said I picture myself boarding the plane with some faceless replacement child and the next to friends and family that we had left now lay in China because she was too damaged. How could I face myself I would always wonder what happened Natalie. Modern love is the production of the New York Times and W B you are Boston, NPR station, its produce, directed and edited by Jessica, Bert John parody, and am receive written the eye. For the modern love. Podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin, Iris, Adler, Izzy. Producer, You'll Jones, as the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show music for the pod cast courtesy of ape
I am I'm LISA Mullins in for Meghna Chakrabarti, see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2022-04-17.