A week in the life
the ever-shifting mind space of an ROGD mom
On Monday I work to not “misgender” you. It’s Pride month after all. I’ve capitulated to your request for a misgender jar, the game you suggested we play this month. Every time your father or I call you “she” or “her” we put a dollar in the jar. You have seven dollars so far. It is not a fun game. It’s a shitty game and I want to have my own jar, because the way I see it, you are misgendering you. You are not a “they.” You are a beautiful, deluded, confused young woman.
On Tuesday I lay awake and cry, terrified you’re barreling down a path I have no power to save you from. I can’t imagine actually taking your phone or pulling you out of school. Your dad and I have always solved big problems with small actions. It reminds me of that quote from Contact—“Small moves, Ellie.” But are small moves enough to keep you safe? In the middle of the night I remember that your therapist, who took her own daughter to Europe to get her to desist, doesn’t believe that that’s what you need. She sees you as a mild case. Mild case, I whisper to myself as I finally drift to sleep.
On Wednesday my nerves are shattered from broken sleep and anxious dreams. Over coffee your dad reminds me that you’re okay for now and that pulling you from school or shutting off your internet access will only backfire. Right now you’re still ours. You still listen, seek our company, laugh at our jokes. We’ve made an explicit family agreement when it comes to this stuff: our skepticism isn’t transphobic. We forbid you cutting off conversation when we question your beliefs. And also, we are always so, so careful. Like dismantling a live bomb, we do everything we can to avoid detonation.
On Thursday you and I head to the mall. I buy us Starbucks and we sit at a mildly dirty table talking about the school play you want to audition for in the fall. I muse aloud about you getting a summer job even though we’re halfway through June. You don’t completely balk, but your enthusiasm could use some work. In the car on the way home you glare at me when I sing along to The Communards. I want to tell you about them but instead you tell me that you have misophonia. I roll my eyes. Me so phony, I think. You and your mental disorders. I sing again to piss you off and you slam the stereo off, hitting the windshield wipers in the process. Afterward, we sit in clenched silence, the suburbs rolling by in an emerald blur.
On Friday I lay in bed all day. You spend the afternoon with your one friend who still goes by her birth name and biologically matched pronouns. I binge watch videos on Exulansic’s Odysee channel—dozens of phalloplasties gone wrong. I know in my heart that’s not your goal, but I am gripped by the horror. I watch these barely adult women with their hollow eyes, beards and scarred flat chests bullshit themselves as they detail complications that leave them with colostomy bags taped to their thighs, scarred forearms, misshapen skin tubes… One uses a motorized wheelchair. Another describes waiting for yet another corrective surgery she thinks will bring her to the magical finish line. They beg us to believe they have no regrets. They’re so thankful, but their insurance has run out and their doctors no longer care, so anything you can afford would be so, so greatly appreciated.
On Saturday your dad and I take you to the little town where he proposed to me. We amble in and out of galleries, vintage shops and stores bursting with incense, saris and tie-dye T-shirts. It’s so good to be out of the house, just spending time together. At dinner you don’t want lemonade because the pulp bothers your “texture issues.” You’re afraid to use the bathroom unless it’s a unisex single serve. Your dad and I share a knowing glance.
On the way back to the car we pass a trans couple—a pair of biological young men holding hands and storming up the sidewalk like they’re expecting a fight. When they pass I can’t help but notice that the tall one is wearing a pink thong under a sheer mesh skirt. His ass on display exhausts me. I remark on it and you say, staring after them in awe, “I think they look cool”.
In the car I ask for more details about your current public bathroom feelings and habits. You don’t want to use the mens’ because it’s gross, but you don’t like the ladies’ because, ugh, other people. Your dad and I take the opportunity to warn you against using the mens’ room for a host of reasons we do not detail. The ladies’ makes so much more sense. Causes far less trouble. I decide you’re secretly relieved to have us tell you what to do, how to proceed through this impossible maze you’ve constructed.
On Sunday it rains. I ask your help to set the table and you do so reluctantly. Your dad asks how the job search is going and you shrug. After dinner I walk the dogs and suddenly seethe. I decide I’m done with the lying. The next time you accuse me of misgendering you, I’m going to tell you, like I learned from Exulansic, that I am a gender atheist. That I don’t believe in gender identity. I believe in the truth. Facts. Biology. And you, my dear, are a biological woman with matching pronouns. And another thing! In September I’m telling the school to change your name back to your birth name. Your real name. And if they refuse, I’m taking you out of there! I’m practically foaming at the mouth, I’m so furious. But when I arrive back home, you’re sitting with your dad in the living room eating popcorn and watching the new Dr. Strange movie and, as I hang up the leashes, I decide to wait another day.
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