Sunday, December 20, 2009

Metamorphoses Part I

Three years ago my little brother came out to me as transgendered. We were driving up to my aunt’s house in East Providence for Thanksgiving and I remember distinctly it was just past exit 10 on Route 95 when he said it. I don’t remember being shocked necessarily but I do remember asking him to clarify what exactly that meant. I mean, I knew what it meant to be transgendered, but more of what it meant for him. Who was a she at this point.
My sister.
She was nineteen and a freshman in college.
“Like, you want to be a boy?” I asked him while I was driving.
“Yeah,” he said. “I am a boy.”
This was not just that he was gay I realized. I remember when he came out about that too. He was 12 and it was the summer and we were in the swimming pool, floating around on fluorescent foam “noodles.”
“I like girls,” he had told me.
“So you think you’re a lesbian,” I replied back. “You have sexual crushes on girls.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Like you want to be with them, not just be like them,” I said, a differentiation I thought was important to make.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Like you want them to be your girlfriend.”
“Yes, I do.”
I found this shocking at first, although my best friend told me later she could have called it years ago. I felt proud in a way that he felt comfortable enough to tell me, and when he was so young. So many people suffer through years of angst ridden confusion and denial about their sexuality; I thought it was good he seemed to have it all figured out. But this, on the other hand, was exactly why my mother was not thrilled.
“She’s so young,” my mother had said. “How can she know what she wants or likes, she hasn’t had enough experience!”
This is true in a way. When I was 12 I had never kissed a boy, and was still straddling the cusp between childhood and adolescents, playing house one minute and then curiously shuffling through Seventeen magazines the next. But I always knew what I liked. I did not have to have kissed a boy to know I liked them. And for him it was the same way.
Driving in the car that day, the idea of him actually changing seemed so far away. It was a long process he explained. He would have to be evaluated by psychologists, see other doctors, do all this “stuff” before he could begin testosterone treatments.
While I tried to understand and be open to his decision, I was afraid and apprehensive. The whole thing just seemed so severe and the idea of taking any kind of drug or hormone for the rest of his life seemed like such a serious commitment. And this hormone would morph his body and change it forever. It seemed so science experiment-y, not to mention extremely unnatural.
But my reservations were nothing compared to my mother’s grief and unparalleled doubt. My father, much to my surprise, embraced my brother’s decision and was a strong supporter from the beginning. My mother on the other hand was riddled with questions and fear. My mother always wanted the best for her children and for her children to make the best choices for themselves. And this choice my mother wasn’t sure about.
“He’s so young!” she would say over and over again (and at this point we were still using female pronouns). “She’s only nineteen, think how much you change from one year to the next at your age!”
This was true too. And deciding to transition from female to male is not like getting a tattoo. I thought back to when I was nineteen and the choices I had made. The very, very, unawesome choices.
“What if she turns twenty-five and realizes she made a mistake?” my mother pointed out. “It will be too late and the damage will have been done.”
I understood what my mother was saying, but looking back at him when we were growing up, his second grade picture in which he is dressed in a three piece suit and a tie, the realization that he is male made lots of sense to me. When my mother was pregnant with him everyone’s guess was that the new baby would be a boy. When he was at summer camp in elementary school my mom would pick him up only to hear him complain how the counselors made him play on the “girl team.” When we played house he always volunteered to be the dad or the brother, which I thought was so weird because being assigned to have to play the dad, in my mind, was the worst thing ever.
I’ll stop here for now, Part II coming soon….


  1. Hi Sophie,

    I'm really enjoying this one. Very interesting and from the heart.

  2. thanks Sophie.. Why does seeing things written down some times make it more real? I love you and Simon so much. That is a beautiful photo of the two of you. Mom

  3. Sophie, Thanks for posting this. It feels like an act of generosity for you to share these events with others.I'm looking forward to Part II.

  4. Hi Sophie, just found your blog. What a beautiful post, I am looking forward to reading more. Hope you are well, happy holidays!

  5. Sophie, your story telling is delicate and poignant. I remember that Thanksgiving for your family. Thanks for sharing the beginning. On to the middle? Who knows what the end will bring.
    Peace, Love & Understanding. That's what I've always envisioned.

  6. Sophie, thanks for sharing Part I of Metamorphoses. I was touched by your being there for Simon, your mom's unconditional love mixed with fear that people could hurt her child, and Simon's self-love and unwavering knowledge about who he is.