Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Background (final)

Our first six months in Phoenix were fun, hot, lonely, interesting, hot, and occasionally felt a little like vacation. In October of 2010 my mom and grandma visited for 10 days and we took a trip to the Grand Canyon. When they flew back to Ohio I went with them to see Suz and the new baby.

Soon after returning home, RK and I had an evening alone and she mentioned that she felt that she might be a cross-dresser. I quickly made it clear that I had NO interest in participating in that with her, but she was free to do what she needed to do when she was alone. RK was not happy with this answer and did not like seeing me upset, so she told me that it wasn't worth it to her and that she would never do it again. That promise lasted about 24 hours.

Over the next few months RK evolved from cross-dresser to dual-gender, from dual-gender to transgender without wanting/needing to transition, to eventually admitting to herself, me, and eventually the rest of the world, that she truly identified as female and needed to transition for her own mental health.

November to March was incredibly difficult for us, with the peak hitting in February. At first I told her that if she needed to transition that I was leaving, but when transition time came, I decided to stay and try. I knew that I would do better trying and failing than leaving and never knowing what might have been.  In January of 2011 I found a wonderful therapist, and I am certain that she, along with PFLAG saved our marriage, and probably my sanity. Dr. Judy sees all kinds of people, but really has a gift for working with trans people and their loved ones.

Once RK had decided that transition was the only way, we needed to tell the kids. At the time #1 was 8 and #2 was 6 and while they had a rough understanding of gay/lesbian, they had no transgender knowledge. We sat them down one afternoon and explained gender variance to them and that RK was gender variant and would be going through some changes in the near future and would like to live life as a woman. I was prepared for the WORST but the conversation went very well. They said they thought that it was weird, but they didn't care and then asked if they could go back to playing the wii. They have had some concerns along the way that they have been able to voice very open and honestly, and while their questions or comments may sting from time to time, I am happy that they feel comfortable keeping that line of communication open.   Around the time that we told the kids, we also found a therapist for them, because ours does not specialize in children. She has been a wonderful asset to our family and has given our children a safe space to talk through their feelings and have room to work through their emotions surrounding losing a dad and gaining another mom.

Our roles within our family have not changed much. RK is still the athletic, sarcastic, slightly gross parent of the family. I did not want to share the title of mom (or any of it's variants) so we gave the kids a list of names that other trans families have used and they settled on Maddy. To get the kids to switch pronouns and names we used a positive-reinforcement system. The kids had been begging for an xbox for about a year and I kept saying no because we already had a PS2 and a Wii. We decided to make the xbox the big reward for pronoun/name switching because we were pretty certain that it would work. In addition to loving video games, the boys also love legos and have more legos than any two children need. To reinforce the female pronouns I put a large bowl of legos on the counter next to an empty vase. Every time one of the kids used a female pronoun or "Maddy" instead of "Dad" they were allowed to put a lego in the vase. Within 2.5 months the vase was full and the female pronoun/name habit had been created. The xbox arrived in mid July and the kids are still smitten with it. We all have our occasional pronoun/name slip-ups (even RK), but 99% of the time we all get it right.

I think that just about brings us up to now. RK has been presenting as female at work since November, and all of her coworkers have been nothing short of wonderful. Most of our family and friends have also been amazing but we have lost a few along the way. While it is sad to lose friends and family because of who you are, we have made SO many more friends now that RK is out, and we are active in the GLBT community.  We are currently in the process of trying to buy a house and will have a ton of visitors between now and moving time. All of these things should give me plenty to talk about!

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