When a family is transitioning there are so many firsts….first time in the appropriate restroom, first time trying on the correct clothes, first manicure, first time walking in high heels, first time wearing lipstick in public, and the list goes on and on. Even though Carli has been living full time for 7 months she is still experiencing new firsts. Last week she had her first feminine hair cut in a salon. And she is beautiful!
Carli’s stylist took her time, making sure she understood Carli’s long term goal for her style. She was kind and patient, explaining everything she was doing and teaching Carli how to style her hair at home. She told Carli if she just wants a refresher on how to style it, come back in and she will go through it with her again. Everyone in the salon was so warm and accepting, we couldn’t have asked for a better first hair cut experience. Carli left feeling pampered, confident, and beautiful. Most importantly, she felt accepted by every single person. This is how all transgender people should feel after every “first.”
More often, however, firsts are fraught with anxiety and fear, sometimes for both of us. I vividly remember the first time Carli walked into the women’s restroom by herself. Up until that point I always accompanied her, and to be honest I did sit right outside the door, probably looking like a stalker myself, feeling more than a bit anxious and ready to jump into action if she was being harassed. What would that woman who walked in behind her say to Carli? Would she yell at her to get out, cause a scene, call the police or store security? We knew I wouldn’t always be there so both of us had to takes steps to overcome the anxiety and move past the fear. The anxiety has eased over time, but still occasionally sneaks up on me, especially when we are visiting new places. The fear is still there, just beneath the surface, but as I’ve said before we refuse to give in to it and force Carli back into hiding. Instead we allow it to simmer quietly, using it to our advantage to remind us to maintain a healthy awareness of our situation at all times.
Another memorable first for me, Carli and I telling her story to her new primary care physician during her first appointment at the recently established local transgender health clinic. I cried when I told the doctor that I fell in love with Carli all over again as I watched her emerge from 50 years in hiding. Even the doctor was a little misty eyed.
The first time Carli visited me at my office, my coworker’s reactions were overwhelming. They welcomed her literally with open arms, accepted her unconditionally, wrapping us both in warmth and love. I’m not sure if these people truly understand how deeply they’ve touched us, or how much they are appreciated. To them it was a logical, simple act of acceptance but to us it was……and continues to be…..a gift for which we can never adequately express our thanks.
As parents we treasure our children’s firsts, documenting each step, each new tooth, each newly mastered skill religiously in photos, videos, memory books, and we eagerly share these with our friends and family. Watching Carli experiencing each of her firsts feels very much like this for me, but with one heart breaking difference. Many of Carli’s firsts were experienced before she could live openly and authentically, so she didn’t get to share these with other people, we had to keep these precious moments between us. Like the first time she sat on the patio wearing a dress, enjoying the sunshine on her face. Alone. I watched her, cried, and I was simultaneously overjoyed and heartbroken. To see her so happy flooded me with joy, but knowing that she missed 50 years of joyful moments is crushingly sad. This image left a permanent mark on my heart.
There will be many more firsts, but never again will Carli have to keep them a secret. This is how all transgender people should be allowed to live. In the open, sharing the excitement of new experiences with friends and family. Not in hiding, avoiding the sun.