This piece was part of a creative project for a class that I just finished taking. Now, before anyone gets to reading this I’ll say a couple things just as a disclaimer. As a heterosexual cisgender woman, I am in no way trying to pretend like I know what it means to be transgender. I had the privilege to learn about transgender history and some incredible literature and I really found a connection and respect to the material that I was reading. I’ve learned that education is a truly powerful thing that leads to so many amazing avenues no matter what you identify as. Secondly, in no way am I trying to diminish a person’s gender identity by writing as an outsider. This project asked us to write a piece of activist literature, in other words, to display an issue we learned about in a creative way.
I truly believe that whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, binary, non-binary, gender fluid, transgender, or any other identity that is existing on this planet, you can learn so much about yourself by learning about other people. It is important to recognize the great variances we have in our society because at the end of it all, these are all human experiences. By suspending any bias or negative thinking, when we look at people for who they are, apart from the pieces we may not agree with, we are able to appreciate a person for who they are at the core. Identity is something inherently personal, therefore it is no one’s job to diminish or dismiss an identity different than one’s own. My hope for this piece was to bring some kind of attention to something that is different than my own personal experience, and for others gain a respect and compassion for the people who are unlike themselves.
December 27, 2007: Something just doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what it is; I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. This year for Christmas my parents gave me a G.I. Joe action figure and I tried as hard as I could to pretend like I was excited to open it. I guess all the time I’ve spent trying to bond with my dad over his love of war and weaponry paid off in some kind of way. All I wanted to do was feel like I was close to him. After all, he is the strongest man I know and what guy doesn’t want to grow up to be like his father? I’ve tried everything I can think of to make him like me, to make him picture me as the perfect son he’d always dreamed about. The one time he found girl’s underwear in my room I had to spend hours concocting a lie about how I finally got to third base with this girl in my class. If only he knew the real reason those were on my bedroom floor…
December 31, 2007: I guess it’s pretty convenient that my parents have more of a social life than I do. New Years Eve is finally here so I have the house all to myself for a couple hours. I convinced my mom that I was going to a huge party out in the Woodlands, but in reality I just wanted a break from all human contact. I sold my old iPod my mom bought me and used the $70 to buy some cheap eye shadow, lip gloss, and a Halloween wig I found at the costume shop up on 37th Ave. As soon as I heard the door slam and the headlights back out of the driveway, I rushed to grab my secret belongings from underneath my bed. The lip gloss had managed to slide in between some pages of a Men’s Health magazine, which I found quite ironic. I locked up all the doors, turned on my favorite song by Katy Perry, and danced around in the bathroom mirror as I slid the shiny pink-tinted gloss across my lips. Before I knew it, I was in a bleach blond wig covered in glittery blue eye shadow twirling around in an extra large Pink Floyd band tee pretending it was a ball gown. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more beautiful in my entire life.
January 26, 2008: In the past month a lot has happened. I finally stopped cutting my hair and it is now hanging delicately at the top of my shoulders. I convinced my mom to let me get rid of all the horrendously ugly button-up shirts she’d made me accumulate over the past couple of years and traded them in for tighter fitting V-necks. Little does she know I’ve been fantasizing about the possibility that one day I’ll have larger breasts to fill up the space where my flat chest currently resides. I’ve tried telling my mom the truth about myself multiple times, but I can’t seem to fit the “Hey mom I’m really a girl” speech in between breakfast and her morning pilates class. Sometimes I go in the depths of my closet, past all of the hidden tank tops and dresses I’ve seemed to steal from the local Goodwill, and I find that G.I. Joe doll. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve tried to connect with the doll’s strong physique and sheer “maleness”. All I can seem to think about is how gorgeous Ryan Gosling looked in his Army uniform the first time I watched the Notebook. That’s not really the kind of conversation I can have with my dad now, is it?
February 13, 2008: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I’ve decided that tomorrow will be the day that I finally tell my parents that I am transgender. It’s kind of funny if you think about it – the day that you’re supposed to spend surrounded by your loved ones is the day I pick to potentially exile myself from my family. This just seems the most appropriate thing for me to do. I’ve been living as Brigitte Adams online now for over six months. I chose my name based on Brigitte Bardot because she exudes female energy and is desired by all – two things I strive to be at some point in the future. I’ve made other trans friends as Brigitte on Facebook, but all I can think about now is how to cross my virtual life into the real world. This Valentine’s Day I’ve chosen to fall in love with myself because I have figured out I am completely deserving of pure love in any form I can get. I cannot wait to introduce my parents to their daughter tomorrow.
. . .
I won’t ever forget that morning; it was a balmy February day and the sun was barely peaking out from behind the grey clouds. I received the call at 9:32 a.m. When I answered the phone I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of uneasiness. I did not recognize the voice that was on the other end even though it was coming from my wife’s cell phone.
“Mr. Adams, please go directly to Parkview Hospital. There’s been an accident,” said the monotone male voice on the other end of the line.
I froze in absolute fear, I felt the breath in my lungs dissipate and my heart race to an uncomfortable beat. I knew my wife left at 9:15 a.m. to take Aaron to school and with it only being 9:30 something inside of me knew what I would find once I had gotten to the hospital. When I arrived I was met by a doctor with a grim look on his face. I broke down before he could even mutter the words, “I’m sorry Mr. Adams but your wife and son have been killed in an accident.”
I can’t tell you what I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks. I’ve gone from being completely numb to feeling as if the actual weight of the world was crushing down on me as I silently laid in my bed, my wife’s smell still lingering on her pillow. I couldn’t even bring myself to go into Aaron’s room until that day, the one that changed everything I knew about my family. It was early in the morning, probably seven or eight, and I couldn’t live in the denial any longer. I slowly crept into Aaron’s room, almost as if I were trying to be quiet enough not to wake him. Lord, how I wish that were the case. I rummaged through everything I could find, pulling out t-shirts and shoes, trying to recreate the image of my son. I ended in the closet, all of my son’s memories hanging there on the shelves. I found old toy cars and model trains, pieces of his childhood that I wished I would have cherished while he was still alive. In my frenzy I must have pulled down every shirt that I could get my hands on, trying to burn my son’s scent into memory for the last time.
Strangely, something familiar came over me, but it wasn’t the cologne I know I’d purchased for Aaron just a few months ago. No, it was my wife’s Chanel No. 5 perfume I’d gifted her for Christmas and it was as pungent as her memory was in my brain. There, in the corner of the closet were three dresses, all stashed away as if no one were ever supposed to find them. I moved them out of the way, confused as to why women’s clothes were in my son’s closet. I remembered once finding a girl’s underwear next to his bed so I assumed my son was being a normal teenage boy and fooling around with someone without wanting his parents to find out. That is, until I moved the dresses and found the beautifully tragic secret my son had been hiding for years.
Tucked away under a pale blue dress were four torn out diary pages my son had been hiding. I looked at the last entry, dated February 13, the day before he died. I reread the last lines of the entry over and over again. I cannot wait to introduce my parents to their daughter tomorrow. I was shocked, confused, and disgusted by my ignorance. Here I was, father to a brilliant child and I had no idea that there was more than meets the eye. I gathered up the dresses, pressing them to my nose to try and gain a better understanding of the secrets hiding within the garments. At that moment another great sadness rushed over me, this time having nothing to do with Aaron. I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the closet floor, dumbfounded by what I was feeling. I had never experienced true sadness like that before, even though I had just endured the death of my wife and child. This was something entirely different, no longer was I mourning the loss of my son, I was mourning the loss of my beautiful daughter, Brigitte, the one I hadn’t even gotten the chance to properly meet. Amidst all of my despair, I felt something poking into my left thigh, something I hadn’t even noticed before. I stood up, looked underneath my legs and found the G.I. Joe doll I had given my son this past Christmas. Taped to the back I found a piece of paper that I still carry in my wallet to this day. In perfect cursive, written in purple glittery ink were the words, “I’m sorry Dad. I wish you would have known then that I preferred Barbies.”
If you are interested in furthering your knowledge about the transgender and/or queer community, you may want to consider the following:
Transgender History – Susan Stryker
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us – Kate Bornstein
Paris is Burning – Film
*there are hundreds of more resources that I would be happy to share, but these are particularly stimulating*