The holiday cards are already starting to arrive, which is really embarrassing given that we just ordered ours a week ago. Our big news, of course, is that we both retired this year, which I thought wouldn’t be surpassed among our friends, given how little happens in the lives of people our age.
The first holiday card to arrive was from college friends announcing that their daughter has come out as transgender, changed her name to something that could be construed as either masculine or feminine, and stated a preference for the “he” pronoun. This wasn’t entirely a surprise, since she – before she became a he – was more than a little precocious. Not that being T is a phase denoting precociousness, of course, but well, you know. Sometimes you meet someone and you sense they’re going to be … different. Not that different is bad. We need more different.
My first thought was to send a card saying, “Congratulations, It’s A Boy!” but that seemed inappropriate. My second thought was to send a card saying, “Congratulations, you no longer have to pay for the wedding,” but that didn’t seem appropriate either. (Say, Miss Manners, who does pay for transgender weddings?)
Then I really started to think about the wonderful thing that had transpired: a young person created his own identity. For someone like me who was dysfunctionally enmeshed in my parents’ identity for far too long, this is a little miracle. At a fairly young age, she recognized who he was and who she wasn’t, and took steps to change it.
And even better, he got to choose a new name. Who among us likes their name? I don’t. The uniqueness of being the only Howard in my high school class was overshadowed by the fact dorks in the media are usually named Howard. I would love to have a different name. I’ve always wanted to be named Jeff, which isn’t generally a female name except that the mother of one of my oldest friends was named Jeff. So if I’d been T, I could have been a Jeff, finally.
I’m struck by how utterly courageous this news is. At the dawn of the presidential administration of a racist, right-wing misogynist, this young person is so true to himself that damn the Trumpkins, full speed ahead. I wasn’t that courageous at that age. I didn’t even have the smarts to figure out how to go to school back East after my mother said she wouldn’t pay for it. (I’m not asking for sympathy for the Stanford diploma; I’m just saying that I wish I’d been more proactive about my decision.)
More than anything else during this shattering month, this news has given me hope. That’s what the upcoming holidays represent, after all – a beacon of hope. This year, it just arrived a few weeks early.