There is nothing a mother desires more than to see her child feel fulfilled and happy with life. I have an adult daughter who is euphoric now and at peace with herself through gender transition. It makes me happy to see her flourishing. I admire her courage to change.
Since she began transitioning, we are making up for lost time with mother-daughter experiences such as sharing clothes, shopping together, and having heart-to-heart talks about everything from books to music and technology to how we can help others understand diversity in its many forms. Aren’t we all unique, no two people alike?
In my forthcoming book Becoming Trans-Parent: One Family’s Journey through Gender Transition (Finishing Line Press, Summer 2017), I offer narrative poetry to share some of our “aha” moments, which include a learning curve for both of us, as well as the reader. I learned about changing avatars, new pronouns, name changes, selecting clothing, job searches, unique health issues, marriage and family, along with the joy that comes from seeing a child live her one true life.
Writing brought us together into a mother-daughter bond as my manuscript evolved. We bounced ideas back and forth; she was my fact checker for what I termed “trans-accuracy,” and she reached deeper to help me understand what it’s really like to be transgender. She was transitioning, and so was I.
As the months flew by, I watched her become joy-filled and outgoing; yet at the same time I worried about her long-term health and safety out in the world. It is now several years into transition, and she continues as the same loving, intelligent, and sensitive person she always was. The spectrum of who we are is wide and real, even if it is sometimes hidden through cultural pressure. Who we are is not fabricated — how can I help others understand this? As I say in one of my poems, I’m like the mother duck who looks after her ducklings, being protective and watchful. As parents we do the best we can. I watch people to observe if they look at us differently, and guess what? They see two women at the sink in a ladies’ restroom fixing our hair, tucking in our blouses, and moving forward.
In another poem, I describe our daughter who has skin like pink on a peach, who wears crystal beads that drape across her collar bone and is a person who walks with confidence, meets new people with ease, and has made new friends. She is the same person, but her doubting discord is gone. And yes, she’s the daughter I always wanted.
My daughter and I feel compelled to help others (think activism/advocacy) understand gender identity and the spectrum of identity that is not new, just more open these days. We are striving to make a difference with lawmakers who propose bathroom bills and threaten health insurance coverage, or employers who hesitate in hiring. I wrote this book for the reader to expand understanding and to tell about one family’s journey. I want others to know my daughter is smart, polite, compassionate, and human, so that when she goes to the bathroom, to the doctor, or applies for a job, she will be able to pee where she feels comfortable, get hired, and be treated as a woman who just happens to be transgender.
I wouldn’t change my daughter for the world, but I’d like to change the world for her and those like her.
About Annette Langlois Grunseth
Annette Langlois Grunseth has a BA in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a lifetime member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her poems have appeared in Wisconsin Academy Review, Midwest Prairie Review, SOUNDINGS: Door County in Poetry, The Poetry Box’s, Poeming Pigeons, The Ariel Anthology and other publications. Several of her nature poems were set to original music and performed at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. She is retired from a career in Marketing and Public Relations and lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, John, where they both advocate for equal rights.