BY ZOE AMOS
Father’s Day has passed, but it got me thinking. When a father has transitioned and is no longer male, what happens to the relationship with the children in regards to how the holiday is celebrated, if at all? To find out, I called one of my transsexual friends and asked for her viewpoint. This is her unique story.
In what might seem like a different lifetime ago, Mary Ann was a father to her two young boys with her then wife while living in the Midwest. Mary Ann went by her given name in those days, Mark. They raised the children in a nuclear family until the couple divorced. It was not pretty. The breakup involved bitter criticisms of cross-dressing, and curiously, that Mark’s soon-to-be-ex was a lesbian.
Some years later, Mark married a second woman, who was willing to adjust to the cross-dressing. At first, she seemed to take it in stride. The transition was slow for Mark, but inexorably moved forward.
As early as 1988, Mark took the name Mary Ann. The children already had a parent they called “Mom,” so the boys referred to their father as Aunt Mary Ann. They were aware of their father’s interest in cross-dressing from a young age and seemed okay with it in the privacy of their home.
“They called me ‘she’,” Mary Ann recollected in our interview. “They were very nimble with their pronouns.”
By 2001, the issue wasn’t so much about cross-dressing as much as Mark’s gender identification. After much discussion with his wife, Mark disappeared, that is, he was permanently replaced by Mary Ann.
“My wife didn’t resist,” Mary Ann said of this step in her transition. However, after three months they decided to get a divorce. “She hadn’t signed up to be married to a woman.”
By now, the elder son was a college freshman, and the younger, a junior in high school.
At first, the boys included Mary Ann (they dropped “Aunt”) in Mother’s Day celebrations, but with a mom, a step-mom, Mary Ann and whomever she was seeing (note: Mary Ann is a lesbian), plus grandmothers, the holiday was more than a little crowded with women. They decided to let all the moms take Mother’s Day and Mary Ann would celebrate on Father’s Day when she could have the kids to herself. It’s been that way ever since. “Works for me!” she said of the arrangement.
Maintaining a relationship with her sons is not all roses and perfume. Her younger son clings to a false front in the matter of his father being a woman. He brags to associates about his dad’s accomplishments in computer science as if the man still existed. Mary Ann’s comfort with herself is accompanied by the strength of her outspoken support of the LGBT community. She respects her son’s closeted attitude as a matter of free choice.
Mary Ann lives in California while her children reside in Ohio, so visiting isn’t always an option. This year, both sons sent Father’s Day cards. Each wrote similar messages inside, “Mary Ann, Happy Father’s Day, Love,” followed by their signatures. Mary Ann sounded pleased as she recited the sentiments.
The older son has shown greater acceptance for Mary Ann. He is married with no children. I asked what might happen if grandchildren come along. “We’ll have to address it,” Mary Ann said, “and I’m assuming I’ll be another grandmother when the time comes.”
Zoe Amos brings her lesbian point of view to articles and stories on diverse topics. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Read her stories on Kindle and Nook. Check out her other life at www.janetfwilliams.com.