Familiar yet Foreign

You know that feeling when you see someone and just can’t quite place who they are or where you know them from? Aside from the fact that I am convinced my memory is completely shot, I’ve been having this feeling a lot lately.

Hunter not OliviaEvery so often I come across a photo of Olivia. Flat-ironed, much anticipated, long hair, smiling face…I am stopped in my tracks. I know this child. I’ve held her, soothed her, fed her, played with her, cheered her on, taught her to ride a bike, scolded her, disciplined her, and loved her. It’s been awhile since we’ve spent time together. So familiar, yet so foreign.

When I look at Hunter, I see my kid. I see a young teen boy who is quick-witted, full of personality and sarcasm and on the journey of a lifetime. What I don’t see is a boy who used to be a girl; a son formerly known as a daughter. It’s funny, really. Hunter would probably disagree but it’s almost as if they are two different people. We parented Olivia for a time being and now we get to continue on the parenthood path with Hunter. It’s sort of like being on a roller coaster that suddenly changes tracks. For a split second you aren’t sure you’re going to make it; then, the car “rights” itself and you breathe a sign of relief.

I am so saddened by the recent tragedy in New Jersey where a young trans man took his life by jumping in front of a train moving at a speed of 120 miles per hour. His parents who must be in unimaginable pain are quoted as saying, “She was such a good girl.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do they not understand that referring to their transgender, FTM child with female pronouns was not the way to show support? I am not blaming the Moscatel’s for Riley’s death but they did not do what they needed to do.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable using male pronouns with Hunter; initially, I just avoided using them altogether. The familiar was much safer than the unknown. But, I pushed past any issues and discomfort I may have had so I could give my son what he needed. I reminded him that I had a daughter for 14 years; changing vocabulary overnight would be difficult.

My family is my priority. Having a healthy, happy family unit is, above all else, what I want out of life. So, does my heart ache once in awhile for Olivia? Do I get pangs of longing for a child that I’m missing? YES and YES. It’s hard to put into words what I feel on a daily basis. I do look at the pictures from time to time and recall what was once so familiar. Mostly, though, I look at Hunter and see a teenager who is paving the way for others. I see my child, so courageous of late, sometimes I feel as if I hardly know him. We are getting better acquainted with each passing day and navigating a complicated journey together.

 

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