Raising A Son

Hunter FTMFor the most part, I have always been the mother of girls. When my oldest daughter was born more than 18 years ago, I actually felt unprepared to mother a daughter. Then, as the years passed, I couldn’t imagine not having girls in the house. HA. Parenting a son was a foreign concept.

I instinctively taught my girls about being female. You know, not sitting “criss-cross applesauce” when wearing a dress in circle time, what to expect as they approached puberty, how to use a tampon, and the best hairbrush for smoothing their tresses when blow drying and styling, among other things.

While I wasn’t looking, my daughters (well, at least one of them) secretly observed how to apply lip gloss, figured out which shoe to wear with a casual outfit and noticed when I polished my nails or got a pedicure.

My younger child was too busy building Lego fortresses and imagining life on a Bob the Builder construction site. She preferred super-hero sneakers to glittery sandals and monster Halloween costumes over the latest Disney princess attire. As the older sister was shopping for just the right gown to be Miss America, the little one was figuring out if she would be able to see out of her “headless horseman” costume while trick or treating.

Let me just say that parenting is certainly meant to be shared and dads certainly have a role in teaching their daughters…girls learn how to be treated by watching the way daddy treats mom. They learn about relationships and self-respect from their dads (or other significant, important male figure in their lives).

Recently it dawned on me that we needed to teach our son how to be a man…not just what it means to feel male but what is expected of men in society.

Now, I look to my husband. He needs to be in the driver’s seat here. The spotlight is now on him to teach our son what it means to be a man, what the responsibilities are. I believe that a man should hold open the door, let a woman go first, have a firm handshake, stand up and greet someone by looking them in the eye and so much more. One could argue that much of this should be expected of woman as well. Humor me for now.

For a trans boy, being a man takes on a whole different meaning. There are behaviors that belong to guys such as the way they walk, the way legs are crossed, the way hands are shoved deep into their pockets, etc. Boys don’t squeal with delight the way girls do when excited about something. The male stance is different. Their body language is different. Their voice is different. These are things that a trans male learns by observing and studying other men.

For Hunter, a FTM trans male teen, there is a lot to learn. He watches YouTube videos and tries to deepen his voice so as to sound more like a GUY. He walks with a swagger that can only belong to a GUY. He dresses like his GUY friends. For the first time ever, he loves to shop. This was my child that hated to go into a store…refused to try anything on…carried on like he was being tortured.

I am learning what it means to have a son, to parent a boy. It’s not so bad – most of the time.

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I Have Nothing to Wear

How many times have you stood in front of a jam-packed closet and muttered to no one in particular, “I have got nothing to wear?”

My eighteen year old is famous for tossing one outfit after another into a pile, rejecting each one as inappropriate, out of style, ill-fitting, wrong color, etc., etc. A week after a shopping trip, she’ll pleadingly tell me that she doesn’t have “anything to wear” and needs to go the mall. I cannot muster much sympathy for her and I look at the mounds of clothes overflowing from her laundry basket.

Hunter in shirt and tie selfieSeveral months ago, Hunter decided to clean out his closet. This gave new meaning to the statement, “I have nothing to wear.” Anything that came from the girls’ department or was remotely related to Olivia’s wardrobe went into the giveaway pile. Skinny jeans, leggings, capped sleeve t-shirts, cowl-necked belted tunics, skirts formerly worn to shul, spaghetti-strapped party dresses, 3/4 sleeve cardigans…well, you get the picture.

He really had nothing to wear with the exception of some jeans from Aeropostale’s young men’s department and a few boxy souvenir t-shirts from camp and charity walks. So, off we go.

Do you know how difficult it is to shop for a teen FTM transboy who wants to look male, has a girl’s body, needs to camouflage said girl’s body and by the way, wants to look cool and stylish?

“Those jeans look great on you.”

“I hate them.”

“They fit perfectly. What don’t you like about them?”

Voice getting louder, he tugs on the back pockets, furiously trying to get the jeans off. “I don’t like the way my butt looks.”

Apparently, the problems are universal.

He tries on pair after pair of jeans; different styles, cuts, brands, sizes, until we meet with success. There is an art to finding just the right ones. The ones that mask any sign of feminine curvy-ness, the ones that hang just right off the rear end, the ones that make him feel like a guy. Period.

Maybe I shouldn’t get into this now, here, in this moment, but let me just say that replacing a trans boy’s wardrobe also involved the items that you don’t see. I was really ok shopping for the jeans, the shirts, the socks — it was the under “stuff” that jammed me up. I really had a hard time putting the “briefs” into the cart. But, I did. For Hunter. It’s what he wanted, what he needed to feel male, to help overcome the body dysphoria.

You know that expression, “clothes make the man?” Well, it has never been more true for us. The right clothes boost self-esteem and improve self-confidence. No longer is our son trying to hide behind extra large t-shirts sweats. He is finding his style while discovering himself.