Once upon a time in the City by the Bay, up where the longhairs roamed, a guy (from all outward appearances) was once again rejected from a place of belonging and tried to end it all...again. Fortunately for our story, he was too stoned to figure out that if he needed something sharp to slit his wrists, all he needed to do was break a window. If 20/20 hindsight had any power, he'd have been dead long ago. But he's not...
What does one do when one is so excruciatingly depressed about not finding a way to fit in even with goddamned hippie freaks? Our protagonist ended up at the I-Thou coffee shop, next door to the Straight Theater, playing chess. And winning. One could keep playing if one kept winning, even if one didn't have enough wherewithal to purchase anything. During the course of the the run, a young woman sat down to watch. She asked if he were a virgin. He lied and said, "No." She offered our hero a place to sleep. She took his viginity.
On such events are history hung. There would be no story if he had told the truth.
Mucho drugs later and events involving stealing cigarettes for a living (not me, her), we ended up in Joplin, MO, in her parents' house with her pregnant. And me trapped by the ethos of my past. I had a responsibility.
So here I was trying to be a father when I was still really hazy about why I had to be a man, looking at at least eighteen years. Of course, I had some role models to try to emulate. They would be my own alcoholic racist of an old man who never once said he was proud of me or his father, who called his wife Woman (It wasn't until after I transitioned and returned to Oregon for a visit that I learned that my grandmother's original name was Mathilda Larsson). Or television characters from Father Knows Best, Donna Reed and Ozzie and Harriet. I guess I tried to navigate everything as best I could. I did the full 18 and a few more out of fear and ignorance about what to do next.
And I raised a damn fine child. Here's something I wrote about her back in 1996, on the OWLS email list for lesbians over 40 (I'm one of the founding members).
My daughter is a lesbian, something I think I had an inkling of when she was in about 4th grade. I've been positive about it since junior high, at least. I tried to be there for her if she ever wanted to talk but knowing that it was something only she could decide whether or not to tell me. Actually, Jen never did tell me. She told her mother and I got it from her. Maybe Jen knew that I already knew.
High school was hard for her. She had a lesbian friend in junior high whose mother was also lesbian and used to hang around over there a lot. But then we moved to Arkansas and it became a lot harder for her. She made some friends in drama class (that the teacher is a lesbian is a poorly kept secret) but she seemed to have trouble fitting in with the people here.
She eventually went to Lincoln to visit some friends who went from UCA to University of Nebraska for grad school. While there, she met Julie, her partner, and they have now been together over seven years. Last year they bought a house. It was Julie who got me on the net at subscribed to the Sappho list. She works as a bookbinder at the UNL
I can't tell you how pleased I have been that Jen has found someone she loves and somewhere she fits. She has friends there...she's known as an excellent dungeon mistress amongst her friends (get your minds out of the gutter :) I'm talking Dungeon's and Dragons...hehe). At the Brandon Teena Vigil, I met one of her friends, a professor at UNL, who told me that Jen has been a very vocal supporter of transsexual people in the community in Lincoln. I can't tell you how proud this made me feel. And Julie is doing grad work in Women's Studies looking at the transgenderism of Willa Cather and its influence on her writing (Willa Cather attended UNL dressed as a male, calling herself William Cather).
I've visited them several times now and I think Jen is really happy with her life. As my .sig file says, that's really all that is important. It's certainly what is most important to me.
We decided long ago that "father" probably wasn't the appropriate term for my relationship with Jen. I am her parent.
Jen will be 38 this August. She and Julie now live in Santa Cruz. We get together whenever I am in the Bay Area. I'm Julie's parent-out-law.
But there isn't any Parent-out-law Day and I have to suffer through this one, during which it will be displayed 6 to 10 times every hour, exactly how I should have been a father to my child, when all I really wanted was to be her mother.
- Correction: I feel like an idiot. It has been pointed out to be that I used my maternal great-grandmother's name where I should have used my paternal grandmother's name. The latter will require digging into piles of papers to discover.