The Detoxing Man is Supportive (of identity and growth).
I sat with my oldest son today, watching him learn how to give himself testosterone shots, how to measure it just right and stay safe with the sharp needles. I watched him excitedly inject saline solution into “the inch he could pinch” near his belly button, achingly aware that the first real shot required some lab tests and one last approval at the pharmacy. I watched his nervous excitement as we both signed the consent form to start this process.
I am supportive of my son, of his identity, of his process. He is making decisions, with our help, to show the world what he already knows to be true, what he feels is as essential element of himself. And yet, my support required growth. It wasn’t just a natural extension of my own beliefs about trans rights. When he came out to us, it was no longer abstract. It was no longer just those “other people” who were testifying in legislatures across the country. It was my own child, the one that I thought I knew to be a strong and independent young woman. I was wrong.
I didn’t know him, but only the child he wanted me to see. And because I loved that kid, the one that I thought I knew, it took a lot of growth for me to find the support for my son when he told us who he was. I started with using They/Them pronouns for him because I saw such a complex gender identity, even if he was telling me directly that he wanted something different. I used his new name as a substitute for pronouns almost entirely with my parents and brothers, even as it didn’t help with gathering support amongst my extended family. I held on to the memories of who he was in childhood, resisting the way I would need to reinterpret them in light of new, and incredible, information.
But identity is weighty, and requires full support from those you love. As he became more himself, a fully complex version of a young man, I found it easier and easier to hold him in my head in the way he wanted to be held, the way that he is desperate for affirmation. I found it easier to tell him that his “fit goes hard” or that he was “passing.” It became logistical instead of confrontational to purchase binders or talk about the transition process.
Ultimately, support for his identity is support for my own. It supports my identity as a caring and kind father, as someone who cares about the happiness and well-being of his children, not just when they do what I expect of them, but also when they do what is unexpected and what is outside of my own naive notions of who they are. I support my son’s identity because it is what a man does, it is what makes it possible for him to stand up and resist a high-school world that is constantly trying to tear him down. For him to be able to support others in that world, I must support him first.