June 2, 2011, the day after my day in court, found me sitting nervously in an Irish pub near the Courthouse metro in Arlington, Virginia. I had again pulled on my guy travel clothes and had slicked back my hair, trying to look normal. I fidgeted with the menu, reading it line by line to calm myself. I was more nervous than I had been in court the previous day.
Finally the restaurant door opened, and in he walked, dressed in his bicycling clothes. Twenty-two years old, my son, my Guy, gave me a hug and joined me.
What was I going to say to him? How was I going to give him this news?
His name is Matthew. That's Matt for short, but my nickname for him has always been Guy. I remember holding him in my arms only hours after he was born in 1988. Passing him to my spouse, I had said, "Here he is, our little guy." That's how I thought of him in those years, "our little guy," and so it is that to me he is still Guy even now when he is taller than me and can leave me in his bicycle dust on any road.
Our Guy can leave me in his dust on many other things as well. He is better educated than I am and is gifted in everything from languages to literature to music to math to science. To my own surprise, he has taken after me in many things. He now works for Lockheed, the company that built Hubble Space Telescope, the project in which I had worked for more than a decade before joining the State Department. An accomplished athlete who excelled and continues to excel as a swimmer, he would ride bicycles with me as he was growing up but with no sign that it would ever be a passion. Then he joined the cycling team in college. Like me, he is now mainly a bicycle commuter.
|With My Guy, 1992|
He also takes after his mother in many things. It was she, not I, who pushed him to excel academically in school. It was she who gave him an exposure to languages and to music that I never could. Matt is fluent in French and Portuguese and once considered a college major in classics. He plays classical guitar.
Although I have written little about my marriage out of respect for my ex-spouse and for the passions that surrounded our divorce litigation, I hope and think she would agree with me that the best thing about our marriage was our son. Fight as we would through the years, we always agreed on that score even as we fought over the details. Much of what was best in my spouse is now there in our son, and lest any reader think otherwise, my spouse had many good things to give. I thank her for giving them to our son.
Miraculously, out of a troubled marriage, our son has taken the best of both of us. Just as the Stalinist Great Purges produced Bulgakov and Kapitsa, towering figures in literature and physics, so too did our Guy rise above the pain to become a person who is better than either of us or the sum of the two of us together.
Our son's wisdom shone at its brightest during the years of divorce and post-divorce litigation. He is close to his mother as he should be. He never abandoned me either, coming to visit me in Uzbekistan twice at a time when the litigation passions were high. He had a very wise, simple formula. "When I'm with you, I don't talk about Mom; when I'm with Mom, I don't talk about you." He managed to do the nearly impossible, loving and maintaining a balance with both of us even as the heavy guns of litigation artillery were booming. The divorce and everything surrounding it were outside the bounds of his relationships with us.
It did, however, put me in an awkward position on June 2, 2011. Since the fact of my being transgender was proclaimed loudly in the divorce papers, it was not something I could speak about with Matt. It was part of the divorce. During the winter of 2010-11, as it became increasingly clear that against all odds I might be able to walk the transition path, I became more and more concerned about this enforced silence. When we talked by telephone, I would say instead that my personal life had taken an important turn that I needed to discuss with him once the litigation was over.
That day had finally come. On June 2, 2011, we sat there in Ireland's Four Courts and ordered our lunch. The menus taken, I took a deep breath and started into a prepared speech. "Guy, I need to tell you now what I've wanted to tell you for months. . . ."
Matt stopped me. "Dad, I know."
"You mean, you know that. . . ."
"Yes, I know. It's OK."
For the remainder of our lunch I told the story that I've written here over many months. Matt had overheard an argument in 2000-02 when I had attempted for the last time to find peace as a transgender person within my marriage. (See NoTransition.) How much else had he picked up from clues through the years even as I strove to do what is expected of a husband and father? Over lunch I found he already knew or suspected far more than I ever could have guessed.
"Dad, it's alright."
I told Matt about my double life and my hopes to transition gender in the workplace later in the year. I told him about my visits to Whitman Walker Clinic and my desire to start hormone replacement therapy.
"Dad, it's OK."
|After High School Graduation, 2006|
And it has been. I'm still Dad and always will be. It's what I'm proudest of from over 25 years of marriage. The photo in which I stand next to my son after his high school graduation is on the same table as the photo of me in a long blue gown with friends as I celebrated my transition at the Marine Ball last November. Beside both of them stands another photo in which Matt sits between me and my sisters Irene and Gail last September, just two months before that transition to full time as Robyn.
Our relationship will evolve, of course. I'm in Bucharest, and he is living in northern Virginia. We talk via Skype, his calls to me as frequent as mine to him. The last time we spoke, we were twenty minutes into talking before he told me that he had been in an accident in which he had slammed into the rear of a car and had gone over his handlebars, landing on top of the car. I almost had a heart attack when he told me, and there he was, laughing that the car driver was more shaken up than he was. I'll see Matt again this summer, and he is hoping to come to Romania for a visit with his girlfriend.
Lunch over on that June 2 afternoon, we hugged each other goodbye. I watched as Matt rode off on his bicycle, a stronger rider than I ever was. There he went, our Guy, the wisest, most loving and accepting young man I know.
I turned on that sunny and bright June afternoon and walked slowly to the Metro, my step the lightest and happiest it had ever been. In a few days I was to fly back to Bucharest. With my son's love and acceptance as support, no obstacles remained. I now knew that this -- my fourth lifetime attempt to transition -- would succeed.
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