Chosen Family (Thank You)
Choosing Vulnerability, Choosing Each Other
Wow, you all are so wonderful and generous. Thank you so much. I am entirely floored by this outpouring of support and love from friends, relatives, and strangers. I should not have expected anything else. You’ve been there for me over and over. Why does it still take me by surprise?
I keep trying to write an update worthy of your generosity. Maybe something about how we build up shame around money, and asking for help — friends had to convince me it was ok. But that’s looking the wrong direction. I want to talk about you, my family by choice (and sometimes also genetics).
I’ve been watching Pose on FX, and thinking about the power of finding your chosen people — rebuilding family out of trauma, on our own terms. I think about the years that "family" felt distant for me, even dangerous. I put up every wall I had, and moved to Denver.
I still don’t know how we got here from there. My favorite part of transition has been the people it keeps bringing into my life — including people I’ve half-known for years, now pulled closer. The queers and cousins and sisters and aunts and friends who reach out to me, and share their own stories. Who bring me into their lives, and become chosen family: not in spite of our traumas, but because of them. Because we can cry and laugh and scream together.
It’s too easy to look back and say "I built that!" — but it rings false. At every step, it’s been the generosity of others inviting me in. People sharing their struggles, their pain, their vulnerability, their art and vision… until I might learn to share mine. I’m only sorry it’s taking me so long.
There’s a card in my novel that’s been rumbling around my mind lately. The card I’ve always want to lean into, and build my life around (though I fail regularly):
When I die they will say she kissed us all she could. What more could we ask? And I will say, through a video I recorded this morning, I’m sorry that I didn’t kiss you more.
—Riding SideSaddle* (a novel about chosen family)
Much love and gratitude,
Related ‘transition’ Articles
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Interviewing a trans man, the reporter writes: But surely the revolution is in re-defining what feminine or female attractiveness means rather than rejecting femaleness?
Is your gender part of the revolution?
Denver Health has started offering vaginoplasty in addition to their other trans medical services. While I’ve been on the waitlist for various surgeons around the country, Denver Health called me this week to give me a date: September 10, less than two months away.
I don’t have many guy friends, but my guitarist is one. Parting, I lean in for the cheek-kiss but he plants a good one right on my lips.—Allison Washington
Reflections on the instinctive act of gendering, how it can go terribly wrong, and what happens next.
I’ve seen myself in the mirror. I find me… disorienting. What do they see that I don’t? Why aren’t they laughing at me?—Miriam Suzanne
Mother finds me at her wardrobe, in her pumps and pearls. What are you doing? Being a mommy. Are you, then? She clips on the earrings (they pinch!), reaches for her lipstick.—Allison Washington
I wasn’t born in the wrong body. I was born, a body. Without my body, I don’t exist.
My friend Maureen Maloney asked to document my reaction to the 2016 election, as part of the America Heard film series…
There’s a lot of language that gets thrown around, but much of it comes loaded with over-simplified baggage and misconceptions. Here are a few that have been on my mind – from gender identity to biological sex, transition, passing, and visibility.
There are some questions that come up again and again if you are trans. A few of those questions are terrible, but most of them are well-intentioned. I’m lucky to have a supportive community around me, so I thought I’d write down my most common answers to help ease your stress about getting it right, and ease my stress about answering the same questions over and over.