This is the first in what may end up being a series of posts, springing from both a several years fascination of the intersection of gender, politics, and faith, and the recognition that while I am a heterosexual cisgender male, I also have been an untraditional male in a lot of ways.
When I was a kid, my Mom did remark on occasion that she had wished for a daughter. I didn’t think much of this at the time–mostly I just wished Mom had a daughter too because while I had an older sister from my Dad’s first marriage who I adored, I thought it would be cool to have a younger sister too. In fact, I remember being quite heartbroken when I learned what the expression “having your tubes tied” meant, and the resulting biological reasons why a younger sister was never really in the cards by the time I was old enough to care about it.
What I didn’t realize right away was that I often served as Mom’s stand-in daughter. Now, before anybody gets all judgey or the wrong idea, let me expound on that. My maternal grandfather was a single child, as was my mother. In my Mom’s nuclear family, the females outnumbered the male two-one, and there were no siblings involved. When my Dad and Mom married, my Mom initially thought one child would be enough, my Dad disagreed and eventually he ended up winning that particular debate, and my birth was followed seventeen months and three days later by my younger brother’s. Suddenly, my Mom was the outnumbered one, living with three males, two of whom were siblings.
I realized as I was growing up that while Mom did an amazing job raising us she was sometimes just a tad frustrated by the excess of testosterone and the complications of sibling relationships. I can imagine how it would have been overwhelming.
Fortunately, while in a lot of ways I was a young boy, I was wired differently from a lot of young boys from an early age. We now know I had undiagnosed autism, but at the time all we knew was that I was super-anxious and physically behind in development of things like fine motor skills, strength, flexibility, and coordination. It was also pretty immediately clear that I didn’t really have a mean bone in my body. What all of this led to, over time, was an expansion beyond what was traditionally masculine into what was often considered feminine. I loved romances, cute animals, playing imaginary games where I was a dad in a loving family, etc.
So as I grew older, I became the one Mom knew she could count on to go to many of events and activities a daughter might have been interested in. Mom and I went to live theater together, and if ever there were events where it was mothers and daughters, or grandmothers and daughters, Mom was often able to get me to be the one boy allowed to go. Mom also introduced me to one of my favorite book series of all time, The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey which she had read as a teen.
Contrary to what one might expect, this dynamic actually increased as I grew older. In my teen years, I made my first close friends, most of whom were female, and also grew in social confidence. By the time I completed university in my early twenties, I was the one who would always go with Mom and Grandma to the family reunion, with Mom to parties with lake friends, and I would still often be the one male at events where Mom would go to with mothers-daughters or grandmothers-daughters.
This dynamic continues to this day. During one my my couple of visits home, Mom and I saw the movie Christopher Robin together–a nice, sentimental tale that would have had my Dad vomiting and my younger brother leaving in disgust. And just this past weekend, I joined Mom and a number of other indomitable ladies in a several kilometer swim–and I was the only male swimming the course.
Yet despite all this, I know I am firmly and fully male. But I am a male who values the feminine, who is willing to embrace traditionally feminine values because they are what I honestly like to do, and believe, and be. I am definitely a son to my Mom and Dad–but, in my embrace of the feminine, I was also able to share many great experiences with my Mom, and grow closer to her over the years. And for that I thank God, for making me the way I am.