“Few people carry around as much baggage as trans folks with wives and kids.”
In the play Trans Families three families recount what it is like to no longer fit the description of one father and one mother with children. Creator Christy Marie Kent adapted personal interviews she had with transgender parents and their spouses to craft the performance. One week ago we witnessed the play at the Carondelet Center Dining Room. Today, on Thanksgiving, I wanted to reflect on how I am experiencing the holiday differently because of the performance.
“This is not what I signed up for.”
The words above are taken directly from one woman who told her struggle of her husband’s transition from male to female. The two other actors shared their experience as trans women. The raw honesty of these words above brings to mind the many occasions I felt I didn’t sign up for the realities of familial changes, and subsequently the impact of feeling that reluctance.
When my mom became chronically ill, I immediately rejected that it was happening. Similar to the fear the actors expressed in the play, I feared losing someone I’ve known for 22 years. For some trans families it was expressed as the death of that person. Although my family fits the traditional paradigm (if I can call it traditional) of cisgender heterosexual parents with two daughters, I surely relate to that struggle of understanding and even accepting our ever-evolving family.
In Kent’s performance, the common rebirth of the families were embedded in the transformative power of love. The children seemed to understand this best. Yet the experience of transitioning was laced with the bitterness of unjust, systemic trauma that nearly leads to suicide for two of the trans women. I would find myself on the end of my seat, so wanting to just give the actors a hug and tell them they’re loved. There I sat, in what felt like a mess I couldn’t resolve for them. But the harmful emotions circulating in the narratives did eventually pass.
Whether we are looking at this as our church family or our immediate family, reconciliation plays a role in all our relationships. I pray for the courage to confront my shortcomings daily as the daughter of some complex beings. And I pray that as a member of the greater Catholic community, I will work to do to make it a church for all our diverse families. But above all, I pray for the families who have lost loved ones due to senseless violence against trans people. I want to end this post with who we are remembering this year.
But, I struggle to re-tell, dear reader, what I know you must already understand to be true as well. We are never meant to carry our baggage load alone, and that’s the beauty of family. I experience this holiday with a paradox of joy and also sorrow for the things I wish I mend for our global and local family in the wake of violent acts. On Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I have been transformed by Trans Families and their courage to share their stories. And today, I want to reiterate what one actor in the play wished, “may you be happy, healthy and loved.”
Keisha Blige, 33, Aurora, Illinois
Tamara Dominguez, 36, Kansas City, Missouri
Kandis Capri, 35, Phoenix, Arizona
Amber Monroe, 20, Detroit, Michigan
Ashton O’Hara, 25, Detroit, Michigan
Shade Schuler, 22, Dallas, Texas
Bruna Quércia, 15, Espírito Santo, Brazil
K.C. Haggard, 66, Fresno, California
India Clarke, 22, Tampa, Florida
Mercedes Williams, 17, Rocky Creek, Alabama
Penny Proud, 21, New Orleans, Louisiana
Michael Lewis de Almeida Reginald, 13, São Paulo, Brazil
Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, 36, San Francisco, California
Bri Golec, 22, Akron, Ohio
Nephi Luthers, 20, Georgetown, Guyana
Lamia Beard, 30, Norfolk, Virginia
Papi Edwards, 20, Louisville, Kentucky
This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate