I have heard the joyous exclamations, and even the lamentations, from expectant parents about the gender of their expected child for years. Of late, it is something that has upset me. I don’t understand why parents place so much importance on this stage of fetal development because I feel that it sometimes sets expectations that could lead to disappointment later in life for the parents or the child.
My parents have two children: me and my trans brother. Only recently has he started transition from female to male. For so many years, he identified as a female, since it was his birth gender and sex. I think that a lot of why I have a problem with gender reveals stems from this life experience.
Throughout my life, I can recall my younger sister [Note: I will use the pronouns sister or brother to indicate as things were/are at the time; again, I only have one sibling.] always being the tomboy. She didn’t always like dresses; she much preferred pants or jeans, and she didn’t like having long hair. As I grew up, I had a lighter, more tenor voice, though I don’t recall that being something I was picked on about in school. There was always an easier target: my weight. Ergo, the development of my masculinity/femininity identity was not much ever something I have contemplated until more recently in my life.
I am older than my brother by 3 years, so I was old enough to remember seeing my younger sister as she grew into her ages of speaking and throughout grade school. I remember the almost constant struggles that my mom went through with her as they fought over what she wanted to wear to go to school and church; I remember feeling the disappointment from my mom when she would give in and let her daughter wear jeans, tee shirts, a jean jacket, and other things that would often get her called a boy by passersby. She was quick to correct people when people called her by boy pronouns, but it caused emotional distress.
Moving forward through grade school into high school, both my sister and I came out to our parents as gay. Initially, I identified as bisexual, and my sister a lesbian. To my Christian, somewhat conservative parents, this came as a hard blow to the belt. They probably had suspected things, since stuff was coming out of the closet even before I could take it out myself, but hearing it from our own mouths made it real and undeniable. Now, to give you the Reader’s Digest version of how all that played out, they have always loved us, and are the most supportive and accepting parents we could ever ask for. This post isn’t about that, so we’ll get back to the topic.
There came a time when senior year portraits were to be done. My mother was adamant that she was going to have long hair and be in a dress for her portrait, and there was no changing her mind. Arguments were had, but ultimately, that is what happened. My sister’s senior year portrait features the epitome of my feminine sister. Long hair, full curls, full makeup, a dress, and a sparkling backdrop. I even think it’s the same backdrop that I have for my senior portrait. No surprise there.
Preserving The Evidence
As soon as she could lob off that ponytail that she maintained for her long hair, my sister did. My mom told her that she wanted to keep it for keepsake purposes, and she did. I don’t exactly know where it is in the house, but I would probably still be able to find it in a few likely places.
I feel that my mom had her daughter taken away from her, or that she never had a daughter like she thought she would when she found out that she was going to have a daughter. My parents had two unsuccessful attempts at children prior to my success, so I know how much having my sister meant to her. At the same time, I know that she is extremely happy that my brother has found his identity. The past is the past, and I know my mom will (and probably has) put that behind her.
I don’t begrudge any parent their celebration of the discovery of their growing child’s gender. To me, it just makes me think about my mom and all the things she went through with my sister; specifically with her gender struggles. I know that a LOT of parents are doing things a lot differently nowadays, and that gives me great joy. Gender reveals will probably still invoke these feelings for some time, because it has been the totality of my life until the very recent past.