No, she’s deadBy Sam Hall
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
There are plenty of trans people with kids out there, but the majority of them tend to be trans women who’ve been married when they were living as male and had children.
Their circumstances are often very different; they’ve usually separated from their children at the time of transition or beforehand, and their relationships with their kids suffer – probably far more than mine has. Fortunately in this country, fortunately for me anyway, children tend to stay with their mother at the time of separation and there was no question about whether my children would stay with me or not.
There have been some implications from some members of my family that my kids would be better off without me, which is really painful and wrong. A good example of that is one of my sisters, when I was discussing feeling suicidal – which I think is a common theme amongst trans people. I said something along the lines of “My kids are better off with a transitioned parent than a dead one”. At which point my sister looked at me, and said, “I don’t know if that’s true” – she said, “I think if you proceed to have surgical treatment for this then you will do your children untold psychological damage – which maybe far worse than that of suicide.” So that was pretty confronting and painful to hear, but it’s not a bad thing for me to stop and take stock and really think if there is any truth in that – that my children are better off without me than with me transitioning.
Obviously, I came to the conclusion that my kids are far better off with a parent who’s alive and able to care for them, than one who isn’t. But it did make me think about the psychological impact of surgery and that’s quite a significant thing. All my children were breast-fed for example. So we as a family have got to go through a little bit of sort of mourning and grieving and loss about that because there is a part of me that is really attached to them through the modality of breast-feeding. I don’t like having breasts and I never have, but I do love the fact that you can grow a baby on the end of one. That’s amazing.
So, that’s some of the negative stuff, but there’s been a lot of positive stuff that having kids has made happen. It’s taught me a lot about humanity and people’s capacity to adapt; you know, children are immensely adaptable, their brains are still very plastic compared to adult brains. My children were other people’s biggest concern when I first started out on this journey, yet they’re probably the people in my life who have accepted this most easily and integrated my transition into their life. The kids are really used to saying things like “mum” and “he” in the same sentence without any difficulty, whereas other people really struggle with that. And we’d have conversations from time to time about losing the words ‘mum’, ‘ mummy’, and ‘mother’. But I don’t want to impress that upon them. Sometimes I get very dysphoric about it, other times I can cope with it. When we discuss it, we usually come to the conclusion that they can call me whatever they feel comfortable with and they do. They call me a various choice of names, including Sam, Samjam, Mum, SJ, all kinds of things, all of which feel quite comfortable.
They do some hilarious things, for example if anybody rings up asking for me in my old name; they’ll usually say something quite facetious, like “No, she’s dead” or “She doesn’t live here any more” or Don’t know who you’re talking about”. Yeah, so they’re pretty useful people to have around. If I’m not feeling strong enough to put people right, they will, they’ll certainly do it for me. They go ahead of me sometimes, you know. I’ll get a letter that I need to sign and one of them will say “Oh, I told them you were my dad, is that okay?”, stuff like that – so they’re doing half the work for me.
This is Sam's testimony in Chapter Two (Background, childhood, family, parenting, friends, school) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book.
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 18/12/2014