Excerpt from Trans-Kin, p. 89
Copyright 2012 Eleanor A. Hubbard and Cameron T. Whitley Design
The Trouble With Pronouns
slipped and said “Dad” in public out of habit, if I called it out across a bookstore
The first thing I wanted to know when I learned her new name was this: What if I
A Guide for Family & Friends
of Transgender People
when she was browsing titles across the way? Would she turn away or pretend
not to hear me? Would she correct me in a chiding tone? Would she answer back
like nothing happened?...
This book gives voice to all significant others, family members, friends and allies who share in the journey of their transgender loved ones."
When I talk about my father, I try to leave off pronouns, because it’s easier that way.
The pronoun, “she,” confuses people who think of all fathers as “he.” Saying “He”
feels like a lie or a violation of my father’s wishes. I find myself defending my father’s
choices even when she’s not there. Some call it the “pronoun game,” how you dance
around pronouns to avoid seeming different…
When my father told us the new name she’d chosen, we were sitting in the kitchen
in our house in Berkeley. Rah-bin.
A name neither he nor she.
face, Adam’s apple bobbing in the throat, undershirt, boxers, hairy toes, cigarettes,
There is nothing gender neutral about the word “Dad.” I say it and think scratchy
coffee, V-neck sweaters, sneakers, chunky watch, thick-framed glasses. I think of
our neighbor Will with his big glasses and bowl cut hair. “Dad” meant skinny jeans and
sneakers, navy-blue jackets and neckties…
story we told, over and over. To family, friends, teachers, coaches and everyone we
Why did I feel like someone was missing from my life? Maybe because that is the
met. Our parents are divorced. Our father is not around any more. Back then, she
introduced me as her niece. Her name was Robyn. Aunt Robyn. It didn’t have the
same possessive quality of “dad,” the same stamp of our relationship. “Dad” was easy,
shorthand, mine. No one told me that by saying the word “Aunt” over and over again, it
would become true, replacing the old close language of parent and child…
If I had to give advice, I would say this:
and woman, to start out as a boy and leap into the league of ladies. Build a house on
Move to some planet where everyone already knows what it means to be both father
that planet and stay there for as long as you can. Even if the weather is Arctic and
you have to make an igloo to stay warm. Even if the planet is so close to the sun,
your skin burns to a crisp. You won’t ever have to explain your father’s existence to
all the curious people who want to know more. You can introduce your dad as your
dad and not have to choose between parent or Aunt or “family friend.” You can use
“Dad” and “she” in the same sentence. Or maybe on this planet, there would be no
“she” or “he,” “dad” or “mom,” “his” or “hers.”
complete and done once. It’s ongoing, a continuous crossing. Each day I invent a
The prefix “trans-” comes from the Latin for “crossing over,” It’s not something that’s
new story about my father. This reminds me that I’m part of that crossing, too.