After several minutes of looking through my son’s passport paperwork, the clerk felt it important to mention that I was listed as the “father” on my son’s birth certificate. I quickly pointed out that father/parent was my only option. It was the only box I could check off and there was no distinction between the two options. “I am his parent,” I said firmly.
She knew that his mother was already listed on the birth certificate, so in her mind, I could only be his father. She looked deeply into my eyes with such a lack of caring. I couldn’t look back at her. I found myself catapulted into a sea of emotion that I drowned in that day. There are not enough words to explain that moment in time.
As a parent who is queer, brown, and a masculine of center ladyboi, the complexity is real. My need for validation is necessary, and often at the cost of my truth. I negotiate what is real for others when they see me, at the cost of my spirit. And I answer all the questions, at the cost of my dignity.
This is survival for me. This is survival for so many queer parents that are redefining masculinity, for those queer parents that are propelled by the masculine power and beauty of wearing your baby closest to your heart in the face of ignorance, for those of us who will model what love looks like, feels like, and sounds like to our children in the face of contention.
I dig deep. I dig so deep that I find myself moving through an out of body experience that reminds me to return to my tribe. I return to the masculinity that centers and grounds me and makes me feel proud.
When I look in the mirror, I can understand what I see but I don’t look too long; I fear that the internalized pressure of the gendered box I live in may cloud what I see, and it does. I begin to imagine the hair on my face disappearing, fueled by my desire to validated as a parent to this beautiful son of mine. By looking away from my reflection, I can return to the masculinity that resonates in my breath as I sing to my son. I return to my lead role in the dance we shared together. I return to the moments where I share my full self with him.
More importantly, I remember that these are the moments that will surround my son for the rest of his life. When I look into his eyes, I see love that grounds me in my truth, my spirit, and my dignity. I see love. I see love that is worth surviving for. Our stories must be shared. They must live beyond me and the mail clerk. They must evolve as we embrace masculine of center identified parents. Our survival depends on it.