Monday, September 19, 2011

Debra and Families of Choice

Dr. Kathleen Roberts wrote a short article titled "Family of Choice" in early September, 2009.  [Another good article is "Families of Choice" by Cynthia W. Lubow, MFT.] At the time she posted this article, I was in my second week of living my life as the woman I always wanted to be — after 54 years of trying to be the son, brother, husband, Dad, and man everyone thought I should be. It is not just GLBT youth who suddenly find themselves without the family structure they’ve always known. My wife, who remains a friend, and my daughter and my son did not want the me I truly am in the family anymore.  

It is my opinion that family, the support, continuity and love of those around you, is critical to good mental and spiritual health.  In the "Queer" community, where so many of us are denied the love and comfort of the family we were born into, "Families of Choice" are common.  For some it's a conscious creation and others just gravitate to a family of choice. But it's not just the Queer community.  Runways and disaffected youth, street kids form their own families.  And it has been going on for years.  Charles Dickens wrote of it in "Oliver Twist."

Debra and I at Tully's 2009
I muddled through with the support of people in my gender support group, the Washington Gender Alliance. In late October, a young woman, newly out, showed up at a meeting. She told her story -- she’d been locked out and disowned by her family the night of her 28th birthday. Debra and I connected and we would hang out at our favorite Tully's coffee shop. I would give her what wisdom I could and jokingly call it “Motherly advice.” We continued to hang out, txt, and IM for the next couple months. I told her that I kinda thought of her as a daughter and was that ok? And yeah that was ok — by the end of January she’s calling me “Momma.” At the time it was still a light thing and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I woke up one morning in February to a request on Facebook to include her officially as my daughter and I did, honored to do so. When I scheduled some minor genital reassignment surgery, she made it plain that she wanted to go with me to keep me company. Since that time there has been no question that she is my daughter and I’m her mom. When someone asked recently if we were related by blood, I simply told the truth, “She is the Daughter-of-my-Heart!”

My First Mothers Day
We have been through a lot together.  We have both been hurt by our respective families of origin and we've both been there for each other in those times.  She has had her setbacks dating and I've been there for her.  I have had my setbacks with finding work or with my hormones for my transition and she has been there for me.  When either of us is out late for some social occasion, we always txt each other "Home safe" when we finally get home.

I love to cook dinner for her and she loves my Chicken Adobo!  Debra makes the best enchiladas I've ever eaten.  We have had a lot of quiet evenings just watching a movie together, or she would do her cross-stitching or her scrapbook and I would write on my laptop.  I looked up at her on evening and said, "I love our little family."  And she replied, "So do I."

Oregon coast Road Trip
She's taught me to love Mexican food and we have both come to really appreciate a good Sangria.

We went on a road trip together last year to the Oregon Coast and almost never left the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  We watched my puppy, Xena, run all over the sand at Cannon Beach.  In August, we went to Leavenworth, Washington for a weekend getaway and had a marvelous time.

She was there for my first Mother's Day and my second.  We have shared Easter together.  We shared Black Friday, which was a tradition in my family, last year and will share Thanksgiving and Black Friday again this year.  She stayed overnight Christmas Eve and we watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," a tradition in her family. She spent Christmas morning and breakfast with me.  We are planning a pre-Christmas trip to Leavenworth together.

She asked me to go with her to San Mateo earlier this year when she had her Gender Confirmation Surgery.  And when I have mine next year, she will go with me to help with my recovery.

Through all of it, there have been all of the moments that make up family: the tears, the laughter, the heartbreak and the joy, the hugs, the smiles and, always, always, always, the love.

And there are others that I now count as part of my family.  Johanna, Kayla and Amy will be with us for Thanksgiving.  Annabelle is new to the family but a dear place in my heart.  Maddie is my best friend.  Zoey is an original in "My Girls."  Lisa is a brand new sister to me.
Easter 2011

I am a survivor. I muddle through. But I have no imagination of how I would have come through the last 18 months, almost 2 years, without Debra. Recently, after I told an Aunt about Debra and what she means to me, my Aunt wondered how I could come to a place where this new person was equal in my heart to my two blood children in such a short time? Beyond simply telling her that my God, Poppa, brought us together, I knew I had to write about Families of Choice. For Debra and I came to a place where our hearts chose each other to be a family together.  And our family just is.


  1. Somehow in posting this I dropped the second and third paragraphs. I have reposted them :-(

  2. Hi Shannon,

    This is a beautiful post. This is "What the World Needs Now". LOVE

    Hugs and Prayers,

    Cynthia XX

  3. It's so good that you have someone now, who can give you the love you have missed since your transition. Really nice feel-good post, Shannon.

    Calie xxx