About a month ago, the day after I came out to my friend C, we were both sitting in his kitchen with big cups of coffee talking about random stuff as we have for the last twenty years. In the middle of discussing building projects, cars and digital TV compression algorithms he stopped and asked me "Is the transgender thing why you're so anxious to have kids?".
One of those show-stopper moments. I had to answer yes. Probably. Defying all logic and surprising me with its intensity, the yearning to be a parent has been with me for years and if C has noticed it then it must be obvious to everyone else too. It hasn't been satisfied for economic reasons, in our part of the world the chances of our affording somewhere to live that has more than one room are roughly equal to our chances of defying gravity by thought alone, a situation I don't see changing any time soon. C by comparison doesn't seem to have caught the same intensity of desire for a family, he's content to take his nephew to see the motor racing and leave it at that.
In another era or another place, I would be watching my kids become adults by now. In my late thirties I should be sitting outside a nice little house having a Bank Holiday barbecue and arguing with my teenaged daughter about unsuitable boyfriends or something. Just like my motorcycling friend L is no doubt doing right now. But L's brain came from the parts bin marked "Bloke" (unless there's something he's not told me), so I have to ask whether by dodging parenthood my wife and I haven't done ourselves and our yet-to-be-born children a huge favour by not adding the extra worry of youngsters into the mix.
One could argue that knowing about the transgender from the start should make starting a family a bit easier. For reasons I've already gone in to I'm sticking with the male impersonator role, so why should it be a problem? The fact is, having escaped the closet I can't see myself going back into it easily. I wouldn't blame my wife for not wanting anything too girly of mine to be within sight of the kids and I don't think they'd benefit in the school playground from anyone knowing about me because other kids can be nasty little things, so I can't see a way forward into parenting that doesn't afford me a whole lot less girl time. And that isn't going to do me any favours in the GD department. Since keeping sane is a prerequisite to maintaining the bloke act, I'd thus risk endangering the whole edifice with the added complication of a youngster. You can't win, can you.
I suppose I should make a joke out of it. Write a paragraph about how fortunate we are to have avoided our next couple of decades conforming to the school year, the nappies we miss out on dealing with, the tantrums we never see, the cheap holidays we get to take. And most of all, the petty tyranny of the toddler group one-upmanship. All that's true, but it doesn't address the feeling of futility engendered by having one of those things you'd always seen as an important milestone hanging there in your future start to evaporate, completely beyond your control. My mother doesn't help, either. The question hovers in the air around her, the "G" word. Thanks mother, pile on the guilt, why don't you.
Back in C's kitchen, we made another coffee. The conversation moved on to Filipino restaurants.