Zach Has Two Terrific "Maddies"

This Sunday, "Modern Love" went back to school. And we cried.

PMS time? Maybe. How else to explain weeping at the end of Jennifer Finney Boylan's
"Modern Love" essay on becoming a transgender dad? Because, I mean, this was hardly tragic; rather, it's like the Ozzy and Harriet of transgender dad stories, when you think about it. Jim has always felt trapped inside his man's body, and years into his marriage, begins his transition. His wife and sons are totally cool with it.

Because of the love of my spouse, Deedie, not to mention that of my boys, I found the courage, somehow, to traverse the weird ocean between men and women, to make the voyage not only from one sex to another, but from a place where my life was defined by the secrets I kept to a new one, where almost everything I'd ever held in my heart could finally be spoken out loud.

Deedie, he finds, "decided that her life was better with me in it than not" and their domestic routine continues, seemingly as untroubled and enviably organized as ever. Recently, the author relates, their older son came to them with a confession and the parents, Mommy and Maddy, brace themselves for a seismic revelation about gender identity. But, poignant family sitcom style, the boy just wants to become a pacifist, take up the Irish fiddle, and give up the tuba. Later, this son (who is apparently perfect) pens the following essay for school:

Once the transition had taken place, I was comfortable with it. But I was worried what my friends would think. I kept it secret for a little bit, but eventually they found out. They all accepted it a lot better than I thought they would...Maddy is funny and wise. We go fishing and biking. We talk a lot, about anything that is on our minds. One night this spring, Maddy and I had a fancy dinner at a restaurant in Waterville. It was a special night. I wore a jacket and a tie. I had a steak. It made me feel like Maddy and I were really close. Maddy said that she thought I was growing up and that she was proud of me.

In my progressive, aggressively secular elementary school, we had a bi-weekly class called "Ethics" in which we read stories, discussed them, and came to mutually satisfactory conclusions about what constituted a good person. The stories were often like this, with saintly kids undergoing family changes that other kids Don't Understand, but ultimately helping other people grow and change and appreciate difference. I was invariably moved to tears. As indeed, I was reading this. My friend returned from getting our coffees at the mediocre 60s-tinged spot where we had escaped the heat and asked me what was wrong. "This transgender father..." I choked out, and wordlessly handed her the paper. She read it and looked at me blankly.

"What?" she said. "It seems pretty straightforward. Feel-good. But isn't it pretty cliched?"

Well, yeah. Isn't that kind of the point?

‘Maddy' Just Might Work After All [NY Times]