Published on March 8th, 2018 | by Kristen Stone0
They/mom: THE QUESTION OF THEIR ORIGINS AND MEANINGS (AND ALSO CLOTHES)
What does a they/mom do?
All the things a regular mom does, but with a thickness in the forearms and muscles, an awkward, robust vitality. Something like green sap or the insides of trees in their limbs. You don’t expect all the parts they have.
What does a they/mom wear?
Cutoff shorts and boots, like the summer they met their wife. A three-piece bathing suit. John Deere hat over smooth buzzed head. Sweatpants. A soft gray t-shirt over a smooth gray binder. Chipped nail polish. A witch’s hat, a children’s backpack. They grow fur, an Adam’s apple. A beard. (Don’t worry, you won’t grow a full beard overnight, says O in a text message about testosterone). Pockets full of pink stones and granola bars.
Is they the same as a crunchy mom?
No. They/mom is dreaming, dreaming of boyhood, not just their boys’, but their own.
How does a they/mom know their self?
From a dream, maybe, a dream of a flat chest and angled face. From the bodies of their sons. They feed their children good brown snacks, dense with oats and dried fruit. They go to the barber, stars in their own eyes as their neck is shaved, so gently. They dream of being both Meg and Charles Wallace. The have a drawer full of rejected shirts, from blood drives and concerts. They have been collecting these shirts for years, thinking one day they will wear them, one day their body will be right and they will be a mom who just puts on clothes, and sits at the gymnastics class or waits in the parent pickup line. They are often almost late for these things because, in secret, they take off pants after pants, the hips and thighs all wrong. The always-pile of depressing clothes. (But they want their child to be tidy, teach him to fold and put away and pick up his uncomplicated wardrobe.)
Are you a they?
In high school, you squeezed yourself into a pair of cargo shorts left at your house by your younger sister’s friend. The elastic bit your hips, painfully, but you liked how they looked. (Just at home.)
You look at men and long for something about them, not to kiss or touch them, but to inhabit. To be Within. For your limbs to hang like that. The sad artist, how he carries his pain in his skinny arms. Skinny Richard on the tractor. The poetry teacher, with blue flowers in his triceps. The men you’ve watched for years.
What their old roommate thought
She saw them as trans years before they did, and she hated all masculinity and made fun of them for looking like a lesbian. Preparing to go camping for their twenty-sixth birthday they were so proud of their purple flashlight. (That’s not a euphemism for anything.) Their mom had gotten them a pair of men’s Levis for Christmas, probably begrudgingly, and they were wearing them with the flashlight holster, standing and admiring or trying to decide to admire theirself in the shadowy mirror between the two bedrooms. You look like such a lesbian, she said, witheringly, and went back in her room, and they went in their room, and they took the jeans off and I don’t think they wore them for years.
They weren’t a mom then. She wanted them to be her mom. She was so mean and so sad but they loved her so much. She asked them to open jars for her, even though she could do it herself. Sometimes her friendship was a gift. Sometimes, they braided her hair. They were afraid all the time she would hurt herself or die. (It was a good preparation for parenting.)
In college, the future they is full of self-loathing. She is immaturely, irrationally angry at the beautiful people, whose bodies seem to move easily, whose clothes fit. She smokes a lot. Her shame about this is crushing, but she can’t stop. She is sure it repels people, doesn’t want to sit too near anyone, unless they smoke, too. She drinks coffee and smokes and sits by the lake, behind the art building. It’s her spot. She can’t figure out how to be. She talks really fast, puts up a wall of talk. Leaves campus whenever she can. Dates stoner girls who make her anxious. Hates herself. Sleeps with her trans friend, an attentive lover. He keeps on his binder, changes in the closet. There is something so tender about him. After, they smoke and drink beers on his patio, pet his hyper dog.
Who notices their transition?
At their child’s school, the other kids might say things like, Are you a boy or a girl? Once, Are you still a girl? The teacher was horrified. But it was a thoughtful and perceptive question, for the little boy to notice. Subtle though it may be. They don’t have a good answer. Developmentally, too, that’s clever. The realization that people don’t always stay one same thing. (Are you still sick? Are you still five, or did you already have your birthday? Are you still coming for art class tomorrow?)
What does a they/mom wear?
Now, they/mom owns: one pair of men’s jeans, dark blue, from Target, size 32×30. The brand is called Goodfellow, which they think is funny. A pair of soft gray pants, also from Target. They feel good. Yesterday, after church, a sick chicken threw up on them, the pants, and also their canvas Doc Martens, also gray. There is also the pair of dark gray pants that almost look like a suit when worn with the black jacket, which is a women’s jacket, but their friend at work said she couldn’t tell. It’s no quite right, but it’s the closest thing. For now.