THE BLOG

Maybe I Am a Bad Influence After All

08/02/2013 09:11 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

"You can't let them adopt. They're a bad influence and, you know, the kids will turn out just like them."

An otherwise progressive and educated person I know once said that. "Them," in that statement, meant LGBT people, though she never would have used that acronym. Like most people at that time, she used "gays" to mean everyone in the non-heterosexual, non-cisgender spectrum.

She's since changed her tune. However, many more people still haven't. Even when you point out that all gay adults had heterosexual parents, they still believe that same-sex couples will "turn their kids gay."

They just may be right, and by their reasoning, someone who is born male and becomes female could raise someone who changes gender. I know because such a thing actually happened: My beloved Marley was born a boy but is now, in essence, a girl.

No, she didn't play with Barbie dolls as a toddler or paint her nails as a child. She didn't ask me to paint her room purple and pink or try on my skirts and heels. And she didn't get involved in one of those controversies over which bathroom to use at school.

But Marley's genitals have been altered. They had to be; otherwise she'd be dead now. I may not be the best mother in the world, but I surely prefer a live daughter to a dead son. That's why I took her for an operation that, really, I couldn't afford.

The reason she had to have the operation was that her penis was preventing the functioning of the rest of her body. But her condition isn't like that of an intersex woman I know, who found out that she had an ovarian system inside her when it became infected because of a blockage in her penis and she was rushed to the emergency room.

You see, Marley's urinary tract was completely blocked. Her bladder had become so swollen and other organs so infected that nothing could pass through. The doctor told me that he could unblock Marley, but the only way to prevent a recurrence was to remove the penis and open up the tract. "How can I put this?" the doctor asked sheepishly. "Marley will be anatomically female."

"I know all about that," I said. The doctor's assistant grinned. "I've had an operation like that, sort of," I explained.

The doctor chuckled once he realized that he wasn't going to hurt my feelings. "After the operation and recovery, Marley should be just fine," he reassured me.

A lot of people still think that male-to-female transsexuals have their penises cut off. In fact, one man who learned about my history asked why I would do such a thing, which he could never imagine having done to himself. After explaining that my gender-reassignment surgery wasn't done that way, he declared, somewhat defensively, "Well, I never would change that part of my body."

"Well, that's one way you and I are different," I said.

Marley never will have to offer such an explanation. The truth is that she couldn't. Her methods of communication include stroking, cuddling, purring and meowing. And, truthfully, most people won't know the difference once her hair grows back in the places where it was shaved off for the operation. Plus, she's was always so ridiculously cute -- even when she was dirty and ragged from living on the street where she was born -- that she looks great in either gender.

I am very, very grateful for the work that the doctor veterinarian did, even if his method is something that, to my knowledge, the doctor who performed my surgery has never done and would never do. In fact, it's been a few decades since any reputable gender-reassignment surgeon has cut off a transsexual's penis.

Even when you explain such things, some people still believe that those of us who are male-to-female transgenders have our "things" cut off. Such people, if they know Marley's history and mine, would therefore believe we have that in common. And they just might believe that I "turned" "him" into a transgender cat.

Perhaps I did and I didn't know it.