I was told I may never live on my own, work full-time, have children in essence I may never live independently. I had learned early in life the value of proving others wrong. Driving was among the list of things in which I would far exceed others expectations. I was told driving might be too difficult due to my severe disability. I may want to rely on public transportation or continue to have my parents drive me around. I grew up in a wheelchair and having others transport me had tired me long ago. I longed to be independent and driving would be a way to begin my journey of independence. I had been working since age 14, another obstacle overcome, so I had been saving money. I would have obtained my drivers permit at age 16 but I had knee replacement surgery then so I put it off to age 18. I took driving instruction and my parents and driving teacher worried I may need expensive adaptive equipment to be added to my car but I disagreed. I drove without equipment and I managed to do well and pass my drivers test on the first try. Independence was within my grasp.
I purchased my first car -- a White Dodge Aries K car. I will never forget coming home after passing my driving test and driving my car to work on my own. I smiled from ear to ear and felt as if I was flying. This is what freedom felt like I thought. The obstacles I had overcome to achieve this victory were not lost on me. I could have focused on how difficult the road before me had been but instead I focused on the wonderful road ahead of me. I drove to work the entire way catching my breath knowing my road to independence had begun.
My son is now 16 and looking forward to his day of independence. I wish I could say I had the normal angst any parent has when their child is learning to drive but I face so much more. My son is not just any young man learning to drive; he is transgender. My son would join me in a life of overcoming obstacles which is something I never imagined when I overcame the obstacle of having children. Transgender people face much ignorance and one constant obstacle is in changing their identification. My son and I had already faced this when we legally changed his name to Christopher years ago. We faced it again when convincing his high school to change his records to all list him as male. We succeeded in our mission even though his birth certificate still listed him as female. Every agency has their own regulations as to how someone who is transgender can change their gender. The Department of Health thankfully last year amended their regulation to now say that with a doctor's letter affirming their gender they can change their gender on their birth certificate. This sounds great but not for transgender children this amendment only applies to those over age 18. I have attempted to fight this with the Department of Health to no avail. So my son and I will head to The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) soon with letters from his therapist and endocrinologist affirming his gender as male and his birth certificate listing him as female hoping for yet another victory.
We had done this very same thing years ago to obtain his non-driver ID and we were successful but not without incident. I clearly remember the look of disgust on the clerks face and how she had to call her Supervisor in order to list my son as male. I believe it helped that I brought a friend who was a lawyer and who had completed my son's legal name change. The supervisor agreed to list him as male but kept his old name and gender on file just in case as many others had claimed "my child might change their mind." People still don't seem to understand that your gender identity is formed at a very young age and that children know who they are and parents are just supporting their children.
I wish in the future that the media would cover transgender teens more so people can still the daily struggles they face and that they are indeed just like everyone else and should be treated that way. I am thrilled that our close friends Jazz and her family will be helping to replace ignorance with compassion in their new TLC docuseries TV show: All that Jazz. Jazz has also been chosen as the Clean and Clear model for young teens to look up to. I believe the more we see transgender kids as normal kids the less parents and transgender children will see that look of disgust my son and I had to endure.
I am hoping the day I bring my son to DMV to get his driving permit it will happen without incident. I look forward to having the normal angst other parent's face when teaching their children to drive. I look forward to the normal fear when I get in the passenger seat as he takes the steering wheel for the first time. I look forward to complaining about how much my car insurance is going to increase. The irony is not lost on me that instead of switching to GEICO my car insurance would have been less if my son had identified as his assigned birth gender of female. I have learned to laugh at life's ironic moments instead of becoming bitter. I am looking forward to this awesome journey that awaits my son and I.
As I take my son to obtain his permit I laugh to myself remembering the scene in Taxi when Jim attempted to get his permit. I only hope that my experience with my son learning to drive is full of only laughter and no tears.
As I look back on my life full of obstacles, I vividly remember the moments of overcoming them instead of the strife they caused. I hope as my son grows he will feel the same. The moment of pride and joy received when achieving a goal especially when others doubted your success can never be duplicated. Those very moments took my breath away. I hope for my son that when he catches his breath many times in his life ahead that I am there to witness it with pride.
Mary J. Moss is a feisty single mom to a terrific 16 year old boy who just happens to be transgender. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org