The Ghost of a Little Boy Past

It’s getting harder and harder to remember Victoria as William.  When I speak of her infancy and toddler hood now, I naturally use the name Victoria rather than the William we called her at the time.  Our walls are filling with pictures that give no clues as to her past.  A few “before” pictures remain but I have it on my to do list to take them down soon; not because Victoria is bothered by them but because they might provoke unwanted questions when people begin to come over that do not know of Victoria’s beginnings.  Overall, I am happy and content with this progression.  Looking at Victoria’s first day of kindergarten pictures from earlier this week I am filled with nothing but happiness; I see my smiling, eager daughter, not my transgender daughter, just simply my daughter.  Sometimes though, late at night, when the house is quiet and all the children are sleeping, I miss William.

I am not exactly sure what I miss.  Before she had any concept of gender; before she was about two and half years old the William/Victoria of the past was very much like the Victoria I see today, albeit a toddler with short hair.  William/Victoria has always been a daredevil, highly coordinated, snugly and physical, sensitive and sweet.  Indeed it was when her personality changed that we knew something was really wrong.  When William/Victoria was three she was as close to suicidal as a three year old could be without even knowing what that meant.   She told me many times that she didn’t want to wake up the morning, that she didn’t want to live anymore.  Eventually she stopped jumping and playing.  She was a traumatized, anxious, shell of a child.  Looking back with the perspective of a child who is now relatively happy, her behavior during that time is even more horrifying than it felt then.  I certainly don’t wish for those days.   So, again, what is it exactly that I miss about William?  Is it the concept of being the mother of two boys?  Is it because the name “William” was one that was special to me, a family name?  Perhaps it is the fact that back then my biggest worry for her then was that she might jump off of something too high and break a bone — as opposed to my biggest worry for her now:  that someone might harm her (or she, herself) for simply being who she is?  I don’t really know.

I do know people with children who are sick or have actually died.   I feel like a bit of an asshole for claiming some sort of loss with respect to William.  William isn’t really lost to me, but changed in form.  Yet I also know from experience that repressed feelings rarely just evaporate.  I haven’t really acknowledged these feelings, even to myself, for fear of appearing less than supportive of Victoria.  I truly am overjoyed that Victoria is happy. I don’t see being transgender as wrong, or abnormal, or a disability.  I am happy she is here as who she is.  And yet sometimes I dream of William and I miss him.  Can I grieve William and yet still rejoice in Victoria?

Miraculously Victoria seems quite well integrated with her past William self.  She happily looks at pictures of her when she was younger and sometimes when we refer to an event long past she will inquire “Is that when I was William?”  I often describe Victoria as fearless and in so many ways she is.  She skipped in to kindergarten this week like she owned the place and she flies through the air in gymnastics with unbridled glee.  But there is one thing she is afraid of; she has one boogeyman.  While she acknowledges her past as William, she is terrified of being called William or a boy now.  She’s afraid, always, that someone will not think she’s a girl.  In that way, my carefree William really is dead.  Victoria will never be carefree.  I know this because she tells me so, a dark cloud will pass over her face and she will look terrified, ready to run as she asks me in a new situation “Will they think I am a boy?”

William is gone. Perhaps he never really was. But his ghost haunts both of us.

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2 thoughts on “The Ghost of a Little Boy Past

  1. What a lovely post. Don’t feel like an asshole. I have a chronically/disabled sick child, and I too had to go through a process of grieving for the healthy daughter I once had. Actually, I feel parents all experience grieving and loss as their children grow and change, sometimes in ways that are easy to celebrate and sometimes in ways that rent our worlds and expectations. It’s not that my disabled daughter is less or means less now that we know she has a lifelong health condition, but I did have to give up these ideas of who I thought she would be, what kind of future she would have. You can see beauty in a different future, but it doesn’t mean you can’t also mourn the lose of the future you anticipated.

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