Toronto
3 min

A family of girls

Andrea, me, our daughter and Andrea’s mother. We are three generations of girls living in the same house right now, sharing a bathroom, a fridge, a washing machine. Three generations of girls, three of whom look alike, sometimes sound alike, show the same strength and daring. We are three generations of girls, three of whom are bound by blood and birth, and one almost-girl who married into a family of real girls and has somehow found a place there.

Andrea’s mother was different when I met her, more professional, more distant, less silly. I have grown to see her as something other than a successful CEO with perfect tights and shoes and earrings. She has grown to see me, floundering and unsure of myself, very much in love and very much afraid of not having a place in this world, never mind in this amazing family my wife represents.

I used to think I’d let her down by being the one her daughter married, who wasn’t a boy, and wasn’t particularly outstanding, just another person in love with her beautiful daughter. But sometimes I wonder if she wouldn’t rather have it this way now. 

I wonder if she is grateful her daughter didn’t marry a boy when we are all brushing our teeth together in the bathroom at night, looking for tampons, talking about squeezing zits versus lancing them with a needle (as done on Doctor Oz, but not by me, I swear). I wonder if she is grateful when I zip up her dresses, when we cook together, take turns in the shower, walk in the Dyke March.

I go out for paper towels at midnight, barbecue steaks and take heavy things out of the upper cupboards because I don’t know how to fix things, change a tire or work on the yard. I don’t know what to do when the thermostat doesn’t work or there are raccoons under the porch. I don’t think she feels any safer with me in the house — she probably feels safer with her Maltese. I couldn’t get her daughter pregnant no matter how hard I tried. But sometimes I wonder if she wouldn’t rather have Gracie this way now, too, this little girl who is absolutely perfect for us, linked as she is in biology to Andrea.

Once we were watching Gracie run around the house naked after a bath, shrieking and playing with a rubber basting brush. Andrea’s mother said with a laugh, “Her butt is just like Andrea’s,” and I said, without thinking, “Totally.” Then we had this funny moment as our relationship worlds collided with an awkward crash. There are things about her daughter I bet only the two of us know, things that put us in a special place together in her life that we will likely never be able to articulate. 

Gender transitioning is on my mind a lot these days. Some days I think, “Fuck it. That’s it, I’m gonna do it.” But I am still not sure why, or why now, so I keep calm and carry on until the urge comes back, which it always seems to do. Is it just penis envy? Is it a move I hope might address this deep-seated feeling of loss I’ve always had or give me permission to act differently?

Or is it my desire to tap into male privilege, be more powerful, to feel stronger and more solid in the world, to feel like I own things instead of just borrowing them? Is it jealousy over my wife’s other attractions, my selfish desire to be everything to her, even when I know that’s impossible? Lately, I attribute the parts of myself I don’t like to the fact that I’m a girl — my sensitivity, my aptness to tears, my emotional dependence. My inner misogynist is having a field day, making the world of boys seem sexier, more appealing, more exciting.

But I think about what it would mean to this family I’ve married into, who I know at least sometimes love the fact that I’m a girl, that I am another female addition to this family. I know they would say it’s me they love, and they do love me, but things would be so very, very different if I were a boy. Would we all still be bouncing on the bed together with Gracie, showing off new clothes, sharing towels? Would be still be living together as we wait for our new house?

At times I can appreciate the girl in me through the people around me who appreciate her. At times it is so crystal clear why I was born this way and not that, why things happen the way they do. Andrea, our daughter, her mother and me, her queer sister and her partner, their daughter, my sister — this family of girls who will always be around to remind me that I don’t have to be a girl in the same way as them to be a girl like them.