To understand my mother’s comfort zone, you need to know that she is British and of a certain age. After my father died in my late teens, Mum suddenly found herself raising three boys solo. This forced her into many guy messes, but she still has her limits.
Among them is the idea that her eldest son loves men. Mum only now seems comfortable with my sexuality. She finally considers my meaningful relationships meaningful, though I still remember her three-act opera when my brother divorced his wife compared with her reaction — “Oh” — to a painful breakup I had that same year.
I’m setting you up here. You need a basic understanding of the dynamic between us, on matters sexual and beyond, to best imagine our fish ‘n’ chips lunch last month at Toronto’s Churchmouse & Firkin. The conversation focused on my trans man friend, the porn star who still has his pussy, Buck Angel.
I gingerly explained the basics of Angel: tomboy as a kid, mortified during puberty, drugs, alcohol, modelling in Europe, suicide attempts, finally, once she became he, becoming an exceedingly happy person.
“Buck is my hero,” I said.
Whatever issues Mum had about me being gay suddenly paled for the first time. Stale stuff that; out came questions about transgender.
“So does he like women, or men?” she asked, tentatively.
I wanted my answer to stab at the heart of the matter, so I nimbly skipped the fact that Buck does porn in which he gets fucked by dudes. Nor did I mention that he still has his pussy.
“He is legally married to a woman named Elayne,” I said.
My mother continued to dip her fish, and I watched her contemplate the man who used to be a woman now married to a woman.
“Is he a lesbian or straight, then?”
This was more curiosity from her than I’d ever had about my sexuality. I went for it.
“You see Mum, this is why I love Buck so much. This is why I’m so fascinated by him and other trans people. You and I come from generations when we put labels like ‘gay,’ ‘straight,’ ‘man’ or ‘woman’ on people. But as we evolve, and people like Buck become who they really are, you can see that labels don’t mean anything. Someone like Buck defies labels. What if I asked you to consider that gender is fluid, that sexuality is fluid? Imagine how easy life would be if that’s what society understood.”
She pondered, bless her. She was determinedly, deliberately, methodically, guiding her thoughts further than ever before. She was dwelling on ideas she’d never considered because to do so was import to me, her son.
A rowdy lesbian soccer team came in and took the table next to ours. Their male coach and I cruised each other.
“Okay,” she countered finally. “But if Buck were sitting right here and I found him attractive, I think if I learned that he had been a woman, I wouldn’t be attracted to him anymore.”
Especially not if you also learned he still had his vagina, I thought.
“Maybe,” I said. “But if he were here and you were attracted to him, it wouldn’t be just because you thought he was a man. It would be because he possesses qualities as a person that you appreciate. More and more people care less what gender label someone has; they love the person.”
Mum ran with it.
“I saw an Oprah with a woman who stayed with her husband even after he became a she,” she offered.
Wow. I went for the kill.
“It’s a wonderful expanding, don’t you think?” I asked. “People are loving people for who they are. Gender and sexual orientation labels matter less. Buck proves that. And he also makes us all question preconceived notions about ourselves.”
Mum signalled for the cheque, gathering up her things. I gulped back my wine. Lunch was over.
I shared with Buck online that night.
“Your mom sounds really open-minded and cool,” he wrote.
So much for limits, I had to admit.
“Tell her I said hi,” said Buck.
“Done,” I typed.
I will, however, still hold off on the porn and the pussy.