There she sat, across from me at the Bob Evans. Our daughters were in elementary school and very dear friends. I invited her to brunch that day to discuss something heavy over coffee and pancakes. We spoke about how much the girls enjoy spending time together and that my daughter absolutely loved her many border collies that they were raising. The dogs were beautiful and so incredibly smart. Trying to find common ground, I talked about having grown up with border collies myself. Our female, Katie, was so smart that she would sit at the edge of the electric fence and let the warning sound go off until the battery died. She did this so she could leave the yard. Wicked smart that one.
When the small talk ended, I knew it was now or never. With a deep breath and tears in my eyes, I silently scolded myself. Why is it so hard to talk about?
Before I lost my courage, I explained to her that my daughter had transitioned just that year. I said that if her daughter were to hear about this at school, that I was hoping their family would be an ally. She sat, stunned, staring at me as tears dripped down my face. Damn it. I was so mad at myself for crying. I am not weak and this is not something for which I am asking forgiveness. It just felt so vulnerable laying this out in front of her. Was I even doing the right thing by disclosing my daughter’s precious truth?
I will never forget her next words. “Have you considered genetic testing?”
Stunned, I composed myself and couldn’t believe that these words were coming out of this woman’s mouth. A woman, who just moments ago, spoke to me like a friend. I politely indicated that we had not. She took the opportunity to give me a quick lesson in her version of biology. She shared that chromosomal abnormalities would explain everything. Problem solved.
I was polite. Brunch ended.
Leaving our time together, I felt a feeling that has since become all too familiar. The altogether devastating panic that sucks the breath and sounds out of your body while adrenaline pumps and the mind races. The feeling of being beheld by utter silence. That feeling you got when you were young and too scared to scream. These people have direct access to my daughter. They have proximity to her. They have her at a time when I am not with her to mitigate what they say. Chromosomal abnormalities and all.
It was no surprise that the little girl was never available to play again, although I had hoped for a better outcome. To this day, my daughter relishes the memories of her playdates and those beautiful border collies. She still asks if they can get together. I gently make up excuses, never revealing the devastating truth. I can’t imagine the feeling of ruin in the wake of being rejected for your identity. But how can I forever protect her from that? How long can we shelter her?