You may recognize the name of the author – she wrote a very popular book, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, about her transition from male to female (at the time, it was many people’s introduction to the concept of transgender). I have to admit, I haven’t read that book (yet), but when I heard that Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders was coming out, chronicling her experience as a parent across genders, I put it on my list to read.
The book itself is written in chronological order, separated into three parts: part 1 is “Daddy” and includes her experiences as a male parent and as a husband. It talks about the pain she experienced in denying her female gender and how she was a male model for fatherhood, even while being in her words, “a feminine man.” Part 2 is “Maddy,” all about the years where she was transitioning from male to female and coming out as transgender to all members of her family – her mother included. (Some, unfortunately, were more accepting than others about this than others.) And the last part, part 3, is “Mommy,” talking about what happened after she fully transitioned into a woman. A great summary of the main theme throughout the book – one that I fully agree with – is that “[i]t is my hope that having a father who became a woman has made my two remarkable boys, in turn, into better men.”
Each section of the book is followed by interviews about fathers & sons, “atypical” relationships between parents & children, and interviews with mothers & daughters. Boylan points out, rightly so, that around 8% of children are now raised in a “typical” family that is so often referenced in American society, consisting of a mother (who is stay-at-home) and a father who works. And that’s the point.
I myself was raised in an “atypical” family. I had a female mother & male father, who died when I was younger; my grandmother helped raise us and when I refer to my parents, I’m talking about my mother and grandmother, not my mom & dad. But isn’t family what you make of it? Does it matter what gender the parents are? A dear friend of mine was born to and raised by two moms and now has a baby of her own with her husband. Does that make her a better or worse parent than one raised in a “typical” family? Not at all.
The shifting definition of family has long-range societal implications (it’s this question that is at the heart of the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases being decided in the Supreme Court as I type) but Finney’s book is the answer to a larger question: is this fluidity also the answer to acceptance of all? I certainly hope so and Finney makes a great case that it doesn’t matter what gender you are or transition to – it only matters what you teach them and what kind of a role model you are.
If you want to read a book that chronicles what it really means to be a parent? Pick up Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders – you won’t regret it.
*While this post contains some affiliate links, The Feronia Project was not provided a copy of this book for review. We just picked it up at the library, loved it, and wanted to share it with you.