Gender Stories

How We Do Family with Trystan Reese

October 12, 2022 Alex Iantaffi Season 4 Episode 51
Gender Stories
How We Do Family with Trystan Reese
Show Notes Transcript

Trystan is the solo author of How We Do Family, a book described as “a refreshing new take on family life for the LGBTQ community and beyond.” He is also a 2021 Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices Fellow. Trystan co-wrote a children’s book with his partner, Biff. It’s called The Light Of You and was published by Flamingo Rampant Press. Trystan is also an essayist; his blog can be found here.

How We Do Family: From Adoption to Trans Pregnancy, What We Learned about Love and LGBTQ Parenthood a book by Trystan Reese (bookshop.org)

Trystan Reese

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Hosted by Alex Iantaffi
Music by Maxwell von Raven
Logo by Lior Allen

Musical Intro:

There's a whole lotta things I want to tell you about. Adventures dangerous and queer. Some you could guess and some I've only hinted at, so please lend me your ear.

Unknown:

Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

Alex Iantaffi:

Hello Gender stories listeners and welcome to another episode it is my great pleasure to introduce you to another fabulous guest. Today, our guest is Trystan Reese, an established thought leader, educator and speaker who focuses on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. He is a professionally trained anti racist racism facilitator and curriculum designer, studying under Reverend Dr. Jamie Washington at the Social Justice Training Institute. Tristan has also been organizing with the trans community for nearly two decades and has been on the frontlines of this generations biggest fights for LGBTQ justice. He's also the author of a book that's about to come out how do we how we do family, sorry, the title is how we do family. And I believe the publishing date is June 29, of 2021. So very soon, and I had the privilege to read Trystan's book. And here we are to talk about your book. Welcome.

Trystan Reese:

Thank you. It's so weird, in my mind, that was like, Oh, it comes out on June 29. So no one will read it until June 29. And so the idea that like my baby's already out into the world, and people are like, making judgments about it, I'm just not ready. Ready?

Alex Iantaffi:

Let's, let's talk about that. What what what do you worry about? Because I know, as an author, I know what it's like to have a book baby in the world. And so what's happening for you, as this kind of book baby is out into the world?

Unknown:

Yeah, so many things. You know, I think probably most importantly, I really oscillate between, like, holy crap, I know, I fucked up. Like, at some at some point in the book, like I know, you know, a family member may be angry at me because I miss remembered a conversation that we had, or I only shared my perspective on that conversation, you know, and community wise, I'm like, Oh, I'm sure I use. I mean, especially trans people hate the way that I explained the difference between gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, I still use a really binary like colonial framework. Because the book isn't for trans people. Trans people don't think that I'm interesting, literally at all. I think actually, you're the only trans podcast that I've been invited to, to be on. Because like, oh, man having the baby who cares?

Alex Iantaffi:

Right, that happens every day in transit. Why are we even talking about it?

Unknown:

Exactly, exactly. So on the one hand, I am I'm really scared for that, you know, that kind of thing that like, Yes, I'm sure that I said things that in a way that people didn't like, and yes, I'm sure you know that people are going to come from me on social media. So on the on the one hand, I'm like really scared of that. On the other hand, I really try to think about that fear is just energy in my body. And if I know that I can't make it go away. You know, that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. I can't destroy it. But I can reframe it as excitement. And so I'm just trying to really move into that headspace of like, I'm going to learn so much about the people that read the book about myself about what language I can use instead about who to listen to, when it comes to criticism. Yeah, so I'm really excited to see where I fucked up and to learn. And also, I'm just, I'm so tender. And it does feel like a book is so permanent in a way that I can just go back and edit an Instagram post, I can delete a tweet, you know, but like, when it's like an actual paper thing, it's like, Oh, my God, I cannot go back and just like rework that sentence anymore.

Alex Iantaffi:

I relate to that so much. There's stuff that I've written in language that I've used historically, even as a scholar that we don't use anymore. I'm 50. We didn't always use this language. I've used words like biological sex, which now I would never use, and there's been forever and anybody can find them. And there is a vulnerability that comes with that. Right?

Unknown:

It really is. And I think especially because of the harm that trans folks have experienced, you know, we're we are so defensive and I mean In that literally, to defend oneself, you know, we have been attacked for so long that then everything looks like an attack even when it's not. And often what trauma does is it causes us to universalize our own experience, you know, so just for example, I made some post somewhere that said, you know, transgender comma non binary comma gender nonconforming, and a non binary person just was pissed, and was like, non binary people are transgender. I'm like, Okay, well, that data shows us that only 70 to 80% of non binary people also identify as transgender. And I'm also working to fight non binary invisibility, I don't want to have just one catch all term for everyone. I like to enumerate it out not to say it's some other separate thing. But just to say, like, I see you, I know that your needs are unique, and I want to be paying attention to them, this person just like, of course, double down. And then how do you tell someone, okay, your experience is not like, the experience, you do not speak for all non binary people everywhere. Thank you very much. And so it's complicated. It's hard. So even when you're using like the like, supposedly best practices.

Alex Iantaffi:

I mean, the fact is that there is no absolute truth, right? And, and that's why I love that your book is out in the world. I mean, I know that maybe in trans community were like, okay, a trans man having a baby, whatever. But actually, there aren't that many kinds of narratives, and memoirs around the topic of family and what you write about. And also, you know, I'm very much a fan of, we need hundreds 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of trans narratives out there. And I'm not a big fan of the can be only one. This is like the trans memoir, right? There are so many of us with so many different identities and experiences. So I was thrilled to read your book personally. And I was soaked by that beginning because you talk about your own kind of identity as a trans man was kind of attracted to men, which is also, you know, similar to my identity, or more non binary, but on the trans masculine end of the spectrum. And some of the stuff you write about, like people going, why would you transition if you're attracted to men? Like, I totally got us there? Well, you know, my mother was like, so are you getting divorced now? And I was like, No, I'm just more gay. With my husband, than ever gay here than ever, with my husband Exactly. already knew I was queer. So and it was like you weren't in that feminine? Because it was always like, how do you feel the air and it was like, to just the same person, just different pronouns. Anyway, enough about me, I do want to talk about your book, and it's about family. So let's start from why family, why you could have focused on other aspects of your experiences, I'm sure. Why focus on family.

Unknown:

I mean, a few reasons. You know, number one, one of the major reasons I focus on family period, it really dates back to some of the like, earliest labor union people saying like, it's, it's the Bread and Roses mentality, it's, you know, some of the original things that labor unions were fighting for was not just a livable wage, but also weekends off. Also holidays. Also, like health benefits. You don't want the bare minimum, which is bread you want roses to you want beauty in your life. And I spent so many years fighting in the trans movement for some of the more basic things that I just felt really called to think about, you know, to sort of give that over to the next generation of leaders and older and older trans folks who are still doing that work, and to fight for what comes next, when people have the bare minimum or even if they don't, how do we continue to enrich and beautify and strengthen our lives, so that they're not just lives worth saving, but lives worth living. And for me, that's what family really was. It really was, even if the world was horrific and brutal, I could come home and I could not just be safe, but be left. And to have that in multiple ways, you know, from from my family, and my partner and my kids, you know, that just seemed so important and powerful for me. And so, that's just the personal reason why I did it. And then the really practical reason is just that my agent and then my book publisher made it super clear that this was a place where there just wasn't a lot. And so they're like, Okay, this is the thing you know, about like let's do this because it doesn't exist that much right now. So, so yeah, those are the two, the personal and the practical. I love

Alex Iantaffi:

that person. so impractical are a beautiful way to put it. And, and I think both are valid, right? Exactly. I noticed straight away this stood out because there aren't that many narratives out there that have been written about. And I love this idea of like your family as a place to feel safe and loved by your partner and children, because I definitely feel that in my own life and how much it allows me to then be out in the world and fight for other things, you know? And I think that often people feel that if you're trans, is anybody ever gonna love you? Are you gonna have a family? I know, those are questions that I've asked myself that people have asked me, as a family therapist, I've had clients asked me that I've had parents of trans youth going, Oh, my God, who's ever gonna love my baby? Are they gonna have their own babies? Let's talk about reproduction. Right? Those are things that I've talked about hundreds of times to people. And so I love that idea that family is that hearth that you can return to, and then to do the bigger work, right. And so let's talk about all of the different things that contribute to making a family, right, you start from love, and falling in love, which is beautiful, sometimes, sometimes, but sometimes it's hard. So let's talk about the hard stuff. You know, let's talk about going from love and falling in love, which can be romantic to actually creating your family, which is a lot harder in my books.

Unknown:

Any things kids just showed up on my doorstep? So the actual parenting of them was not hard. But I mean, the actual parenting of them was difficult the raising of them. But the actually becoming a parent for us. Nope, it was very simple. We got a phone call. And we were parents to my partner's niece and nephew. And that was pretty much it. And then the you know, obviously the baby came later. Yeah, but that's not the case. For most LGBTQ folks, for most trans folks, it requires a little bit more work.

Alex Iantaffi:

That is true. But also, I think that your journey speaks to how we can come to family in so many ways. It can be their phone call, it can be just like, there you are, there is an opportunity for you to like, move up and meet a responsibility or your partners, you know, and so, what was that like for you to kind of become apparent pretty much almost overnight, you know? And then yes, then there was a baby, but let's start with the becoming apparent overnight.

Unknown:

Yeah, you know, I do not recommend it. Number one, zero out of five stars. There wouldn't try again. Yeah, it really was, it was horrific. It was really, really, really brutal. And I went and just like, the way that I go into everything was just like pure, naive stupidity. Over I mean, like, I live in a world of rainbows and unicorns, you know, I've always believed, like, everything's gonna work out, blah, blah, blah. I mean, I don't believe that anymore. But I did when they came into our family, which is now almost 10 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. And so I went in, really, with just like, naive optimism. And pretty much a weekend realized that this was, in fact not going to be fun, that it was just going to be a lot of hard work for a really long time. And this September, we'll celebrate our 10th year as a family, we'll have a special day and everything, same as we do every year. And every year has been hard and has gotten harder. You know, parenting is no joke. Sometimes they put me on these panels, you know, these, like queer family panels, and then some like, you know, young bright eyed queer person will raise their hand and be like, what advice do you have for people who want to become parents? And then my advice is always wait. And then they everyone laughs and I'm like, This is not a joke. Like, you better have your shit together. If you want to become a parent. And I know that's like, you know, an unpopular opinion, because people will be like, Oh, but you're never really ready. You're like, more ready or less ready for sure.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, I was like, 32 When I became a parent, and I was not ready. And then I was, God, how many years old when I became a step parent, which is also a different experience than being a bio parent. But I was like, in my 40s, and I was also not ready. And now I'm 50. And I'm like, maybe some days on a good day, I understand what a good parent is. And I've also started family therapy, and I still felt not ready. So yeah, I still agree with you wait, and also is no joke and really think about it because your life will never be the same for the rest of your life. As long as your children leave, which hopefully is beyond ourselves. Your life is forever changed, at least in my experience. I don't know in yours, but

Unknown:

yeah, I mean, you should have zero if you have a partner or partners like you should have zero down talks about those people as human beings. Zero. Yeah. I do not know how I would have gotten through any of this. If I wasn't married to the best person on the planet. And even then it's just, it's just been incredibly difficult.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah, if you don't mind, let's talk about how becoming a parent overnight impacted your relationship. Because, you know, there is no way that becoming a parent doesn't impact your relationship. There's a reason why so many relationships honestly crumble when, you know, in the first few years of parenting, because there's so much pressure. And so, obviously, just share what you feel like you can share. Maybe I've already processed and sharing the book. But yeah, what was that impact for you?

Unknown:

You know, I feel so lucky because I have like, kind of like surrogate parents, who are this like, middle aged lesbian couple, they live in LA. When I was working on one of the gate, one of them gay marriage fights, I stayed in their house and live with them for like, three months. So they're kind of like my second set of parents. And they just like, ever since their girls were little, they've had such a really incredible relationship with them, just to really great give and take as parents that I always admired. And so when when our kids came to live with us in the beginning, I sat down with Sam and Aaron, you know, I sat down with him, and I just said, so you're doing something, right? Like, what is how did you get here with your kids. And they're the first thing that they told me the first and really only thing they told me is, the relationship between you and your partner matters more than literally everything else. If you are not good, then they are not good. That is so real. And I think this happens, especially those two straight couples, is get so caught up in parenting. And there's now and has been for quite some time. This really, I think, really toxic conflation of like, motherhood, and like, I don't, I don't even know what it is. It's just like with straight women in my life, they just lose their identity completely. And being a mom because it it. And if they're not sacrificing all of who they are for that then like ooh, your friends, your mom, and the Internet, everyone is going to come for you. And for them to say that I was like, okay, that ended up being really, really important. And so it was like if we had a friend that could babysit the kids, we did date night, every Friday we did date night, we went out we did we talked about the kids Yes. And other things, hopefully, and just like held hands and looked at each other and checked in and talked about hard things and not so hard things. And, you know, obviously we did not do things perfectly. And there were very hard moments, whatever disagreements we had, you know, whatever small dynamics were coming up prior to the kids, they all really came to the fore stuff around class, classism, and gender. I mean, like all of that stuff really came out in full throttle. During during those early months and years of parenting that are big kids. But really, really focusing on us was really important. And if you ask my big kids now who you know, the guy who asked him who I love the most, they'll say it's my partner. And I told them, and that's

Alex Iantaffi:

okay. Right, because you are like the the stable unit within which they're kind of been parented. And I love what you said that there is something toxic about in a way. You know, parenting is so important to me, absolutely central to my life. And yeah, I have seen this kind of toxic, overly identification. I think specialists this way women with motherhood, and then what happens is that they're so overly identified with motherhood, then if children deviate from their hopes and expectations and dreams, including sometimes they happen to have a trans child or a non binary child, and then they feel they don't know what to do. Yeah, they don't know what to do, because this was not the plan in air quotes, right? This is not what they expected. Right? And there's so very little to be expected with parenting. Right? I don't know if that's your experience, but there's so much unknown. Tell me about your relationship to the unknown him in this journey of family and parenting? Yeah,

Unknown:

I mean, this is a story I talk about in the book, but I have this, you know, this acquaintance of mine, who is she and her husband have she's a member of the trans community and she and her husband have fostered I think hundreds of at risk adolescents in like sort of a temporary situation and then ended up adopting to and then I think three siblings and I like had her on a panel that I did once you know that I facilitated it. And, you know, she said most of her frustrations as a parent could be traced back to her kid, or kids not behaving the way that she wanted them to, and just behaving the way that they were. Yes, and that most of the devastation and heartbreak and frustration with parenting comes from kids just being who they are, and not who you want them to be. And so she said, as much as you can throw out who you want them to be, and really just get super comfy with who they actually are, the less parenting can feel like unknown, and the more it can feel like an adventure that you're having. And that's like, it's still so easy to say, and so hard to do. I don't know how she does it, because she has kids with special needs. You know, and as our kids have struggled with a variety of things, I'm just like, how does she do it? You know, and so that's, that's one of the constant reminders that I have for myself, it's just like, am I frustrated, because this awesome kid is just like, not some fantasy kid in my head. But it's actually just the real person.

Alex Iantaffi:

Really, and you don't know which kid you're gonna get in every way. You know, whether you become a parent overnight, like you did, or whether you're by your parent or a step parent, the kid is going to be where they are. And I love that that's the best parenting advice ever. But much easier said than done. And then there's not just your expectations by your partner or partners to right, you talked about how you know those differences around class and gender really get highlighted when parenting? Are there moments, especially around gender, given that this is the gender stories podcast, so people do love to talk about gender law, I ended up talking about all sorts of things, especially around gender and parenting ever, there have been salient moments for you that really stand out.

Unknown:

Oh, yeah. I mean, certainly, when our big kids came to live with us, they were one in three. So my daughter, Haley was only one and came to us with almost no clothes at all. And so what we did was buy clothes. And then I would, you know, just sort of go to the like us clothing store, whatever, pick up little Carhartt overalls, or like, you know, little, like little, you know, Doc marten boots, you know, things that I thought were very cute. And I was mindful that, you know, her being assigned female at birth, I wasn't mindful of what the world was going to project onto her. Because it was projected onto me, not by my parents, luckily. But you know, I still lived in a world I didn't live on some commune where I didn't have any inputs. And I didn't want to project that onto her, you know, and so if I came home with some clothes for her or whatever, it was never a dress, a tiara, a fairy costume. It was never like a daddy's little anything ever. That's just not what I wanted. And at one point, you know, my partner did ask, so like, how come you're like dressing her like a boy. And I was like, well closes in half gender. So I'm not. And my partner was like, That's the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard. Our society does assigned gender to clothing, and you know that, and I'm asking why you're only picking clothes from one end of the gender spectrum. And I explained a while I don't want to, like push femininity on her, you know? And he was like, that sounds pretty sexist to me. Like what is wrong with femininity? What is wrong with PhillyD? frilly dresses and tights and Tiaras and butterfly wings? Like rubbish? What is wrong with those things? They aren't inherently bad. Like, I'm sorry, if you were you that felt like a burden to you. But you can't project your own experience of femininity onto this little kid who's even a toddler yet you know, like, can't even walk. And so as with most of our big discussions, I like quickly realized that I was wrong. And you know, from then on, just really tried to pick things from across the gender spectrum and until until she was old enough to pick her own clothes. Of course, there's just that limited amount of time like a couple of years before they start to have opinions on what

Alex Iantaffi:

was gonna say. And then by the time they're free, like they have opinion because I did I was picking from all over the gender spectrum from my kiddo. I have to say maybe a little more more heavily on the masculine end of the spectrum for similar reason to yours. But then there was no doubt that by the time she could tell me what she wanted that like free she had a whole year of never wearing trousers that was all skirts, all dresses all the time. My kid loves femininity and princesses and also is very much integral power, which is 70 now, but it's kids know they are You know, and I remember even my kid being aware of like, our social context, I like sigh it be like there's a lot of husbands in our family where all the girls, and I was like, there are a lot of husbands in our queer family, I need to find you some more feminine possibility models, not you know, they're not, you know, more on the masculine end of the spectrum. Yeah, it's parenting and gender is complicated, I find, and then a budget.

Unknown:

And weirdly enough, COVID has taken a lot of the complicated nature out of it. You know, for example, I was just thinking with Leo, our toddler who's actually now, not even a toddler anymore, almost for him. But basically, he refused to get a hair cut through all of COVID. So this hair just got longer and longer and longer and longer. And you know, like, it doesn't really tangle that much. It doesn't get greasy. It's It was long enough that it wasn't in his face. So like, who cares, you know? And similarly, we dress him just across the gender spectrum, whatever people hand down to us, right? Like, yes, sure, skirts, dresses, leggings with hearts on them, he doesn't care, so we don't care. And it occurs to me that his ability to continue to be gender creative without even like there that doesn't even exist, because there's no gender to conform to or to rebel against. It's just close, you know, and that's really been empowered and strengthened by the fact that there's no other inputs. He's not going to preschool, or even playing with other kids in a park. Like I think two weeks ago, we played at a park with other kids for the first time in over a year, which is his whole life, as far as his memory is concerned that you know, almost four. And there was one point where he ran off to something and some other kid at the Park asked me like, Oh, where'd your little girl go? And I said, Oh, you know, he went over there. And she was like, well, he can't be a boy. He has long hair. And he didn't hear it. Right. But it was really that point. I was like, Oh my God, he's never heard that he has no, literally no clue that usually boys have short hair. And usually girls have long hair. He does. He has no idea. And so it's just been. It's been so funny to see him kind of raised outside of that completely. It's just been Yeah, it's just been a fun adventure. So he still doesn't have a sense, he'll say that he's a boy. But for him, that does not mean that he doesn't wear dresses, because he doesn't know that it doesn't mean that he wears dresses.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah, and by the time that kids are four, they do have that sense. I'm a boy, I'm a girl. I'm a boy and a girl. Like they know what they are. Specially if there is that expensiveness around them. And I love that and yeah, and I had that moment of like, oh my god, I wasn't like gender creative enough. Like I didn't I did gender my child, quite honestly. Like, you know, in terms of pronouns, and I know some families don't do that. But then I was like, but the gender was such a broad landscape and full of trans and queer people. And that's his own gender creativity. And it sounds like a similar for your kids in a way.

Unknown:

I think so. Hold on one second. Can you speak? Can you give me your word? Sweet? Coming? I gotta took Poppy downstairs for you. Hold on one sec.

Alex Iantaffi:

already. I know. That's a life parenting moment. That's okay. That's what happens. Yeah.

Unknown:

Okay, keep going.

Alex Iantaffi:

That's okay, so talking about parenting. I mean, and we were talking about parenting and gender, but also parenting and just how it's like it's just such a part of life, right? It's like, especially during COVID I don't know about you, but there is like we work from home, we parent from home, everything is happening at the same time our children are going to school from home. Like for you and for your family.

Unknown:

I mean, it seems to be for us the same as it is for everyone, which is like the highest highs, the lowest lows. This actually just posted this on Instagram, just last night thinking about this, you know, especially for Leo, who's you know, I'm holding in my arms right now. You know, right now he's just in the stage where he wants to sleep in the, in the bed with me. And given that he's, you know, given that he's almost four, and he knows how to sleep in the bed by himself and all of that, like I just read him. And there is such a, just a really intense and high connection to and comfort with. And in knowing I think between us you know, just truly knowing that we can really be much more intuitive with each other as a family. You know, much just much more symbiotic, you know, there's just that give and take. And so much unspoken, you know, just because we all know each other so well now. And that's been really lovely in a way it feels very old fashioned. You know, I think about my ancestors, who probably all slept in one room for most of their lives with many kids, my dad had 13 Brothers and sisters. And, and I just think, you know, they did, they ate, they slept, they drank, they farmed, I come from farmers and coal miners, and like that, that they did all of that together, you know, they were with each other all the time. And of course, it's obnoxious and annoying, do Lord just let me pee, you know, but in another way, there is something that is very, that does feel very, you know, that I guess natural about it. And it's also been horrible, especially for our older kids, you know, to be 10 and 13. That is literally the time. You know, anthropologically when you distinguish yourself from your parents, when you start to have an identity that is not them and not to theirs. And to not have a place for them to do that, and not have a place for them to take it. You know, just as I love that Leah doesn't have a whole lot of other inputs right now. 10 and 13 year olds should have many more inputs, other than just us, YouTube and Netflix. Okay? Horrible. It's been, it's awful, just like oh my god Get Get out of my face. And they want me to get out of their face, you know. So it is it's just the highest highs and the lowest.

Alex Iantaffi:

That is very true. I mean, my oldest was 16, when COVID hit and, and it was such a, it's such a difficult age to be isolated those teenage years. And like you said, there is something very protective in some ways not having those outside influences as a family. Because you're not really exposed to everybody else's opinion of your family. Have you found that, you know, as kind of a trans and queer family, other people have opinions about your family when you're out in the world? And they're maybe not always so supportive? Or nurturing? Yeah, what's your experience of your, the way your family is perceived and received and welcomed by the world around you?

Unknown:

You know, I don't know, you know, I kind of in many ways ascribe to the, the, you know, ripples saying that, like, what other people think of me is not in my business. And, you know, there's, there's a lot of times that I'm like, I'm sure we go out places, and, you know, people may look askance or have questions or whatever, I don't know, I honestly, like is having kids is so much of a handful, I'm not paying attention to them. So true. And that's right. And, you know, I'm just busy trying to keep it all together as much as possible. And, you know, in terms of safety, there are especially when we leave Portland, you know, there are times when I feel that protective instincts, you know, flare up, if you will, the armor just kind of like chinks into place. And you know, I do have to be very alert and very aware of what others are thinking about me and us. But largely speaking, other than on the internet, you know, We're incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who, you know, are pretty excited that there's a family near them. For example, one of our kids friend's moms sent a baby gift to school, to give to my kid to give to us when I was pregnant with Leo. And in the note, it said, Thank you for telling your story publicly, it's been the perfect opportunity for me to talk to my kids about all the different kinds of families that exist in the world and all the different ways that people can be in the world. And so I think a lot of heterosexual cisgender people are just like, This is great. I forgot to tell my kids that this could exist, you know? So yeah, it's been it's been really we've been incredibly privileged in that way.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love this story, because I was gonna say you have been pretty public in some ways about your story, and about your pregnancy. And I was gonna ask the kind of the impact on that, but I love this, this positive impact, right that Oh, yeah. This is a great way to talk to kids about there are all sorts of different families, you know, and I remember, you know, my kid when she was younger, dragging friends up to the studio to show like the belly cast to be like, See, I told you, he used to be like she and he's my mom. Here's the proof, right? Because I was like, Sure show my enormous Valley cast to all your friends. You know, I'm sure it's like six or seven. I think now the conversation has changed. But even now, you know, it's like, I just have two dads and one No, my dad is my mom and that that

Unknown:

kids don't really stress about it too much. No. She was gonna say, oh. And what I want to make sure is that we don't lose, you know, just the incredibly brutal backlash online. Absolutely. And, you know, sometimes people reach out, we'll reach out to him like, oh, I want to tell my transparency story publicly. And I'm like, don't? Don't you'll regret it. Yeah. And some of them listen to me, most of them don't. And then they come back to me. And they're like, holy shit. I'm like, Yeah, I tried to tell you. I tried to tell you. I mean, no joke. I know, several now transgender, trans and non binary folks who have told their story publicly or tried to, and have ended up in deep mental health distress.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, I can absolutely believe that. I think that being a visible trans person online can really make you a target, especially right now, when there are so many people who seem to be really focused on demonizing trans community in every way. And you know, the wave from the UK is coming in. Before moving to the US, I lived in the UK for 15 years, and I have many friends there. And I'm, I'm so anxious about this wave of turf coming here, because I can see the impact has had on my friends and communities mental health in the UK, and I see it coming. It really feels like this just enormous wave coming at us. And I'm not sure that folks really understand just how impactful it could be if we don't stop it.

Unknown:

Yeah, and it's also a great opportunity for, you know, trans folks who are assigned female at birth to be learning from transgender women, because they've been in this for as long as they have existed in modern society. You know, in the UK, and in the US, anyway, yeah, obviously different elsewhere, and in indigenous communities here as well. And like, this is where that's who I turned to. Like, I even like some of my drag friends. Like I'm friends with a really famous drag queen, who was on people's driveways. I was texting him. He's not trans, but he plays you know, he plays one on TV, in many cases. I just like, how do you how do you deal with it? And you know, my other trans friends, especially black trans woman, I reached out to them and I was like, I'm, I'm so embarrassed to ask you this question. But like, how do you do it? Like, how do you find that resilience, that courage, that confidence in the face of this, because I knew it was bad intellectually, I didn't know in my body, what it was like to be targeted and the way that I have been targeted, I just, I just didn't even think about how it would feel I just did it is stupid. But there we go.

Alex Iantaffi:

It is what it is. There are certain experiences that you that piece of embodied cognition, right, we don't know what they feel like until we experience them. And there's something about being the recipient that you feel in your bones, you know, being the recipient of that type of hatred, that it's born deep, nearly salutely I agree. 100%. And I want to be respectful of your time. And I feel like I could keep talking about family for for a long time. But, you know, hopefully, we'll have an opportunity to talk more at some point in the future. But for now, one of the questions I always ask is, Is there anything we haven't talked about that you were really hoping to talk about? Or do you want to leave our listeners with and I just want to make sure that there is an opportunity for you to share that? Yeah,

Unknown:

absolutely. Guys, here my chapstick now no one can see the video but he has now.

Alex Iantaffi:

listeners can see the video. But this is like the sweetest thing. Like the second half of this interview is like Tristan, just like one thing is baby. I think he's your youngest baby. Yeah, exactly. Your big baby and parenting while also doing an interview. It's kind of it's amazing.

Unknown:

Yeah, it's one of my favorite. One of my favorite photos of another trans man who had a baby that I'm friends with is he was supposed to give a keynote. And his baby just like would not settle down for his partner. So he just literally strapped the carrier on and delivers the whole keynote with a three month old babies do um, and I was like, Yes, Dad.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. That's what parenting looks like. Really.

Unknown:

I mean, it really is. I think, you know, the the final thing I'll say is what I say to all queer people who are interested in parenting and family building, which is you know, hold tightly to your vision of becoming a family and hold lightly to how you get there. Because biology is so complicated and messy and weird and Love is so complicated and messy and weird. And kids are complicated and messy and weird. And sometimes what I see is people have this vision of like, well, but I have to be the one to carry the baby. And they'll push and push and push, and spend years trying to be the person doing it. And then finally, they're like, Oh, I guess my partner will. And once the baby is born, there's just like, there's just never a point that you look at your kid and you're like, Oh, I wish we chosen sperm donor for five, two, instead of two for eight, you just never do. You don't look at your baby and think, Oh, I would love you more. If I'd given birth to you, instead of my partner. It just doesn't. It just doesn't happen. You just end up with the kids you're supposed to end up with. And you try things. And if it doesn't work, you just try something else. And for us, it did end up working to, you know, to have Leo but we made an agreement, we're going to try for six months, we're going to open the door, I'm going to stop testosterone. If a baby Metaphorically speaking, walks through the door. Great, right, we're just going to remove the barriers, if it happens, great. If not, we didn't want to do IVF. You know, we didn't want to do a lot of other things. Because the whole point of doing the baby this way is to make it easier than the first way. And so we just decided this is how long we're going to try. And if it works great. If not, we close the door, I go back on T and we enjoy the kids that we have. And I think that is you know, that lower stakes approach has really served us and so that's usually what I tell people is just never know how you're gonna get there. But it'll happen.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love that message. Because I feel as queer folks, if there's one thing we know is how to come to family in all sorts of ways. And so just to really embrace that it's so precious to me, you know, and yeah, as somebody who was appearing both by biology and by partnership, and I've read most, you know, like had walked through the door. I love that I love that approach. Any call to action that you want to leave with our listeners, anything that you would like maybe some allies to do, because you know, I love that message to trans and queer folks, like stay open to family, whoever comes to you. But any messages for sis allies?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, a lot. That's why I wrote a whole book.

Alex Iantaffi:

That's a great way to learn.

Unknown:

I've spent the last 20 years of my life working. That's not That's not true. How old am I? I'm 30. I'm going to start I first started doing trans organizing when I was 16. And so, you know, for 22 years I've been working with sis people on trans shit. And I it is it there is there's a lot to it. There's a lot to how do you examine the internalized stuff? There's a lot to some of the facts and figures. And then there's a lot to the tools. It's the sort of head heart hands model. And I did I put as many as I could fit into this book without it feeling teaching. You know,

Alex Iantaffi:

I think you did an amazing job. But like, I enjoyed reading it. But I could also see how you were appealing to that kind of the heart to heart connection that I think people need to feel to kind of change the way they look at LGBTQ folks, and especially trans folks. I think. So yeah, I totally agree. Listeners, please do buy the book, buy for family members, it's going to make a great present for whatever holiday you celebrate, or just because maybe we're starting to see family again, now that we're vaccinated. So the book is how we do family. And you can find it at any independent bookstore or wherever you get your books from. And thank you so much Tristan for giving your time and and your your baby are big babies asleep now and it'll phase. I know this is like the sweetest moment.

Unknown:

So much. But it is also like that's just like a totally perfect example. He comes up the stairs crying like oh, he's just tired. I know the blankie wet, I'm just gonna grab it. I know exactly what to say to him, I will hold you on my lap. But you'd have to be quiet because I'm having a conversation with a friend. You know, it's just there's an ease there that we've really gotten to anything because of COVID. And, and it really is so sweet.

Alex Iantaffi:

And what a gift to be able to kind of see that parenting in action and see that is and I think there's a lot of that beauty in your book. You know of kind of the how you come to family sometimes can be challenging can be unexpected, but he should just open that door. Here you are, bro. You've been doing this for 10 years now. Right? So

Unknown:

it feels like forever.

Alex Iantaffi:

With us, I wish I could tell you it gets easier. Having done this for 17 years. It just keeps failing like forever in my experience.

Unknown:

Well, thanks so much for having me.

Alex Iantaffi:

Thank you so much for sharing your stories with our listeners and listeners. We still get how we do family by Tristan ways. It's an amazing read. And I look forward to hearing what you think about this book and think you trust them.