May 3, 2013 at 10:27 AM ET
Best-selling transgender author Jennifer Finney Boylan and her wife have maintained a loving relationship with their two sons.
“What we know is that the gender of parents is a whole lot less important than the love in the family,’’ said Boylan, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2002, on TODAY Friday.
In her new book, “Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders,” Boylan writes about raising a family while transitioning. Jennifer, her wife Deedie and son Zach spoke with Willie Geist on TODAY Friday and also conducted an interview with Harry Smith that will air on “Rock Center with Brian Williams” at 10 p.m. ET on Friday.
Boylan was 44 years old when she told her family that she was intent on transitioning from James, a husband and father of two sons, to Jennifer. She has written extensively about her experience, and her 2003 memoir, “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders,” was the first best-seller by a transgender American. She and Deedie tied the knot in 1988, and Deedie was initially uncertain of what would become of their marriage.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be married to a woman,’’ Deedie told Geist. “I was scared about what it meant for my future and our future, but I’m not sure I ever came to that sort of very edge of the precipice saying I can’t stand this. It was hard and it was scary, and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but there was not a time when I said, ‘Forget it, I can’t do it.’’’
“You have to be true to yourself,’’ said Jennifer, who is an English professor at Colby College in Maine. “I didn’t want to be raising a family in which I was teaching my sons that it’s OK to lie. It’s certainly one of the things as a father was to protect my family, to stand in between them and trouble, and then suddenly I was the trouble. That wasn’t much fun.’’
Jennifer’s transition was gradual, and the boys invented the name “Maddy,’’ a combination of Mommy and Daddy, to call her.
“I came out very, very slowly,’’ Jennifer said. “It wasn’t like one day I waltzed in in sequins and said, ‘Now my name is Tiffany Chiffon.’ We worked it out really slowly over a couple of years, and in some ways that transition is still going on.”
The boys, Zach and Sean, never experienced jokes from other kids.
“You’d be surprised, actually,’’ Zach said. “I was never made fun of because of Maddy. I’ve never had anyone say anything negative to me because of who my parents are. I’ve been really lucky.”
“I think that the wonderful thing about our family is that we’ve been able to build a life that we’re really happy with,’’ Deedie said. “I never felt trapped in this. I get to choose every day to stay married to the person I fell in love with 25 years ago.’’