I will tell you the story about how Frank and I save Christmas, but first a bit about me. I am a transgender woman, though I lived as a man for more than 60 years. I have had two marriages and fathered 3 daughters (with my first wife). About three years ago, I learned I was transgender, and two years ago I came out as “Holly” to my extended family.
Now, our story begins on a snowy Christmas Eve almost 20 years ago, when my daughters were young. My wife and I had just gotten the girls into bed (not an easy thing to do on Christmas Eve!), and my wife went into our bedroom to finish wrapping presents. Suddenly, she shouted out “Oh. No!” Disaster! She had just remembered one additional present she had purchased, and she sent me out to the trunk of her car to retrieve it. When I got there, I found a large, colorful Barbie Sports Car — a present intended for our daughter “Mandy.”
Why would this be a disaster? Because all the other presents had already been allocated among the three girls. Already there was as much “fairness and equality” as my wife could achieve. This forgotten gift — big, bright and desirable as it was — would completely destroy that carefully calculated balance. We faced disaster.
If we had simply wrapped up the sports car and put a Mandy tag on it, all hell would have broken loose the next morning. For you know — if you had siblings when you were growing up — that small children have the most exquisitely sensitive sense of what is “fair and equal.” They have an almost supernatural ability to sniff out the slightest whiff of “favoritism” (and thereby “injustice”) resulting from a sister or brother receiving a more expensive present…or a more desirable present…or a greater number of presents, than you. (Does this describe you and your siblings? Of course, it does!)
We could see that giving that bright plastic Barbie Sports Car to Mandy would have touched off the most appalling tantrums, whining and complaining ever witnessed in our house. There was only one thing to do.
I put on my boots and gloves and overcoat and went out and started up my 12-year-old, rusted-out, gunmetal gray Volvo station wagon (my girls had named it “Frank the Tank”). Then Frank and I drove five miles through a snowstorm to Toys-R-Us, where I battled 200 other parents in my quest to find two suitable presents for Mandy’s sisters. Which I did, after which Frank and his dependable snow tires brought me and my precious cargo safely home through the blowing snow. Those two new presents were soon wrapped, and — next morning — we all shared as peaceful and joyous (and conflict-free) a Christmas morning as anyone could have wished. (No one pitched a fit, and no one knew how close we had come to disaster.)
Now fast forward to a date two years ago, when I came out as transgender to my daughters. One daughter had no problem. She has a generous heart and quickly found room in it for Holly. The other two…well, they told me they no longer wanted me in their lives. One of them emailed me: “Do not communicate with me ever again for any reason.” Or, so the one-line email said. A lifetime of my love for her “disowned” so completely…so succinctly, that the message didn’t even need two lines.
And so I learned something about us LGBT-folk. The lives we live, the love we have for family — for parents, siblings and children — can be taken away from us in an instant. And because of this uncertainty, do we not hold it that much dearer? And value it that much more?
Aren’t we the same souls who (as children) would have had that same “sensitivity” that would have allowed us to balance out the joy and pride of a new skateboard (my present) against the excitement of a new video game (my brother’s present)? You see, when you have that “exquisite sense of injustice,” it’s not something you get over, or outgrow.
So today, as I write, things have changed a bit. I now have two daughters who are speaking to me and who want me to be a part of their lives, and they part of mine. But not Mandy. Not yet. Maybe, someday, she will think about her Barbie Sports Car, and maybe she will hear the story of how Frank and I braved the storm and saved Christmas for us all. And when that happens, perhaps she’ll want me to be a part of her life again.
It’s just a Christmas Wish I have — though who depends on wishes?
— Holly Maholm is a transgender woman who began her transition to living full-time as a woman in 2013. She is a lawyer and has three grown daughters. Holly is the author of two novels, including the new holiday book “Brave in Ribbons” (November 2015). She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and is an active member of the local LGBTQ community. For more information visit hollymaholm.com.