We, the eager Grandma and others, expected the birth of a boy, and in the end we were right.
Anna Rose and I sat in the back seat of Clea’s car, playing Barbie dolls and making up stories. I told Anna Rose a story about a pig that got loose and had a big pig party in the retention pond near my house. The pigs were very happy to play in that big mud hole. After I bought her a stuffed horse at the Tractor Supply store, she and I sat under the dining room table where Anna Rose supervised the birth of several foals.
We enjoyed our adorable girlie girl never suspecting or questioning gender until, at age seventeen, our girlie girl decided she was a male and changed her name to Max.
Max was exceptionally bright, excelled in school, and was a talented artist. In high school he became a leader in the LGBTQ community. In choosing a college, he chose Frostburg State University in his home state with a welcoming policy toward the Transgender community. Anna Rose is now Max’s dead name, and it is impolite to even mention it. Sorry, Max!
At a “meet and greet” Max met Grant, another transgender male. They agreed to be roommates. Two years later they are still friends. They and two other college students have rented a house near FSU for Max’s junior year. Because of Covid-19, there was no room sharing on campus in 2020 – 2021.
When I asked Max’s permission to write about him and his LGBTQ journey, he was more than agreeable, and even willing to help.
Here is an LGBTQ vocabulary provided by Max and it helps me make fewer mistakes. According to this vocabulary, I am cisgender, which means I identify as the same gender I was assigned at birth. At age 91, I have never felt the urge to transition from female to male. Cisgender can be shortened to Cis.
Gender dysphoria is the medical condition of feeling incorrect in social situations with a body associated with birth gender. Not all transgender people experience this, depending on social norms of their community. More common is gender euphoria which is the joy of experiencing the proper gender identity.
Transgender is an adjective. Someone is transgender, not transgendered or transgendering. Transgender can be shortened to just ‘trans.’ A transgender man is a person born with a female body who is actually a man. Max is an example of a transgender man. A transgender woman is a person who is a person born with a male body who is actually a woman. Transition is a process of changing social habits, appearance, and dress, to correspond with your gender identity. For some but not all trans people, this includes going on hormones or receiving surgery. There are hormones that can help you along the way. Max took the hormones at age nineteen. In one of our family Zoom meetings I was shocked to hear his voice changed so dramatically from female to male. Surprisingly, not all trans people are gay. Some men begin life thinking they are lesbians, but then transition and become straight men. Not all trans people fit into gender norms, the same way not all cisgender people do. Max describes himself as flamboyant and girly, though still a man.
I am Max’s proud grandmother and here are some things I can brag about. Max is a senator on the Student Government at Frostburg. He has testified before the Maryland General Assembly. He was voted Senator of the Year for his work creating a Student Fees Review Board for the University. FSU has a problem with transparency in determining how student fees are spent. Max believes that students deserve input on how the fees that they pay, above tuition and board payments, are spent. The President and VP of Student Affairs of his school are trying to stop him in this effort. I believe it will happen.
Max is in a Smithsonian museum exhibit called “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.” A recording of Max talking about his experience in rural Appalachian politics as a transgender man is featured among several other interviews with local activists.
Separately he has sewn himself a pair of overalls that he loves. He has developed a very good sense of smell and he has his library card number memorized!
Max wrote to me in an email: “I’m the VP of Finance of my fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi. Currently I am interning at Turning Green, a sustainability and climate justice organization. I organize donations for them. I’m also in a seeding program with Goldman Sachs! In all of my positions, I am proudly and loudly queer. Nobody’s silly perception of me is allowed to interfere with my happiness, my success, or my wealth. I don’t believe in letting people treat me poorly.”
Max is creative, an excellent financial manager, and civic minded, especially for his work on creating a more sustainable future.
Max is very lucky to have a supportive family. I followed his family’s lead because they adjusted to the idea quickly and Max was never pushed away from the family circle. He is supported by his loving family, including me, his proud Grandma.