Seahorse – one label I am proud to wear
By Aydan O’Connor [caption id="attachment_6342" align="alignright" width="300"] Aydan with his family[/caption] Transman. Freak. Fat. Father. Brother. Survivor. Writer. Abomination. Otaku, Gay boy. Weirdo. Seahorse. The labels we put on ourselves as well as those that we allow others to place on us often define who we think we are. I have been called all of the labels above, and even more that I care not to repeat. My name is Aydan O’Connor, and I am a transgender man. I was born in 1984 with the body of a female, and the mind of a male. I wear all the labels affixed to me with pride, not because of what they mean but rather what I have had to overcome because of them in order to get to where I am today. In 1999 at the age of 15 I was able to place a word on the feelings I had been having since I was a young child, with the help of the internet I learned about transgenderism. Even though I knew who and what I was - it wasn’t until seven years later that I had the courage to come out to my family. In 2004 I gave birth to my son, and it was my hope that I could convince myself that I was “normal.” The empty feeling that I had when people referred to me as “she”, “her” or “ma’am” was just something I had to get over. Even though I had accepted my status of transgender long before then, I was terrified of telling anyone else. I really didn’t want to face the truth that I was trans*. I didn’t want this secret, this label that carried so much negativity; I didn’t want to be me. Towards the end of 2004 the relationship I was in collapsed and I was left bouncing between homes with a child. In 2006, I was drowning in a sea of self loathing and lack of self confidence. I could not keep my deep dark secret inside any longer. I finally came out to my parents, who promptly informed me that I was not really transgender - this had to be a fad I was going through. Aside from the woman who would become my fiancé, my two year old toddler and her six year old son were the most understanding and accepting people. Somehow these two babies understood (to an extent) and loved me unconditionally, even when my own parents could not. My parents, especially my mother, railed against the idea of my children calling me anything but Mommy. After nearly six years of emotionally bullying, my son could no longer proudly say I was his Daddy. I was simply his parent. “This is my Mommy and my Parent,” he would say when introducing my fiancé and me to his teachers. He would get embarrassed and confused when his step-brother called me Dad because my mother had done such a wonderful job of convincing my son that “Mommies gave birth, not Daddies”. “What about a seahorse?” I don’t remember if it was my fiancé or me who thought of the answer but it was a clever plan to help my son better understand my status as a transman and as the person who gave birth to him. I looked up a video on YouTube of a male seahorse giving birth and called my son into the living room. I allowed him to watch the video and explained to him that the male seahorse, not the female gives birth to the babies. In nature there is always an exception to the rule. “Can I be your seahorse, Monkey?” I asked my then 8 year old son. We call him Monkey after his favorite animal. He looked at the tiny male seahorse on my computer monitor then back to me. I could tell that he was thinking as I sat there nearly holding my breath. He threw his arms around me, hugging me tightly. “I have a seahorse! I love you.” After that moment I have never seen him upset nor confused about the fact I gave birth to him. He will even argue with strangers that I am his Daddy and his seahorse, one label I am proud to wear. This blog is part of Equality Virginia’s summer 2014 blog series about transgender Virginians. Learn more about Equality Virginia's work by signing up to receive our emails! Another great way to stay in touch is by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.