Mild spoilers for Chasing Crows Chapter 2.
You might want to read the chapter before you read the blog about it.
I never really felt comfortable moving through the world as a woman. It's not just that I didn't like the cultural expectations imposed on women, either. I was a tomboy as a kid, and most of my friends throughout my life were men. I never quite learned not to "manspread" when sitting down, despite being told how unladylike that was until, ironically, I came out as trans. I never much liked getting dressed up, unless it was an over the top costume so that it felt like cosplay. Even if other people said that I looked beautiful in makeup, I always felt like a clown. Looking at pictures of myself that other people say are great often made me feel awkward.
There was one thing that I loved about womanhood, though. I loved being a mom. I became a mom at just 17 years old, and had my third kid at 27. Each one of my kids is such a completely different, astounding human being. I lucked out because they all grew up to be people I really enjoy spending time with. At each stage in my kids' development they simultaneously frustrated me and left me in awe. Some of the qualities that made them especially hard to wrangle at 3 years old are the things that make them so cool as adults. They just have a bit more wisdom about how and when to wield their strong wills or indulge their insatiable curiosity these days. So when I came out publicly and started living as a man and I gave my kids the choice of what to call me, it was partly because I didn't really want to give up being a mom.
Of course, my kids utterly surprised me with their responses. Eldest son and daughter in law said within days that it felt like they were misgendering me if they kept calling me "mom", so they switched to "dad". Youngest daughter agreed that "dad" carried some awkward baggage because of her other parental unit, so she decided to call me "pampaw" which is "dad" in the fictional language Lang Belta from the TV series The Expanse. Middle daughter said, "I've always called you 'modrey', which isn't the same as 'madre' at all. It's gender neutral." And as if that weren't perfect enough, she sent me a father's day gift that year with a card that said, "Obviously you've always been my modrey, because you are the rey!"
When I was just on the cusp of deciding to transition publicly, rabbi Amashé Etz Alon said to me, "You may find if you think about it that you were always a bit more dad-like than you realized." As soon as she said it, I realized that it was true. I was the mom who went to martial arts classes with my kids, took them camping, did science experiments with them, kicked a ball around with them at the park. All of these things seemed very "mom-like" to me as they occurred because obviously it was their mom doing those things, but as soon as I imagined myself doing those things as a dad I realized that so many of the things I'd done with my kids were stereotypically "dad" things. I have spent an inordinate amount of time parsing how we imagine moms and dads to be inherently different when actually the real difference is just how we perceive the gender of the person doing the parenting. I was a pretty kick ass mom, and doing all those things as a mom had value as a counterweight to gendered expectations. And also, some part of me was always a dad.
At the time I first wrote chapter 2 of Chasing Crows, I was still feeling a lot more like a mom on the inside. It's been quite a few months since then, and I've found myself going back and wanting to edit one line in that chapter because I don't feel quite the same any more. The longer I move around the world as a man, the more other people perceive me as masculine and treat me as such, the more I feel like a dad and the less I feel like a mom. So why leave that line in there about a dragon recognizing a fellow mom?
Well, there are at least three reasons to leave that in the story. For one thing, that really was how I felt for a while, and I want to acknowledge that. Also, I want to normalize the idea that being trans doesn't mean that you have to reject every part of your other gendered experience and identity. Like, if you were a mom (or dad) and now you are a man (or woman) and you still feel like a mom (or dad), then by all means you are what you identify as in that relationship between yourself and your offspring and that's nobody's business but yours and your kids'! Lastly, the idea that maybe Uriel got through to the dragon because he's also a mom is a problematic statement that opens up all kinds of questions about the nature of gender, gendered parenting, stereotypes versus inherent qualities, and probably more things that I'm not even thinking of now. I don't want to run away from that problem. I want to run toward it.
Why would Uriel's experience of being a mother make it easier for him to get a dragon to believe him and cooperate with him versus Morrison's experience of adoptive fatherhood? Is it the biological parenthood that makes a difference? Why should it? Is it the history of being a gestational parent specifically that makes a difference? Dragons lay eggs. What does a dragon care about someone else being pregnant and going through labor? Maybe that was just a dumb comment based on stupid stereotypes, and the dragon would have just as easily have calmed down for Morrison if he had thought to communicate with her.