It’s Saturday and my son and I stand in the foyer of my apartment checking to make sure we have everything – phone, sunblock, sippy cup, animal crackers, hand wipes, miniature aviator glasses with blue and orange frames. He looks in our bag, lifts each thing once, then puts them back, nodding approval. His checklist complete, I begin my own search through one of the side-pockets – passport, pre-transition ID, updated driver’s license, a much-refolded letter from Richmond Circuit Court approving my name and gender change, a copy of my son’s birth certificate. We’re ready, it seems, for our afternoon stroll through the Museum District, just a few blocks with lots of stops for red lights and rest in shade, toward the green lawn of the art museum where my son loves to run, repeatedly say hello to statues, visit the koi in the pool by the cafe, and ascend, one clomping step at a time, the two flights of slate stairs to the garden at the top of the hill.
In those moments of gleefulness just after saying “Ready! Set! Go!” as my son runs several steps away then arcs back to me on the museum yard, I feel elation with his laughter and joy, but also sudden apprehension about what other families milling around see when they look at us. Admittedly, whether or not I appear visibly trans at that particular moment of their looking, plays heavily into my worry. My son comes back to grab my hand, lead us to the water garden to smell the flowers bordering one side, then point at the orange and red and pale fish in small groups near the lily pads. It is only after our trip up the long stairs to the gardens at the top of the park, and after our second, then third visit to the fish, that my son turns so many circles on the center lawn that he trips and falls forward into the grass. He stands almost at once, and is just as quickly brushing the dirt from his knees. But in those moments after making sure he isn’t injured and releasing him back to his crazy spinning dance, I look past him to the tall, glass walls of the museum, where two security guards stand side by side, staring at us. I stifle the fear of all that could, but ultimately does not happen – being approached with questions of who I am to my son, of having to explain here, in the South, on the grounds of a former Confederate Veterans Camp of all places, that I am transgender, have transitioned, am female, and yes, am his biological father. My son giggles and spirals away and then back, exhausting himself to the point of finally returning to the stroller. It is only when I snap him safely into his seat, and we are walking home again, that I can relax into our game of questions about all that we encounter: the various birds and trees, shrubs and bricks, the light posts and stop lights with their urgent, chirping crosswalks. // Jordan Rice