The year began with some exciting news: I was featured in a six-part New York Times video series which centered on unique and transformative ways people have come into motherhood. I have written in the past about my connections with motherhood, including my story of coming out to my children, my need for a maternal title, and the eventual granting of the title of Mom. My kids are the center of my world. I would not be alive today without their love and support. However, I never thought being a mother would put me in the national spotlight.
Last summer, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to be put in contact with a video producer from The New York Times who seeking motherhood stories. While I was not sure I wanted the exposure, I figured there would be no harm in at least talking to her to see what kind of stories she as producing. One afternoon, I took the kids to lunch and then let them play while I called New York. During the one hour phone conversation, the producer explained a little about the series and wanted to hear a little about my story. In typical fashion, I rambled on about my transition and my children. I told stories about the day I told my wife I was questioning, opened up about the depression I had gone through, and how I was proud to be a mother of two amazing, beautiful children. While more than 13,000 people had submitted pitches to be included in the series, I was not one of them, nor was that the goal of this phone call. I was not trying to sell myself. I was simply talking about myself, and she hung on every word. At the end of the hour, I finally got around to asking questions I had for her about the kinds of stories she was seeking. I was aware she wanted a transgender mother, so I asked her what kind of person she envisioned for that story. Her answer? “You.” I nearly dropped the phone. She understood my hesitation, but she told me that she would really like me to be a part of the series, and if I was interested, I should get back to her.
I talked it over with my wife. She was hesitant for all the right reasons. What would this do to our family? What kind of exposure could this bring us? What would I say about her in my piece? But after the producer shared a couple of the stories she had already been working on with us, there was no question that I had to be a part of this series. The stories were beautiful and special, and even my wife said that I could not not turn the opportunity down. So, I called New York again and agreed.
Just two weeks later, the producer booked a recording studio and flew across the country to meet me. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, I sat in a chair with a microphone inches from my face and told my story of motherhood. A surreal experience to say the least, she let me talk and talk, occasionally asking me leading questions to have me open up more and more. Once my recording was done, that was it. She would edit it down my audio to less than five minutes, and then she would then send it to an animator to interpret my story.
In January, I received another unexpected call from New York. Surprise! All six parts were ready and they were going to press ahead of schedule. All six animations were released simultaneously, with one video featured each week. Mine was featured in the third week.
I was incredibly nervous. I did not see my edited video until it was released to the public. But there it was live on the New York Times’s site: My animated story complete with my edited voice-over. My motherhood story was out there to the world. My inner circle responded positively. In a tweet promoting my story, the producer even called me “perhaps the bravest women I’ve ever met.” Wow! As expected, the trolls came out, too. Don’t read the comments, they say. But how could I not? Still, despite the negativity, I am happy I put my story out there, and I am proud to be part of a very special series.
The best thing about being a part of this project was the ability to tell my motherhood story. I have been asked to tell my transition story a few times (most notably to a group in 2016), but this was the first time someone wanted to hear my motherhood story. That was significant to me. Being recognized as a mother among these other women helped validate my status as a mother in the greater world. I love being called Mom by my kids. I refer to myself as a stage mom. But outside of my inner circle, I find that some people have trouble connecting the dots. Recently, I was talking to my son’s principal, and he introduced me to a colleague. “This is Gabrielle.” Then he paused for a notable amount of time before calling me my son’s parent. I really wanted to reintroduce myself as my son’s mom, but I resisted. Still, I felt slighted. With this video, I am out and proud as a transgender mother.
I do not necessarily embrace my trans status. I identify as a woman, not necessarily a trans woman. However, I do feel I need to advocate a bit for the trans community, and this was a nice way of telling a part of my story without necessarily revealing all of the details of me. Sometimes I have trouble seeing how special my story is seen to some people. The fact that I am transgender puts me in a single-digit percentage of the general population. Transgender people also exist on a wide spectrum: from non-binary to genderqueer to everywhere in between. I find myself on one extreme of that line: very femme. In addition, I am a parent. Not all trans women identify as a mother. Some keep their masculine parental title, others go with a compromise or blended title, still others simply have their children call them by their first name. Me? I strongly identify as Mom, and it was of great importance to me that I share a maternal title with my wife. That makes me a minority of a minority of a minority: an ultra-femme trans woman who strongly identifies as a mother. The only thing that would make me more special would be if I was a person of color, but I am not that cool. Still, with all of the combinations out there, maybe my story is more unique than I think. Maybe my story is important. Maybe I am worthy of telling my story to The New York Times.
Then again, maybe there are others like me out there who have not had their stories told. Maybe telling my story can serve as an inspiration to others. Maybe telling my story shines more light on the stories of other transgender people, moms and otherwise, and continues (or starts) a conversation. Maybe this helps me embrace my trans status a little more. If I have helped or inspired even one person, then telling part of my story has served a greater purpose, and for that, I can be thankful.
So, that’s the story of how I ended up in being part of a New York Times video series—the most public thing I have done to date. I hope you enjoy. If you watch my story, I highly recommend you take the time to watch the other five incredible stories. They are incredibly special.
New York Times “Conception” Series Landing Page: nytimes.com/conception
My story: https://www.nytimes.com/video/well/family/100000005335167/conception-becoming-mom.html
My story on YouTube: https://youtu.be/NmZsw3ba0bM
My story on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/251691789