Becoming Trans-Parent - One Family's Journey of Gender Transition. Annette Langlois Grunseth. Finishing Line Press. Georgetown, Kentucky. 2017.
Here's the thing; these poems are the written record of Annette Langlois Grunseth coming to terms with the transition of her lovely son Eric into her lovely daughter Anna.
Brave, frank, unencumbered, direct, easy to digest, right out there, true blue, honest, fierce. Yep, all of those apply to this journey and these poems. Somehow Grunseth has fashioned Becoming Trans-Parent out of the upset and turmoil of a gender switch in her immediate family. Grunseth never flinches and clearly some of that has rubbed off on her daughter.
You could, if you wanted, see these poems as an elegant exercise in empathy. But Today's book of poetry would rather posit that Grunseth was enlightened by the experience of her daughter "coming out." The experience was life and perception changing for everyone involved.
The Child I Carried
Kicks and turns danced in my belly
I fest certain of a daughter.
Dad and I sang lullabies through my stretched skin,
saw a foot crease along the equator of this miraculous globe.
Waiting, waiting, until that day,
when I labored and pushed you into waiting hands,
thrilled, yet surprised, to hear the doctor say,
You have a son.
You grew up a sensitive soul, asking philosophical questions.
As a teen you chose computers, math, science and sitting with the girls.
The boys teased you for giggling,
yet to us, you seemed more geek that girl.
Your womanhood stunned us,
but when I told you
I thought I had carried a girl
you looked like I had just given you the moon.
Today's book of poetry believes that we recognize true love when we see it and clearly Annette Langlois Grunseth's poems are a loving gesture for her daughter. But Today's book of poetry would only be interested in taking you into Becoming Trans-Parent if we liked the poems. Today's book of poetry liked these poems very much.
There is a desperate need for the sort of reason, affirmation and love that Grunseth is pedalling. Grunseth tells a good story, swings a good punch line. There is a political agenda on every page of Becoming Trans-Parent and Today's book of poetry is just fine with that. Today's book of poetry has always wanted to be a positive support to any/all members of the LBGTQIA citizens of the world. We also realize that as we become more fully aware and informed we are better prepared.
Today's book of poetry does want to be pro-LBGTQIA and we invited any of our loyal readers from these (or any other) communities to help inform our staff and monitor us if there is something we've missed. Today's book of poetry wants to be more inclusive.
Annette Grunseth has blazed a trail unfamiliar to most of us and these poems show how she has managed it with grace and candor and love.
When Your Child Comes Out
I often think of the day you were born when
I held my sweet boy for the first time,
marveling where did you come from?
It's a lot to take in, when your child comes out.
As I go upstairs to bed I stare at old photos in the hall,
your short-cropped hair, striped shirt, toddler jeans,
that little-boy smile. I walk past you in a suit and tie for
graduation. At Christmas tears still well up as
my fingers trace the "old" name on the stocking.
It's a lot to take in, when your child comes out.
But now you walk with confidence,
meet new people with ease,
get together with women friends.
Your skin is soft like pink on a peach,
your blue eyes sparkle, your child-like humor has returned
and your familiar expressions are back.
You are the same person
only now that doubting discord is gone.
You live through yourself, instead of beside yourself.
You are the daughter I always wanted.
Our morning read was dedicated to the memory of our old friend Erica Rutherford (1923-2008). Erica was an accomplished artist. We weren't close friends, but we shared a few meals. Erica, when I met her, was quietly blazing trails for transgender folk, and that was almost forty years ago. That sort of bravery was a rare commodity in rural PEI back in the 80's but Erica pulled it out of her hat like she were both Penn and Teller.
Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, and Maggie, our new intern, took the lead with this morning's read. Becoming Trans-Parent - One Family's Journey of Gender Transition is a mother's story, a daughter's story and it is all of our stories if we are to continue with reason.
Becoming Trans-Parent calls for simple understanding, simple acceptance, for that most human of feelings; the joy to be who you are. The freedom to find out.
The First Time I Enter a Ladies Restroom with My Daughter
When you were three years old, I knocked on the men's room door,
and taking your hand, opened the door cautiously.
I'd never been in a men's room before.
Urinal against the wall, a small white cake
of air freshener down in the porcelain,
only one stall with a door,
stainless steel, no pink wallpaper,
no silk flowers in a vase on the vanity.
I felt awkward, while you felt proud to go on your own,
still needing help right there in the men's room.
Thirty years later, you have transformed into a beautiful woman
with long curly hair touching your shoulders,
a hint of blush on high cheek bones, pink lips,
a necklace of crystal beads resting on your collarbones.
After lunch you don't think twice when we head to the ladies room.
I wonder — do you feel tentative like I did long ago in the men's room?
But you look like you know where you are going.
I scan the room to see if other women are looking at you, at us.
Surely, someone will notice. But they don't.
Ladies keep fixing their hair, check their teeth for lipstick,
fumble for lip gloss in their purses.
We wash and dry our hands, fluff our hair,
you tuck in your blouse, we reach for the door,
I re-enter the world with my daughter.
Today's book of poetry looks to poetry like this to help us all see our way in this troubled world. Becoming Trans-Parent may just show us how to be better people along the way.
Annette Langlois Grunseth
ABOUT THE AUTHORAnnette L. Grunseth, Green Bay, WI, a graduate of University of Wisconsin - Madison, has been a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets since 1988. She is a retired Marketing and Public Relations professional in the field of healthcare communications and marketing. Her poems have appeared in Wisconsin Academy Review, Midwest Prairie Review, Peninsula Pulse, The Door Voice, Free Verse, Blue Heron Review, SOUNDINGS: Door County in Poetry, Ariel Anthology, Fox Cry Review, The Poetry of Cold, Touchstone, annual calendar books of WFOP. She has won honorable mention awards with Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Triad and Muse Prize contests.
BLURBSThe poems in Annette Grunseth’s chapbook, Becoming Trans-Parent: One Family’s Journey of Gender Transition, are frank, informative, full of feeling and love. From the family’s time-stopped shock to mother and daughter sharing clothes, a mother’s fierce defense of her daughter to those who exclude her, and advocacy for all in her daughter’s situation, Grunseth underscores the need for the family to make the journey too:
Truth is, 41 percent of transgender people lose hope, and attempt to end their lives
unless they get love (the unconditional kind), she says in “Gender Dysphoria.” These are fine poems that every one of us can learn from.
–Robin Chapman, Professor emerita of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and poet, author of Six True Things.
Annette Grunseth’s book of poems, Becoming Trans-Parent, is a guidebook for the heart…at once exquisitely personal and tenderly universal. The questions are clear, the answers are not so transparent, regarding pronouns, restrooms, dress, dignity, health issues and social justice. These poems are about transformation and love and love and transformation. Thank you, Annette, I am a better person for having read Becoming Trans-Parent.
–Bruce Dethlefsen, Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2011-2012)
Annette Grunseth is an advocate, a poet, and a mother. The advocate in her conveys information: what words mean – words like safety, and dignity. The poet in her asks us to consider the milkweed pod, the Monarch, chrysalis & transformation. As a mother, she wants us to know her daughter is her inspiration, editor and reader. And as human beings, with our own loves & stories & shared bonds, how can we not listen?
Poets name things – it’s what we do. In one of my favorite poems in the collection, Grunseth asks us to consider naming. Her daughter selects her new name, “derived from your mother-roots” and this gift, the power of this choice is palpable in the poem; but the poet doesn’t let the reader off here (or herself). In this poem, titled “Naming My Grief,” the poet admits, “yet the day you told us the court approved your female name, / I cried that night in bed.” Moving from one identity to another, whatever the context, requires some loss, some grief. A loving parent, whatever the context, grieves this moment, and celebrates the child’s casting off of the past self & moving on to the future. Over and over and over in Becoming Trans-Parent we are reminded what it means to love, to learn, to be honest with ourselves, to be human.
–C.Kubasta, author of Of Covenants and All Beautiful & Useless
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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