“Oh boy. Oh boy. There’s one. And there’s another.” Our OB/GYN waved an ultrasound wand over my partner’s belly with one hand and pointed at the grainy image on the computer screen with the other. We knew we were having twins, but this appointment was the first time the babies were old enough for us to determine the sex. We were having boys.
We already had an 18-month-old daughter whom we were trying to raise without gender stereotypes and bias, and we were determined to do the same with our sons. We offered a wide range of colors, clothes, toys and books because clothes keep you warm and toys and books keep you entertained. No one thing is gender specific; no one thing should be meant for a boy or for a girl.
Our daughter was not a princess, a damsel waiting to be saved, or anything other than what she would choose for herself. My partner and I wanted to teach her that if the world was going to take her seriously, she needed to first take herself seriously enough to fight for what she wanted. She needed to know when to be hard; being soft was not a prerequisite for being a girl.
And our boys would certainly be more than the dangerous idea that they would simply be boys. They would be held accountable, and made well aware of their male privilege. But we would also teach them the good things they could do with that privilege. We would teach them about the benefits of holding a strong stance, but also do our best to explain that tenderness is a valuable quality.
But when I saw what the doctor was pointing out, my first reaction was relief. In a house already occupied by two mamas and a soon-to-be big sister, I was relieved that Twins A and B would have each other. They could consult on matters that had to do with well, boy stuff. I felt like a hypocrite for thinking this way.
It was not lost on me that someday I would be sending my sons off to school, camps and sleepovers. The day would come when the boys hit puberty, and their hormones would make them feel things and smell certain ways not understood by me, my partner, or their sister. Their bodies and voices would change and become foreign to them until time made everything seem normal again. But through all of this, they would have each other. And when the women in our house didn’t understand them at times, maybe they would find solace and solidarity in each other. The boys would be brought up in a home that challenges gender norms and redefines love. But how would that play out in a country filled with toxic masculinity?
My hope for all of my kids has been that when they leave the house it’s with confidence in themselves and our family, but they are walking into a world that can be hostile to queer families. Classmates will be unkind and society’s rules will not always be fair. My partner and I felt confident that we could raise sons just as well as we thought we were raising our daughter, but we wondered if it would be harder on a boy than a girl to be raised by two moms. At least they would have a built-in guardian in their twin brother.
Twin A still has Twin B, but not in the way we anticipated. Despite anatomy and being assigned male at birth, Twin B’s true gender is female. She is transgender. Since she could talk and express an opinion, Twin B has told us she is a girl. When boxes need to be checked and labels need to be worn, she demands that they validate her identity as a female. As much as I hesitated to buy pink and sparkles and frills for my first daughter, it turned out stereotypes fit my second daughter like a glass slipper. It’s exactly what she wanted and needed.
Twin A no longer has a brother. He hasn’t for a long time. We were wrong about the gender of his twin, the sibling and brother who shares his moments and milestones. His twin is still the up to his down and the storm to his calm. When he gained a sister, our son did not lose his soul mate and best friend; his support of her only strengthened their bond. He can be painfully shy at times, and her self-assurance gives him the boost he needs to try new things. They couldn’t be more entwined if they tried.
We were wrong to think that our son needed a brother to be secure and complete. We were wrong to think he needed a brother to help him learn how to be a man. If anyone is capable of teaching him how to grow into a respectable man, it’s going to be his sisters.
Twin A watches his big sister with such admiration it seems to overtake him at times. When he watches her work, play and create he does so with pride, not envy. And when she brings him into her world, he goes in with vulnerability and patience. He is eager to be taught, not take over. He revels in her affection and attention without being boastful or greedy. He sees a girl on a mission and he is ready to assist.
When it comes to his twin sister, he is the empathy she needs and lacks at times. She has a hard time seeing the good in things, yet he sees it all. He makes her see it all. He is one of her biggest allies, and while he needs her for reassurance he is sure of his love and support for her. Twin B’s gender marker is now female, but the space she occupies near him is the same. He has given her unshakable loyalty and she has returned the favor. He sees a girl who is hard to tame, and chooses to go along for the ride.
But do not confuse his kindness or gentleness with weakness. We tried so hard to not pin labels on our kids, but sometimes the absence of a label feels more alienating than not wearing one with pride. We let go of what we thought we knew, and what we thought we had.
Twin A is our big-hearted boy. It’s a privilege for him to be around such fierce females. But it’s our privilege to be around his good soul. He is going to be a good man.
Twin B is a transgender girl, but she will tell you she is just a girl with purpose and support. She will take what is hers without apology and will do so while wearing pink or purple. She is going to be an amazing woman.
The doctor was right. There’s one. And there’s another. The two of them together create a force that has nothing to do with gender or stereotypes or ideas of what I thought they needed to thrive. They have each other, and that seems to be enough.
Amber Leventry is a writer and advocate who lives in Vermont with her partner, the kids and their attention-deprived dog. Her writing appears on the Next Family, Scary Mommy, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Babble, Ravishly, Her View From Home, HuffPost, Longreads and The Washington Post. She also runs Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQ families one story at a time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @amberleventry.
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