My First Father’s Day Being a Mom, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

My First Father’s Day Being a Mom

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 rough and tumble

 

My boys say they’re OK.

When I asked them how they felt about it being Father’s Day, they said they were OK.  One asked if he still needed to get me something.  Another said he worked double time on Mother’s Day making cards for two moms and now he appreciates the day off.

I have the best kids ever.

When I think of the times I held them as infants on my chest and sang to them, when I think of pulling them in wagons and pushing them in strollers—all the times carrying them in front packs, the fishing trips, the chasing after ice cream trucks, the making bread and chimichangas, all the times we drew together, all the stories I told at bedtime, all the snake hunts and ootheca searches (praying mantis nests), all the movies (watching Pirates of the Caribbean and the Harry Potter movies over and over and over), all the times playing catch or pitching to them, or the time I took them out of school (along with my students) to take them to see the Parade downtown when the Phillies won the World Series in 08; the teaching them to drive, the times sitting in Barnes and Noble drinking soda and looking at books, the teaching the few guitar chords I know, the screaming at the top of my lungs at Battle of the Bands, the being so proud when they won first place–It wasn’t a lie.  All that daddying.  All that fathering.  It was real.  Always will be.  Nothing will ever change my having been their father.  No matter what anyone says, nothing can ever take those memories away.

My kids can see him in the old photographs with his scruffy goatee, scruffy clothes, silly grin.  They can see hear him in my voice and see him in my hands and face.

But I am Mom Number Two.  Always was.  It’s just none of us knew it until now.

My boys are my treasures.

I love them with all of my heart.

And not just because they support me as a transgender parent, not just because they have taken this whole journey so well, and with such class, love, and good humor; but because they are good and decent people, they are my flesh and blood.  They are my kids.  Nothing will ever change that.  No matter what I look like.  No matter what happens to this body.  Nothing can ever take away twenty years of fathering.

Nothing will ever change that I love them to the moon and back.  And always will.

 

Ben's graduation 2016

A family photo at Ben’s graduation this June, 2016.  He’s the middle one, with Sam to his right, and Daniel to his left–and then Mandy, Mom Number One, and then me, Jennifer, Mom Number Two.

 

 


 

 





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Witness, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

I wrote this poem two years ago today.  I had forgotten about it.  I am glad I found it though.  I want to live like this again.–Jennifer

 

 

 

Witness

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

When you stop
And think about it,
The idea is absurd:

Beetles that light up.
Bioluminescence
They call it.

I call it utterly and phantasmagorically
Miraculous.

Along the river banks
Of the jungles of Malaysia,
Fireflies synchronize
Their flashing lights;
In the town of Donsol
In the Philippines,
Fireflies stay around
All year, coexisting
With the locals, like
Eccentric sentinels;
In the Great Smoky Mountains
Of Tennessee,
Fireflies have been seen blinking in unison.

If you are a believer
In doubt and darkness,
If you partake of the white bread
Of theorized negativity,
If you harbor any spiritual misgivings
Then stop and think about this
Outlandish phenomenon
Occurring in backyards and fields
Around the world, better yet
Stop and see it for yourself.
And once you do, ask yourself:

Can I really keep up this charade?
Can I really keep myself
From swooning with devotion and wonder?

Why not allow these little,
Avant-garde angels lift you,
Illuminate you, and save you
From the cold, dry emptiness
Of faith in things untrue?

Try.

Try for your own sake
And for the sake of the future:

Stand on the edge
Of a cornfield at night
In deep July, or find a field, backyard, or woods
Humming with mystery, and simply be
A witness to the dazzling carnival
Happening in the tree tops,
Skimming the dark grass, bobbing
Up and down in the cool, moist air, like
Strings of moving green Christmas lights.
See these little beetles with their lovely
Blinking bellies, and allow yourself
To blossom, like
A night gladiolus, sending the fragrance
Of your newly found faith
Into the world;

Let your life shine
So that others may stand in awe
Of the delicate, extravagant work
Of the Divine.

Go ahead.

Be amazed,

And watch everything

Around you,
And within you,

Break open
Into light.

 

 

 


 

 


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The Vigil, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

vigil photo 1

 

The Vigil

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

vigil (n.)  1200, “eve of a religious festival” (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), from Anglo-French and Old French vigile”watch, guard; eve of a holy day” (12c.), from Latin vigilia”a watch, watchfulness,” from vigil “watchful, awake, on the watch, alert,” from PIE root *weg- (2) “be lively or active, be strong” (source also of Old English wacan “to wake up, arise,” wacian “to be awake;” Old High German wahta “watch, vigil;” see wake (v.)). Meaning “watch kept on a festival eve” in English is from late 14c.; general sense of “occasion of keeping awake for some purpose” is recorded from 1711.

—From the Online Etymology Dictionary.

 

 

The Vigil

 

We were watchful, alert to every loud sound,

We were lively, active, and strong—we were awake

So fully our guard dropped and we wept in the arms of strangers;

We were watchful, full of rage, full of questions,

We were a living sea of sorrow that crashed the shores

Of common humanity, and we were strong, and we were awake,

And we were alert to every loud sound,

And we rose on steps and shoulders, and we rose on songs and speeches,

And we rose on embraces from strangers—

We were awake—watchful, alert to every sound—

We lit one another’s candles, we swayed in silence, swayed in song,

We shouted out to high heaven the names of the stolen,

We whispered to hell the name of the thief,

We held signs and wrote in chalk on pavement

Messages of solidarity, we assembled forests of candles,

Altars of light and tears, altars of hopelessness turned

Into hope somehow, someway, some holy

And desperate way.  And we were watchful, and we were awake,

And we were alert to every loud sound, and we were lively,

And we were strong, we were active, and we sang knowing

This was no eve of a festival—it was the eve of funerals

And heartbreak, families just finding out their loved ones

Were gay and gone—

This was the homily of tears,

This was the vigil of no tomorrow,

This was the night of never ending darkness lit up

By hearts and candles,

This was the right and human thing to do,

This was the pulse of a nation,

This was the vigil for us all.

 

 

vigil photo 2


Moment of Silence, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Moment of Silence
By
Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Grateful as I am for the moment
Of silence, for the pausing
To stand together, breathe
Together, do nothing with our phones together,
Remember people
We did not know together,
Let us rise up together
And share a moment
Of weeping, a moment
Of rage, a moment of falling
Into each other’s arms,
A moment of shouting,
A moment of wailing and tearing
Our shirts, a moment
Of witnessing each other’s pain
Together, a moment of-
We-must-stop-this-from-ever-
Happening-again-together,
A moment of complicity,
A moment of shame as a nation,
A moment of guilt at doing nothing except
Stay silent, a moment of knowing
We must change, put an end
To any hatred within ourselves alone
In our moment of silence, alone
In our moment of grieving, alone,
In our moment of righteous indignation–
We must change–together alone, for one
Everlasting moment, for one eternity
Of silence, for one generation of silence,
Lifetime of silence, gone forever silence.
Let us be silent no more.
Let our voices be heard, our tears
Be seen, our changed minds
Be demonstrated by actions changed
And full of common sense, any
Sense, any enlightened, civilized
Semblance of sense, let us be silent
No more, let us be still no more,
Let us be revolutionary together alone now—
For the moment has passed, is
Passing—the moment is
No more.

 

 

 

 


 


Pulse by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Pulse

 

Pulse

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Pulses lost in the Pulse.
Pulses slowing, pulses struggling to flow
On floors, in hospital beds,
Behind tables, and rooms
Of young people existing
In secret and fear.
Pulses aching with grief and rage.
Pulses on fire with loss.
Pulses full of no more, no more, no more.
Pulses must become one pulse.
Your pulse. My pulse.
My transgender pulse.
Pulses of privilege and safety.
Pulses of people praying
In churches and mosques,
Synagogues, temples,
And living rooms.
Pulses of people in alleyways.
Pulses of people behind closed, political doors.
Pulses of your sisters.
Pulses of your brothers.
Pulses of those who do not identify
As brother or sister.
The pulse of deep humanity. Pulse
Within pulse, pulse within pulse.
Pulse of Pride.
Find inside ourselves,
Find inside each other,
Pulses to rise, pulses to fight,
Pulses to beat as one
To change the world,
To hold one another
In reverence and mourning,
To eradicate hate-mongering,
Barbarian pulses of those with ideas
Wrapped in blood, hypocrisy,
Shadow, pure insanity. Pulse
Within pulse. Find the one pulse
Of those who seek to live
In one rhythm stemming from one heart.
In the soul pulse of a nation
On the brink of revolution,
A revolution to breathe together
As we were meant to do.

 

me selfie


Stop the Killing, Stop the Hate, A Memorial Day Message By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Stop the Killing, Stop the Hate,

A Memorial Day Message

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 “Jesus loves me this, I know.”  Do you?

 

Many die every day fighting wars both inner and outer, for freedom–yes, for freedom–in a country meant to protect the freedoms of all individuals–in a “Christian” nation supposedly founded on equal rights for all.   Transgender people like me fight to exist, to pee, to not have to justify and explain my right to simply live.  Every solider that died for American wars fought to keep people like me safe.

 

We are not a threat to “American Christian values.” I am not a threat. There has still, to this day–ever been one recorded incident of a true trans person harming anyone in any public bathroom EVER, and yet dozens and dozens of politicians and “religious” people have been charged with sex crimes and no one is murdering them (not that we should, of course).  We are not a threat to the radical feminists or to the radical, so-called, defenders of American values.

 

There is a wiki article that shows how the war on transgender people only gets worse and worse.  These are people fighting wars and battles simply to exist in their own country. Of course, many have been murdered and were never reported. Many, many suicides happen every day and are not listed here. These are murders too.  And the people inciting violence on them are responsible for their deaths—the pastors, politicians—the parents who kick their kids out of the house, the bullies who torment them—they are all responsible for killing the human beings just trying to fight the battle for their right to exist.

 

Notice how the numbers increase year by year. It is no coincidence that the more hate is spewed from so-called Christian leaders and politicians the more transpeople die–the more on the LBGTIQA spectrum die (yes, I know, and the media gives it all more attention and that accounts too for the increase in numbers).

 

Stop the hate. Stop the murder. Stop the suicides. Love your kids like real parents should. Love and accept your family members like real families should. Protect your loved ones.

 

While we remember the lives of those lost for our country–remember they died for people like me—that I may live with the same freedoms as you.

 

Don’t dishonor their memory by standing by and allowing another new civil rights battle and genocide to be waged on people like me on our watch. Don’t dishonor their memory by hating people like me and supporting those who would take away my freedoms or have people like me wiped from the face of the planet.

 

Transgender people like me and all other LGBTQIA people have never been a threat to “Christian” values.  If those values were so strong, so rooted in the “true religion of God,” then no one should fear their ever being harmed.  My rights do not invade yours.  Your ability to marry whomever you choose is in no way effected by who I choose to marry.  Prove how solid and true your values are and LIVE them.  Jesus NEVER hated people like me and he would weep to know how many parents kick their children out of their houses, or bully them to suicide.  Jesus would weep to know people like me are killed for simply being who we are—who “God” supposedly “made us to be.”  Jesus would be appalled to see his name, his teachings used to spread needless and shameful hatred, violence, bigotry.  If your truth was so strong it wouldn’t need defending from transpeople who just want to pee in a public restroom–who just want to LIVE in peace.

 

If you go to churches of any kind–temples, mosques, any type of religious body–advocate for us–for me.  Write to politicians and tell them to wage war on the issues that matter—poverty, crime, homelessness, student debt, pollution, and so on.

 

Memorial Day.

 

Let’s not make any more memories of those killed in the line of duty–abroad–or here–here with people like me just trying to live our lives in peace–here in our families, in our towns, in our schools, in our sacred places of freedom.

 

Peace, Jennifer

 

me selfie


 

 





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Rising Up to Meet the Road, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Rising Up to Meet the Road

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

beautiful road

 

 

There are poems unfinished

Waiting in the woods beneath roots of trees

And hovering, like horsetail clouds behind the moon;

There are songs unwritten

Following beside me as I walk,

Their melodies coming in snippets, like

Distant birdcalls or pieces

Of dreams, and soundbites

Of conversations overheard

In used bookstores, classrooms, and coffee shops,

Their rhythms blossoming

From the muse and the soul touching all night, all day,

Every day, when I am not able to dance

Either asleep or awake;

There is work undone

Waiting in the universe, making its way

Towards my door, opportunities

Growing, like flower gardens

Planted when no one is looking,

But they are coming, they are revealing

Themselves little by little, like

Spring in the coldest of winters;

There are people unloved

Waiting in the wings for me to release the spirits

That bind me–to make my way

Towards the light, to open

The hands of my heart

And let in those who see

And feel and know my name,

And for me to step through

The fourth wall and into their arms and lives;

There are answered prayers

Unprayed, waiting to be let loose

Into the world, like

So many fireflies, like a carnival

Of children, like a collection

Of songs and poems

Published on the wings

Of pain and healing and lifting their way

Into moonlit clouds and sunlit days,

And alighting back down as angels and

Moonbeams, sunbeams and ends of rainbows,

Petals of cherry blossoms,

Dragonflies, and cries of cicadas

And morning doves, and beings

Of all the elements, and all of this, all of this

Swirling into one, worthy to be lived

Life of one woman rising up

To meet the road.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 





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My Nest Was Built With Little Bones, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

My Nest Was Built With Little Bones

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

My nest was built with little bones,

Shells, feathers, twigs, candy wrappers,

Shiny things, torn pages of catechisms, shabads,

And pornographic magazines,

It was made of moss and hair, abandoned ribbons,

Scraps of red bandannas, silken scarves,

Shopping lists, and spit.

 

 

For years I incubated beneath the hollow-boned lark,

Or was it a mockingbird?

My shell survived storms

And long stretches where only monsters,

Drunken owls, and sleepy seagulls smothered me

In the night.  I learned to hide myself—

A nest within a nest—an egg within an egg;

I lived tucking parts of me away

I never wanted.  Brooding memories

Filled the nest like bits of worms regurgitated,

And every now and again I caught a glimpse of a faraway blue sky.

 

 

When the egg hatched and the nest

Bloomed, I stared blindly into myself,

Wiggling stubs of wings I so wanted covered with feathers and flight.

Yet now, I live, I walk, a nest on legs, a human egg, a permanent fledgling—

Wings clipped, song raspy with rain and darkness,

And a road of eggshells spreading out before me wherever I go.

 










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Reflections on My First Official Mother’s Day, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Some Thoughts on My First Official Mother’s Day

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

yellow rose

 

 

Being assigned the wrong gender when I was born had three wonderful unforeseen consequences much later in life: my three sons.  No matter how unsettled I was inside I loved being a dad.  I sang Van Morrison songs to the kids when they were still in the womb.  When they were born I placed them on my chest and sang them to sleep as I rocked them in the rocking chair.  I prayed over them, blessed them, and wrote them songs.  I took them on wagon rides and to play grounds and parks.  When they were older I took them bug hunting, snake hunting, puppy hunting, and ice cream truck hunting.  I remember one day chasing an ice cream truck around the neighborhood after school until we were able to get close enough to run after it.  We went fishing.  I dragged them to used bookstores.  I taught them the love of nachos, Mr. Bean, and baseball.  When we went to Michigan I bought them enough candy to last them on a drive to Idaho.  I drew with them.  I drew for them.  I taught them guitar chords.  I bought them guitars, drums, mandolins, trombones, keyboards, amps, and drums.  Of course, these are things any mother could do.  That isn’t my point.  My point is I did those because I loved being a parent—a parent who thought they were a dad doing what they thought, at the time, were dad things.  As it turns out, I did all these things as a mother—they were both motherly and fatherly.

 

I longed (and still do long) to be pregnant and carry a child. I am well aware that will never happen.  I deeply wanted to breast feed a child.  I am well aware that will never happen either.  And while these are saddnesses I will carry always to one degree or another, I have accepted the facts.  On the eve of my Mother’s Day, I find myself feeling strange, and in sort of a limbo.  I did my usual texting to the kids today to remind them to get something for their mom—Mom Number One.  I told them not to get me anything.  Part of me wants them to always think and remember me as dad, and yet, speaking of facts, I am a mom—a mom who gave birth to herself while she was still parenting her own children.  Mother and matter are related in their Latin roots.  They mean source—the stuff of the world—the feminine force of things.  I have been, without knowing it, motherly giver and the source of origin for many things in the lives of my children.  Father, in Latin (Dutch, vader—now you know what the “Vader” means in Darth Vader.), means paternal and Supreme Being; I have not been a supreme being except for when they were infants and in my arms or in my care in the woods, or when they were young and I made up stories for them stories until they fell asleep.  I have been paternal to my children.  I have cared for them when they were sick.  I have laid down with them when they had nightmares.

 

Being motherly and fatherly makes me a genderqueer parent.  And as the physical symptoms/manifestations of being wrongly assigned male at birth are slowly kneaded and shaped into the female parts I have always wanted, the fatherly form will fade, yet the fatherly spirit will always remain.  And as the physical form of my real gender identity is fashioned, the motherly spirit will grow.  I am a two-spirit parent who has untied things that have always been, from the beginning of time, united.

 

On this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for my three children.  I am grateful for my own mother.  Many of my relatives believe she is turning over in her grave at her “Joey,” being a “Jennifer,” and these are difficult fears for me to shake.  I want to believe she would be happy and only care if I was happy.  She would be worried sick about my impending future—no doubt about that—she would be telling me of all the teaching jobs open in Michigan, but she would be happy I am happy.   I am also grateful to Mandy—the one who physically carried the kids and gave birth to them.  She has been, and is, a wonderful mom.  And on this, my first Mother’s Day, I am grateful for me and this wild, miraculous journey I am on.

 

So Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s Out there—no matter what gender you are or aren’t.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

 

 


 

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The Ever Unfolding Rose, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

The Ever Unfolding Rose

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

rose

 

 

I weep in gratitude as I write these words.  Many of you know the many challenges I am facing in my life right now all as a result of being transgender.   And yet, despite these, and the near-constant struggles with dysphoria, I look in the mirror and am amazed—not at the beauty or how “feminine” I look—but that I am who I want to be.  I am the person I was meant to be.

The soul looking out from my eyes is tender.  She is also ferociously strong.  As the years of living under the weight of an imposed masculinity, she rejoices in the freedom that is finally hers.

Today I see the wonder of who I am as a transgender woman.  Imagine carrying within you the seeds of an entirely new person and then sprouting with every step.  Imagine being a human, living egg, or a walking cocoon continuously unfurling and hatching as one moves through the world. Imagine being asleep all your life and then suddenly waking up to a reality that is both delicious and calming beyond compare.  Imagine having amnesia all your life and not remembering who you really are until, one day, the scales fall, the fog lifts, and you remember—you are an angel, you are majestic, holy, noble—you are yourself as your soul remembers you to be.

Today I embrace the native tradition of being two-spirit.  Today I embrace the wisdom thrumming through me and the insight and understanding I have of myself and of the world.

Yes, there are challenges.  Yes, I am often raw with tears, and the changes I am in the midst of often feel paralyzing, but I am me—a transgender woman.  And I loved.  I know that.  I know too, that I am love made manifest in a being emerging like a blossom in spring.  Whatever lies ahead will be met by a soul living in her deepest truth.  Whatever I have to face—I face it knowing I am myself.

I am myself in a way I have always wanted to be and could never dream possible.  I am myself with a life and identity of authenticity that is helping change the world for the better.  I am myself with an awareness of my spirit that is as profound as it is humbling.  I am the ever unfolding rose. I am transgender, and this being transgender is my greatest gift.

 

 

 

 



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