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November 25, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

The Beautiful Daughter: How My Korean Mother Gave Me the Courage to Transition
posted by roomthreeseventeen (29 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a beautiful touching reunion article! I learned a lot about unconditional love and acceptance from reading it. Some adoption reunions founder over the most trivial differences that disappoint one party or the other because of their many preconceived fantasies and expectations. How wonderful to read about such a loving, accepting Korean birthmother.
posted by mermayd at 1:43 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


that was beautiful. thank you.
posted by jammy at 1:52 PM on November 25, 2012


Oh god my eyes are watering from that. I've always felt that the most beautiful "coming out" stories are the ones where the parent has "always known" and was just waiting for the child to feel sure and comfortable enough to bring it up, and here is one where the mother had never even met her daughter except for at birth, and had an inkling already from her dreams. Amazing and wonderful.

On a barely related subject (and I'm really not wanting a derail here, I swear) I'm curious what trans-people think about the treatment in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I've been rewatching episodes recently, and while the show liberally uses the word "Tranny," including really just naming her character that, it also seems to be very clear on the point that Mac's the one with the problem in that he loves her but is embarrassed by her, and that her later husband is the one with clearer priorities and understanding. And having Dee's surrogate baby turn out to be hers seemed less of a crude joke and more of a triumph that she would be the rare character in that show to go on to live a good life.

Anyway, derail over, I love this.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:59 PM on November 25, 2012


As someone still figuring out her own transition and who still needs to come out to her own (asian) parents, this piece is actually incredibly hard for me to read but gives me a warm hopeful feeling that everything might turn out OK for me...
posted by yeoz at 2:00 PM on November 25, 2012 [29 favorites]


From what I've gathered from her twitter feed and this article, Andy Marra is an exemplar of warmth, humility and humor. A lovely story, well told.
posted by latkes at 2:01 PM on November 25, 2012


As I said in the thread this was originally posted in, this is an absolutely beautiful article and it had me crying this morning. I wish every parent could love so unconditionally.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:05 PM on November 25, 2012


This is amazing. Thank you.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:15 PM on November 25, 2012


This is a beautiful story about a series of very fortunate coincidences. We should all hope to be so lucky. Unfortunately, luck is almost by definition something that is unlikely. If stories like this are remarkable by virtue of being unlikely, that means the majority of work remains to be done. Thus, this story is very touching, but also bittersweet. For every person like the author, there are many more who won't be met with unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding.
posted by Nomyte at 2:18 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


yeoz, I don't know if it'd help, but I have bunch of resources and pointers up on my page of gender resources, many of them specifically East Asian.
posted by jiawen at 2:22 PM on November 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Wow. Truly amazing. And so touching. Thanks for this.
posted by Splunge at 2:52 PM on November 25, 2012


That was really nice :-)
posted by Lucien Dark at 3:00 PM on November 25, 2012


Acceptance is something we all want. I'm glad Andy found hers. Great story.
posted by arcticseal at 3:00 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nomyte, I don't think anyone is under the impression this is anything but remarkable, both as an adoption reunification story and as a transition emergence story. Odds on either are small enough; the successful intersecting of the two is pretty unique.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:01 PM on November 25, 2012


Why should we focus our energies on the retelling of exceptional stories? Serious question. I understand the heart-warming/glurge element, but doesn't that trivialize the experience of people like the author?
posted by Nomyte at 3:07 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're not focusing our energies on retelling exceptional stories. The author is focusing their energy on their own story, which is exceptional. I don't really see how this is trivializing at all.
posted by Think_Long at 3:21 PM on November 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I guess I do feel like more stories from the middle of the emotional spectrum would be good. Not best-case scenarios, not worst-case scenarios, just normal slices of life.

(I mean, right now when you see trans* or genderqueer people — and especially kids — in any sort of mainstream media, it's either as Victorious Heroes or as Tragic Victims (usually Tragically Deceased Victims) and not generally as like That One Dude With An Interesting Personal Anecdote. It's like gender is in the same place now that sexual orientation was in the 80s. It's all "Angels in America" and "Philadelphia" and not much Omar-in-The-Wire or even much Will And Grace. So, okay, yeah, there's room for improvement.)

But! We'll get there!

And while I'd like to see the middle of the spectrum filled in a bit, that doesn't mean we should stop telling the stories from one or the other extreme. They're important too. In some ways, in the context of an ongoing struggle for trans* rights, they're more important. If I had to prioritize the messages I wanted the rest of the world to hear, "God dammit people are suffering here!" would be #1, "But there's hope! It doesn't have to be that way! You can come out and transition and still have a really awesome life!" would be #2, and "For some people it's a kind of mixed bag, lots of ups and downs" (or "Oh hey this funny thing happened to me on the way back from the dry cleaner") would be a pretty distant #3.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:43 PM on November 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Needs a Not Safe for Dry Eyes tag.

Seriously, beautiful and moving story. Thanks so much for posting.
posted by treepour at 3:44 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone: "And while I'd like to see the middle of the spectrum filled in a bit, that doesn't mean we should stop telling the stories from one or the other extreme."

Hearing the whole spectrum of possibilities, yes -- that's what I want, too.
posted by jiawen at 3:54 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I understand what you mean, nebulawindphone. My own priority would start with "here's a bunch of specific ways that people can help you specifically," followed by "here's a bunch of stories about people who got help from these particular sources." I'm not sure where exceptional, one-in-a-million stories fit in there, but I definitely agree that you're describing a real risk.

Maybe I'm just not the kind of person who tends to see promising signs in one-in-a-million stories. I believe that mainstream US culture values exceptional stories more than average ones, and that this tendency often distorts our perception of the state of things.
posted by Nomyte at 4:00 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, right. The "Obama is president so we don't have to think about racism anymore" reaction. That is a risk, definitely.

But the exceptionally awesome stories really do have value too, and I'd say that value offsets the risk. First off, there's a lot of value for trans* and genderqueer people ourselves, because it's exhausting when every person on the news who looks like you is somewhere between "downtrodden and oppressed" and "just shot to death." Sometimes you need to hear a story where "your" character has things go unexpectedly well. (And anyone who's actually dealing with their own transition is gonna be able to tell that this story is an outlier. I don't think you've got to worry about misleading that audience.)

But also I think "mainstream" (i.e. cis*) US culture needs to hear the heartwarming stories too. Looking back again at some of the recent successes of the gay rights movement (I know, I know, it's a problematic analogy, but it's the best one I've got), one thing that stands out at me is the power of positive emotional associations. It's easier to be a homophobe when your first associations with the word "gay" are, like, "AIDS" and "death" and "discrimination." It's harder to hold onto that homophobia when your first associations with the word "gay" are "courage" and "weddings" and "love." If the cost of convincing Middle America that gay people are totally normal is that a few people get an unrealistically rosy and optimistic picture of what life is like outside the closet then... well, actually, that seems like a good tradeoff to me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:24 PM on November 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ah, right. The "Obama is president so we don't have to think about racism anymore" reaction. That is a risk, definitely.

That's definitely a part of it, but it's not the entirety of it. The "Obama is president" thing implies a certain amount of disingenuousness or even willful disregard for reality. For me, the bigger question is: to what extent is our interest in this topic related to the pursuit of glurge (which requires no critical engagement), and to what extent is it motivated by humanitarian/ethical concern? The latter does require narrative that tells us (i.e., uninformed bystanders), in realistic but also human terms, whether there is a problem, how big a problem it is, how the problem is being addressed, etc.

I admit that I haven't thought about the "popular awareness PR" angle much. That's an interesting point.
posted by Nomyte at 5:13 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But also some of us are not "uninformed bystanders" and we like reading happy stories, too.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:19 PM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


As someone who is not trans but is queer and doesn't have the supportive parents, I love these stories, and I am waiting for somebody to figure out how to sell this as a service, because I would totally pay for an awesome fake birth mom to see every now and then who would make me soup and tell me how she thinks I'm awesome and pretty and who I am is perfectly terrific.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:37 PM on November 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Wow.

Just wow.

And I am sorry for everyone who does not have a family that can accept their choices.
posted by Samizdata at 5:38 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


...choices?
posted by heeeraldo at 8:21 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heeeraldo, maybe we can choose to believe that 'choices' can include transitioning, or not transitioning, or choosing to present as one way in some contexts and another way in others? I learn toward the latter, and it's definitely not a choice that my family can accept--my presentation around them is, for the sake of family harmony and their relationship with my child, as femme as I can get. (Which is not very.)

Gracedissolved, I second your desire for an awesome fake birth mom. Since I don't have one, though, I'm trying to provide friends (of various genders and mental health status and etc) with an awesome fake family, and feeding them soup and telling them how great and clever and attractive they are. It...kinda helps, in a weird way.
posted by MeghanC at 10:12 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how much I can get behind the "fake mom" idea. My mother may not like what I am, but she's my mother. I'm not sure that wishing for a different mother is very healthy for me. But then, I was never big on Chicken Soup stories, where everything works out in the end and everything happens for a purpose. I think MeghanC has the right idea.
posted by Nomyte at 10:24 PM on November 25, 2012


For me, the bigger question is: to what extent is our interest in this topic related to the pursuit of glurge (which requires no critical engagement),

Who is "our" in the "our interest" phrase? And I don't know about not requiring critical engagement - isn't that what this thread is doing? I mean, mefites are awesome and all, but we're not all super-special in engaging a story in this way.
posted by rtha at 7:17 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nomyte, I really appreciate your comments in this thread. While I'm happy for those involved, stories like this always make something inside me twitch and I think you've done an excellent job offering actual criticism without sacrificing compassion. Thank you. Particularly this:

For every person like the author, there are many more who won't be met with unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding.

...(snip snip snip)...

My own priority would start with "here's a bunch of specific ways that people can help you specifically," followed by "here's a bunch of stories about people who got help from these particular sources."

...is exactly what I want It Gets Better-y projects to be. I think that pure unbridled optimism and an, "It Can Happen to You!" attitude is helpful in a certain context but it really, really needs to be followed up with actual advice and actual pointers to actual resources and actual people who can actually help or it risks becoming self-congratulatory nonsense or lottery glurge. Focusing too much on people who just lucked out risks making everyone without a stake in the subject feel good while alienating those who really do need help and haven't been so lucky. The opposite extreme--focusing only on tragedies--risks leaving those who need a positive message and concrete help despairing. I really, really want to see something more along the lines of, "Hey! GLB/T person in a repressive, authoritarian environment! Here are Real Things you can do!"
posted by byanyothername at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2012


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