Trans Woman To Son: “Your Dad Is A Little Bit More Of A Wonder Woman Than A Superman.”

by Chloe Harris

My name is Chloe Harris and I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I had a tough time when I was a kid. I was dealt a little bit of a bad hand in regard to family and environment. I was an effeminate child and my poses for pictures were very flamboyant and glamorous. And it was very clear who I was and I was very comfortable with who I was, and it wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 that I knew and learned that it wasn’t necessarily okay to be like that. And I kind of took this side of me and I put it away.

And I spent a little bit of time when I was younger out in the Gayborhood in Philly and I remember seeing trans woman walking around and they were magnificent and I knew I wanted to be that, but I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t have friends that could point me in the right way.

I was a good student. I got good grades. I was a national merit scholar. But I was still troubled. I ended up going to college but I wasn’t really ready for it. And I went to Temple University, a long long time ago. And I think it was my second or third semester, I was playing rugby and I got hurt in a rugby game. I had an orbital fracture around my eye. And I had to drop out of school for a little bit. I went back but I wasn’t really into it and I dropped out. And I ended up working a lot of very different jobs but more than anything, I looked for trouble and I ran around with an increasingly rough group of individuals.

When I was in my early thirties, I got jammed up and I was in a bad situation and I made a silent pact with myself right in the middle of it. And I said to myself, if I can walk away from this, relatively unscathed, I have to change my life and I have to change everything. And I stopped hanging out with all the wrong people, I started making better decisions, I’d stopped going out late at night, I stopped drinking, I started exercising and taking better care of myself. And I had a wonderful girlfriend at the time and she got pregnant. Right after I got myself together. Ultimately our relationship dissolved, but we continued to co-parent extraordinarily well.

I wasn’t really happy. I was running a real estate business. And I thought well maybe being an entrepreneur would make me happy and that really wasn’t for me either. And I remember being so exasperated that I went to the Temple University website because I figured I had already started school there and they have to take me back, right? And I went down the list of majors and I got all the way the sport and recreation management. And I thought to myself, I don’t know exactly what that entails but I know that it’s better than what I’m doing right now. And I was very clearly not straight. And I don’t know what people thought about my gender or I don’t know if I appeared to be cisgender man, but I certainly didn’t look like a straight one.

I remember being a student and feeling like there was one thing that was missing. And I was doing a project for one of my classes and it was something like a TED Talk And my specific TED talk was about gender and inclusion and the binary and the transgender community in sports and recreation. When I was doing this TED Talk, I used these photos of me that I had taken or someone else had taken over time, because at at at certain times when I wasn’t a student, you know, I would go out as Chloe or I would just be Chloe. And I had these shots to use in the background to kind of really portray, “See this is the same person in the front and the back.”

It wasn’t until after I finished the project and I was looking at the final product that I realized that I wasn’t this masculine presenting person in the front – that this part of me was who I really am and I was that person and it was the very next day that I called the local LGBTQ medical center and set up an appointment to look into the process of transition. And it was maybe 48 hours within receiving my first medication that I knew I’d again made the right decision.

I actually transitioned as a student in the sport and recreation program. And I was really welcome and included and I was very much supported, not just by my student cohorts but also by my professors, the administration, and it was a really great experience for me.

I didn’t come out to my son right away and maybe about six months into my physical transition, my medical transition, I pulled Ryan aside and I had to talk with him. And I said, “Ryan, you know your dad is a little bit more of a Wonder Woman than a Superman.” And I could see the gears turning and he got that.

There was a time when I had to talk to me about my name because I’m gonna switch my name and, you know, he was 5 years old. We were watching the “Secret Life of Pets.” And there’s only two main female characters and that there’s Chloe and there’s Gidget. And I always knew that my name was going to be Chloe, but he didn’t know that yet and I thought this is a great opportunity. There’s a 50-50 chance that I can convince Ryan that he’s picked my name. Of course he picked Gidget.

I said, “Ryan, I feel like Gidget wouldn’t be a great name for me.”

And he said, “Okay, then, I think you should be Chloe.” There you go. You’ve picked my name. Great job, Ryan.

So it came time for me to do my junior internship in the sport recreation program and I was less than a year into my medical transition, and I was very nervous about going to a new place and my son used to go to this one playground rec center. And I thought why not do my internship there? Because I knew the people there and I knew I would be accepted. It didn’t take me long at the working at that internship to realize that this was the work that I was meant to do and the work that I love until today.

In my work and working with kids, I’ve found that they’re very accepting of it and they’re growing up in a different time and it’s a different society than many of us grow up. And once in a while, a kid will say, “Miss Chloe, how come you sound a little like a boy?”

And then I just repeat back to them, “Well, I’m a woman with a really cool voice. And they just go, “Okay,” and they move along like nothing ever happened. And that’s one of my favorite parts about working with kids is that they’re so accepting of who everyone is.

Now I live a life of love filled with joy and I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone else’s on the planet. And it all stems from the birth of my child and how that opened everything up for me.

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