Posted by: hshuler | December 2, 2012

Trials of a Teenage Transvestite’s Single Mother

My son’s black ruffled skirt is shorter than the straight denim one

he usually wears. We’re late for school. Don’t dawdle, I say

as he swings one leg out of the truck and then the other, far unlike


how my grandmother taught me—knees clasped, pivot at the hips,

feet land together, and stand, ladylike. Those were Iowa manners;

this is Eugene, Oregon etiquette, twenty years later. A little copper


cowbell clanks against the glass door of the convenience store

as he rambles in, lanky stride long with steel toe boots and fishnet

knees as far out in front of him as a grasshopper. His delight


in the flounce of his skirt is a grasshopper wishing to skip.

The Maybelline black eyeliner applied like someone not long past

crayons and coloring books is a stealth acquisition from my makeup bag,


returned with a flattened tip which I dedicated to his shaving kit,

grateful we don’t share a similar preference in hosiery. At six feet tall

and narrow in the shoulder and hips he strikes an attractive silhouette,


despite the signature slouch of a 16-year old still frightened

by the violence of the body’s jolt of height that put him suddenly

at eyelevel with teachers, store clerks, and muni passengers. Draped


against a lamppost downtown his accidental elegance betrays him

even without the fake fur coat, his graceful knobby hands flutter

with his story and unconscious laugh. I saw him there one Saturday


evening before we agreed I wouldn’t do this, and crossed the street,

sidled up to his longtime friend from back in the days of Oreos and milk

after school and skateboards carving concrete riverbeds in the driveway,


and I asked this boy in a man body like a lifeguard, like someone

who could protect if need be, you got him? Junior lifeguard assures me

with the unpredictable tenor of a new Adam’s apple, You know I always


got his back, nobody gonna hurt him. As I wait, two fellas in a semi-rusted

Subaru wagon parked beside me eating breakfast chalupas from yellow paper

grease spotted wrappers are watching him in the store. It’s a wager


I hear. It’s I hope it IS a faggot I hear. The one from the passenger side

is up and it’s the copper cowbell clank I hear. I can see my boy in the back

of the store at the refrigerator leaning on the open glass door probably


looking for the blue skeleton drink with the skull and crossbones

on the bottle because he’s a kid and I remember when he was

a very little kid but big enough to run fast and chase the chickens


and then the rooster turned on him and stood ground and danger

was suddenly close, much closer than me, and how would I run fast

enough to grab him up in time ahead of that beak, those spurs and claws?


How did he get so far away, my boy with beautiful brown eyes? Chalupa guy

pretends to peruse the next soda case to get a look at him; I’m too late,

he’s laughing. I run. But when I reach the crackerjacks and close the distance


I find chalupa is laughing at something my son has said.  Back in the car,

as if we’re playing a board game, playing battleship on the coffee table,

he mocks my she-mama-bear hurling through the 7-Eleven mad-dash,


Honestly? Was your sum total game strategy ‘kill him’? He laughs again

and bends my rearview mirror to straighten the black satin bow

bobby-pinned in his hair, and scrubs a fleck of lipstick from his tooth.



  1. What a poem. Love it.

  2. You have become my hero Heidi. This is stunning.

    • Thank you, Erika! I’m just finding your comment. Happy Mother’s Day month – and DO take a whole month to celebrate. xo

  3. This splendid poem carried me forward fast on that swift-moving river of motherly/grandmotherly anxiety. Brava Heidi for writing so elegantly what we-who-love-guys-who-cross-dress feel.
    Grandma of a drag queen age 22.

    • Tapping my heart to you, grandma to grandma. Thank you-

  4. I read your words,
    “Trials of a Teenage Transvestite’s Single Mother,”
    and I am abashedly reflecting on my own.
    My poetry, usually rhyming,
    now seems mediocre at best.
    Still, it evokes emotion too.
    I realize I need not compare our art
    in order to bask in the brilliance of yours, dear woman.
    A sixty-five year old woman myself,
    Sicilian, lesbian, recovering Catholic I am.
    I haven’t endured much prejudice,
    at least not to my face, for a cousin was overheard
    telling people at my mother’s memorial service
    that it wasn’t cancer that killed her,
    but the pain of having a lesbian for a daughter.
    Ouch and double ouch.
    Ouch because it hurt to acknowledge that my being gay
    had caused my mother immeasurable pain –
    Double ouch because few people knew the joy
    I had also brought to my mother,
    nor the beautiful relationship we rose to
    as we both grew in love towards in each other
    Wth new levels of understanding and awareness.

    • Camille,
      I’m touched by your words. I feel your ouch. I’m glad you write, too. It helps us all.
      Much love,

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before. Really, and truly. I’ve been told I’m pretty good at putting words together when I write, but Heidi, you’ve left me speechless. I don’t know if I can get any tears out, but they’re swimming right there back in my eyes. I can honestly say I never expected to feel this way from just looking around the internet for poems. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for this feeling you’ve given me, and thank you even more for loving your child where so many others wouldn’t have.

  6. Every word of this poem touches my heart so deeply. It’s as if you just described my son & our relationship. My youngest son came out as a transvestite this year, just a few months before his 18th birthday. He’s so amazing & brave & beautiful & I am so very proud of him. But I also worry about him wish that I could protect him from all the ignorant people in the world. Even though he’s taken karate since 5th grade & can more than handle himself, I’ll always be mama bear! Thank you so much for expressing those feelings so beautifully.

  7. Reblogged this on Restless Mind ~ Steady Spirit and commented:
    As a single mom of a transvestite son, these words speak straight to my heart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: