by T Cooper
Issue #138 • July 10th, 2010•Buy Now!
So my daughter has become a son. She (or I suppose “he”?), is telling me this (again?), on the phone while I’m tucking in a white dress shirt and zipping up my fly before work. I’m late, and Gladys has probably already finished cleaning our first patient, who will be reclining there with the paper chain around his neck, flecks of gritty polish on his lips and cheeks, awaiting a final check up and futile suggestion from me that we snap a few X-rays before he goes.
“I miss Mom, too,” she says on a cell phone, walking somewhere.
“We aren’t talking about her,” I say. “I miss my daughter.”
“You can miss us both,” she says. “But only one of us actually died.”
T Cooper’s most recent book is a graphic novel entitled The Beaufort Diaries, the inspiring story of a polar bear who escapes extinction by going Hollywood. Cooper is also the author of two regular old novels, Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes and Some of the Parts, as well as co-editor of an anthology of short stories entitled A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing. Cooper’s fiction and nonfiction writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Believer, and many others. He lives in New York with his family.
Q&A by Hannah Tinti
Long answer: Probably because I think about masculinity a lot, and with reference to this story, I recall thinking specifically about how women generally tend to be more fluid with their understanding and acceptance of gender, while men who are born male, they rarely seem to get beyond the dick/no-dick thing. I find that a lot of dudes refuse to accept female-to-male (FTM) transguys’ masculinity or maleness solely on the basis of there not being a natal penis present on the body in question—as though all the trappings and traits of masculinity are wrapped up in that one tiny appendage. It’s a lot of responsibility and pressure for any appendage to handle. I mean, following that thinking, I suppose the soldier who loses his little guy when an IED explodes under his Hummer is no longer male when he’s sent home on medical discharge. So it got me thinking about a character like the husband, an aging fellow whose masculinity (member) is failing him, what it would feel like for him to recognize he’s slowly and steadily being “upstaged” in the manly department by someone who wasn’t even born male—and his own offspring no less.