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Transgender Parents Speak Out About What Makes a Family

Beth Greenfield

Transgender Parents Speak Out About What Makes a Family

Photo of Nick, left, and Bianca Bowser, with their sons, Kai and Pax, courtesy of the Bowser family.

The transgender parents of two young children living in Kentucky are raising consciousness about family, honesty, and love this week after some splashy media coverage in the British tabloids stemming from an appearance on “The Ricki Lake Show” in 2013. “It’s good, because our goal was to have our story appear here in the States,” mom Bianca Bowser told Yahoo Health. “Our main point is to express our similarities [to everyone else] and to advocate for the transgender community.”

Bianca, 32, was born a boy named Jason, while her husband, Nick Bowser, 27, was born a girl named Nicole. They met and fell in love in 2009, before Nick’s gender transition, in Atlanta. (A person's sexual orientation is distinct from a person's gender identity or expression.) Eventually, they decided to start a family, and Nick, still physically female (though he would eventually undergo breast-removal surgery), decided to carry Bianca’s babies — something he described to the Mirror as being “an absolutely horrible experience for me” because he already identifed as male.

“We have the parts so we will use them,” Bianca told the Mirror. “If we could change them we would, and they would be the other way around,” she said, referring to sex-reassignment surgeries that they both hope to undergo someday, “but we cannot afford it and the children come first.”

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Bianca and Nick. Photo courtesy of the Bowser family.

Now that their boys, Kai and Pax, are 3 and 1 respectively, the couple is beginning to grapple with how to explain that Mom was technically Dad and Dad was technically Mom. But, Bianca told Yahoo Health, “Our guts have always led us in the right direction.” She added that there hasn’t been much in the way of guidance out there that’s specific to their situation, as even the stories that do involve transgender parents — like that of activist and author Jenny Boylan, who described transitioning from dad to mom in her 2013 memoir, “Stuck in the Middle With You” — have involved older children who were cognizant of the parent’s gender transition from the get-go.

Still, Bianca said, they will explain the situation sooner rather than later, and they’re confident that their kids will be OK upon learning the truth. “If they don’t know anything different, and it isn’t presented as something negative, then there’s no downside,” she said.

That’s the right idea, according to parenting expert, author, and clinical psychologist Laura Markham, who told Yahoo Health that it’s important to tell children the truth about their origins from a very early age. “Otherwise, it’s going to feel like it’s a betrayal to them,” she said. “Whether the child is adopted or from a donor egg or any variation of normal, what’s important is to tell them, ‘You were so wanted and so loved, and this is just the way it was in our family, no big deal.’”

For help with any tale of conception, Markham suggests that parents create a rudimentary photo book, telling the child’s story. And in the particular case of Bianca and Nick, she said they might consider talking about themselves as children — how each grew up feeling like they were in the wrong body, and how they eventually found each other and fell in love and started their family. “It’s important to remember that, as human beings, we make sense of our lives through stories,” Markham said.

Gender aside, the story of the Bowser family is fairly typical. Both parents struggle to balance child-rearing with work — Nick is a bar manager and Bianca is a popular Louisville drag performer known as Bianca Nicole — and with social time, much of it with childless friends who also work in nightlife. “It’s hard for them to understand how we work late, sleep for a few hours, then get up early and take care of our kids,” Bianca said. “But everything in our nightlife world has been very, very positive, and we’ve sometimes been called role models within our community.” The boys’ grandparents on both sides are also very involved with their lives, although, Bianca admitted, “That took time.”

The discussion of transgender lives seemed to reach a crescendo this past year, much of it due to the media presence of outspoken writers and activists including Boylan, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Carmen Carrera. Use of the word “tranny” on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” as well as a controversial Katie Couric interview in which the host asked Cox and Carrera about their genitalia, even led to a public discourse about how to discuss the topic correctly. The Bowsers are extremely open with intimate details of their lives, though, and have shared images of themselves before the transition, explaining that such an open approach works for them.

“I don’t criticize how anyone demonstrates who they are as transgender individuals,” Bianca explained. “For me personally, I’m not going to deny who I have been before. I don’t look at it as something to be ashamed of, because without that past, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”