There is a picture of my kids sitting on a bench outside of our garage. They are ages 2,5, and 7. They are all wearing baseball caps. In the original photo, Kris is wearing a pink baseball cap. I cannot remember what color her shirt is. When we went through the great picture transformation a few years ago, we were able to use some of the older photos by printing them out in black and white to disguise the obviously girl colors. Although a few tendrils of Kris’s hair hang down on the side, they aren’t really noticeable.
In the photo, Michael at age 7 is on the far left. He’s staring straight at the camera. His mouth is a thin straight line but his eyes hold the hint of a smile. (This is about the age that he began to really dislike getting his picture taken.) He is leaned forward. I think he might be resting his elbow in his lap. He looks relaxed and although he lacks a smile, he’s okay with me taking his picture.
Andrew and Kris sit closer together. Kris is seated in between Michael and Andrew. (I’m pretty anal about getting pictures of them in birth order.) Andrew is partially turned away from the camera, as he is reaching toward Kris in an apparent hug. He is clutching a Hot Wheel in his hand. His smile is toothy as he looks over his shoulder at me.
Kris is almost completely blocked by Andrew. His face is partially hidden in the shadow of Andrew’s head but you can see half of it. The eye that you can see has something of a twinkle as if he has a great secret only he knows. His smile is small but it’s there. Not the toothy grin of Andy and not the straight line of Michael. Somewhere in between but probably the most sincere smile out of the three of them.
It wasn’t until I saw this photo in black and white that it struck me how much Kris was hiding behind Andy. Or was Andy sheltering Kris even at the young age of 2? So much of who they are is in this picture.
Michael is calm, happy, chilling and ready to take on the world. There are signs of the confident and loving big brother he will grow up to be.
Andrew, still in the early days of striking up his independence from me, is hanging onto Kris. He is already close to his brother before he even has a full vocabulary. They show a closeness that remains even today.
And Kris is there, lurking in the background, safe in between the brothers. He is not bothered by Andrew clutching him closer. Even in those long ago days, he drew a comfort from Andy and looked up to Michael. The thought that comes to mind when I see Kris in the shadows is, “Why are you hiding?” And that’s how it’s always been. Kris has always been hiding here right in front of us. We just didn’t see him.
All signs of the potential for a close sibling relationship were there from the start. It was Kris coming out that sealed the deal.
Like in the picture, he has been a presence that isn’t always front and center. He isn’t always in the same state as us. But we always feel him here. Even when he’s hiding.
Isn’t that really the case for many transgender people? Don’t they spend years hiding in plain sight where everyone can see them if they really look but very few are able to see the real person inside?