For the second story in our holiday series, we speak to the Lemay family in Boston, who is raising their transgender son Jacob along with their two daughters. Since Jacob’s transition, Mimi Lemay (who we interviewed), says that the holidays have become much more joyous, and the family is able to more fully experience the love and happiness of the season.
The Lemays • Boston
Mimi & Joe, Ella (9), Jacob (7), and Lucia (5)
What is your favorite holiday tradition as a family?
It’s hard to pick one favorite – we have so many. We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. On Hanukkah each kid lights their own menorah and we invite family to our home for brisket, latkes and a game of dreidel. On Christmas, we kick the season off by finding our perfect tree and decorating it.
We also welcome our ‘Elf’ each year (named Pinochle), who arrives shortly after Thanksgiving and changes location in our house each night. On New Year’s, we’ve started a tradition of filling a piñata with goodies for the kids and we each take turns swinging at it. We try to deliver meals for one of the holidays, either Thanksgiving or Christmas, in order to show the kids that holidays are not just about getting, but also about giving.
Do you have a particularly favorite memory of the holidays?
Every year that moment when the kids come down in the morning, the shrieking and excitement is magic for me. The year Jacob transitioned we started the tradition of getting a long letter from Santa, rolled up in a ‘slightly burnt’ scroll on the Christmas tree.
The first letter spoke about what we had gone through as a family, the challenges and the joys of Jacob living as his authentic self. Needless to say, Santa was proud of the kids for demonstrating love and courage in a tough situation.
“For the new year, I would like the people of Massachusetts to try to read more personal stories, meet, and think about trans and non-binary people and their experiences.”
Afterward I caught Jacob in a thoughtful moment and he admitted to me he’d been half afraid that Santa would ‘forget’ and bring him gifts intended for the person we had known him as before. The magic for me that Christmas (and I hold it in my heart every Christmas since) is seeing my son begin to believe – not in Santa Claus, but in himself, and in his ability to live freely and truly – and to be loved for being just who he is.
How early do your decorations start going up? Who’s responsible for what?
I am the one raring to go with decorating each year. After Thanksgiving we head to a local tree farm and pick the perfect tree. We get home and bake cookies, put on festive music and Joe strings the lights while the kids and I do ornaments.
Each year I add a few choice ornaments to our collection, sometimes ones related to an accomplishment for the year (for example, a soccer ball or karate belt). The kids love discovering the new ones and reminiscing about the old ones.
What are your family’s concerns about the 2018 ballot initiative?
We feel like the right choice was made already, and it was the safest outcome for everyone in Massachusetts. I worry about a false narrative that is out there, that somehow protecting my son’s right to enjoy equal access to public spaces reduces another citizen’s safety or well-being.
The facts say otherwise. When we are all given the same opportunity to enjoy what our state has to offer, we are all better off. Our association of police chiefs say so, which should give you pause if you hear someone saying otherwise.
How would repealing protections hurt your family?
I would fear Jacob being in situations where he could experience harassment or violence, especially as he grows older and goes out with friends. What if he needs to go to a hospital and is denied care? What if a bus driver forces him off a bus in a dangerous location? What if a restaurant owner ‘outs’ him in front of someone who is hostile?
I would also worry about the message that a repeal sends, that somehow allowing transgender people the legal protections offered to others is a zero-sum situation. We hope everyone is educated about what it means to be transgender, but we know that’s sadly not the case.
I wish people could look past the blatant fear-mongering to the truth: that increasing equality is a win-win situation. Anyone telling folks otherwise is selling a bad product.
What do you want people to think about our campaign and this issue going into 2018?
The most powerful message of the winter holidays for me is about our responsibility to shine light in the darkness. In this case, I view the darkness as a lack of knowledge and experience of transgender lives. I would like the people of Massachusetts to try to read more personal stories, meet, and think about trans and non-binary people and their experiences.
“The most powerful message of the winter holidays for me is about our responsibility to shine light in the darkness. In this case, I view the darkness as a lack of knowledge and experience of transgender lives.”
Then look at the facts and separate them from the fear that is being peddled. Ask yourself, what world do I want to create for the coming years for me and my children? One where only some of us are treated with dignity and respect, or all of us? Which world is dark and which one is light? I think the answer is evident.