My children may be new to the trans* business, but they have the typical children’s ability to cut directly to the heart of things when they ask questions. A couple of days ago, during a family meeting, Ezra cleared his throat and said, “It seems to me that there’s only one thing that really matters in all of this.” We paused and waited for his 10-year-old wisdom. “Dad? Are you happier now?”

Yes, I said. Happier and more whole and more excited about my life than ever before.

“There you have it,” he said to the table, looking around like a defense attorney who’s just plunged a knife into the DA’s case with a secret witness. “That’s all that matters.”

It was Lane’s turn next, and he asked, “How do you know you need to do this? I mean, what if it’s just a phase? Or what if it’s just gas?” (We have a lot of gas jokes at this age.) I used the occasion to explain that this wasn’t something that just came to me recently, that I’ve known ever since I was their age and younger, that the feelings gradually got stronger and stronger. “There’s no test, though, if that’s what you’re asking,” I told him. “If someone feels strongly like this, then they’re probably transgendered.”

Seizing on a logical opening, Ezra then ended the family meeting with this question, harder than “why is the sky blue?” and “what’s sex?” He asked, “If you knew all your life, why did you wait so long to do something about it?” I explained that it’s really embarrassing to feel like this sometimes (especially before you come to terms with it) and many people like me hope and pray that it goes away. And sometimes it does … for a while. But it never, ever, goes away.

“OK,” he cross-examined, “Then if it was inevitable, why didn’t you tell us earlier?” I looked at them both, and at Mary Jo sitting at the table and told them the truth:

“I was afraid you’d quit loving me.”

Hugs all around and reassurances on both sides of the issue. Promises to keep communication going. I love this family.

These questions, these answers — they are core to this process, and as long as the boys continue to ask probing and thoughtful questions like these, and as long as I answer honestly (even if it feels awfully vulnerable), I feel very positive about this transition and this family.