Michelle Alfano's 'The Unfinished Dollhouse' - Review by KJ Mullins
Michelle Alfano's 'The Unfinished Dollhouse' Brings Raw Emotion of Parenting a Transgender Child
By K.J. Mullins, Newz4U
Being a mother is not an easy job. In her new book 'The Unfinished Dollhouse' Michelle Alfano details her personal struggles with raising her transgender son Frankie with a rawness that doesn't gloss over her true emotions. What happens when a child's gender identity isn't the same as the gender they were born with. Is there a way to come to terms with what a parent has dreamt of when it will never come to be?
When Alfano's daughter was born weeks early her “Momma Bear” instincts came out. She protected her perfectly formed child throughout childhood, treasuring every moment. The little girl was perfect in Alfano's eyes and the author loved dressing her up in little dresses and styling her beautiful locks. The image may have been perfect but the reality was far from it. Inside the little girl were thoughts she didn't understand completely that would almost destroy her.
By the time Alfano's daughter was in puberty a heavy depression set in. There were weeks that it was impossible for the child to leave the security of her bed. She withdrew from everything that had been put of her life; hockey, school, art, family. For the next few years Alfano's home was a battlefield. During this dark time Alfano was a protector while her husband was angry that their daughter couldn't function. The stresses of mental illness were a hard hurdle for the family but they were able to survive.
At the age of 14 the real reason for Alfano's daughter came to light. She had been living with a secret that she could no longer hide. The first revelation was that she was gay. Coming out seemed to help but there was more, in reality Frankie was transgender. Once Frankie revealed this to his parents he was able to began a transformation that started to lift the depression.
That revelation, however, was not an easy one for Alfano to deal with. While she wanted to be supportive to her child dealing with the hopes and dreams that she had for her daughter were now shattered. Now Father became the parent to comfort while Mother dealt with an internal anger of dreams that would never come true.
In 'The Unfinished Dollhouse' Alfano's journey into her son's transitioning from female to male is also her own transition of excepting a child's true path, even if it's no where close to the one a parent has envisioned.
Alfano reveals the struggles she has had with learning a new 'language' of having a transgender child. As Frankie transitioned from female to male he also in effect killed off a piece of Alfano's life, her daughter. Simple pronouns can be a nightmare for a parent struggling to deal with a child's true gender identity. A switch of 'her' to 'him' is not an overnight process, even if a child demands it to be.
During an interview in a Toronto coffee house Alfano spoke about one of the hardest things that she has had to deal with-photographs of her son as a child. These treasured pictures bring loving memories to her but to Frankie they are a reminder of a time when he was not comfortable in his own body. Clearing out photos from their family home that were on display for the comfort of Frankie has been a painful exercise for Alfano. It is one that she still struggles to find a balance that allows everyone in her family to feel at ease with. Years after the revelation Alfano still struggles with those images of her beautiful daughter that looks at her from the past. Those memories can not be simply placed into a box and forgotten.
Today Frankie is doing well says Alfano. She is very proud of the man that he has become. She is a staunch advocate for him and other transgender children.
For the parents of transgender children Alfano has seen there are few outlets where they can express their sadness and anger of losing the son or daughter that they loved so deeply as their child transition to their true self. In her memoir of this process Alfano does not hold back, allowing her true emotions to pour out on the pages for a real look at the hard issues of being a parent who wants the best for their child while grieving the life that they will never live.
Watch Alfano speak about her book in this video: