Creating the New Normal

Bianca and Nick Bowser are just like any other family. Through the week, Nick, 28, goes to work and attends school to finish his bachelor’s degree. Bianca, 33, is a stay-at-home mom who looks after the couple’s two adorable children, Kai, 4, and Pax, 2, during the week. On the weekends, Nick gets to spend some quality time with the kids, and Bianca works as a performer at Play Dance Bar. Yes, the couple is just like any other American family except for one thing: Bianca and Nick are both transgender; though they live as a woman and man respectively, Bianca is biologically a male and Nick a female.

Bianca remembers spotting all the warning signs that she was different at a young age. She felt that she was in the wrong body, that she didn’t fit inside the stigma of what her gender “should” be. She was raised in central Georgia and claims, “I grew up a little naïve to anything outside the ‘norm.’”

At a certain point in high school, when she was 16 or 17, she remembers participating in a womanless beauty pageant, where male participants would dress as females to stage a mockery of a traditional beauty pageant. She recalls relishing the experience and a teacher telling her soon after that she could make a living doing this, which first opened the door to drag performances.

At age 17, she came out as a gay male, but she knew that wasn’t quite all she was. After high school, she began to explore and soon became familiar with different and fluid identities. “Getting my feet wet in the LGBT community, I didn’t really know much more beyond the ‘L’ and the ‘G,’” she recounts. “I met a lot of different people, some of whom were transgender, and that’s kind of how I got my understanding of what transgender is.”

“Getting my feet wet in the LGBT community, I didn’t really know much more beyond the ‘L’ and the ‘G.’ I met a lot of different people, some of whom were transgender, and that’s kind of how I got my understanding of what transgender is.”

She soon felt comfortable asserting herself as a trans woman and making a living as a drag performer at clubs. Though she was happy with who she was, the prospect of a long-term partner in life seemed unlikely, at least at the time. “As I started identifying as being transgender – and getting to know the people I was coming into contact with who were attracted to trans women – I did not think that I would possibly find someone who I could sit down and create a home and family with,” she admits. “Finding a husband was one of those chalices, holy grails”

cover2variation-1She didn’t have restrictions on her partner; he just had to be some form of a man. She originally was more inclined toward cis men – men living as and assigned male at birth – but she allowed her prospects to broaden as she matured through relationships. “Not every biological, genetic, cis man acts like this, but the ones that I encountered made me feel like I was never going to be with someone who was a genetic male,” she describes. “So it opened up my mind to being accepting of transgender men, genetic men, even butch lesbians. I’m more attracted to the masculine frame than I am to the gender.”

And so, when Bianca saw a cute guy sitting at the bar where she had just performed one night in Atlanta, his sex assigned at birth didn’t matter; she was interested. She only had one condition her potential inamorato had to meet. “Whoever it was that I was to be with – regardless of their own personal journey – it was going to be someone who was able to accept me for me,” she asserts. “And also because drag was such a big part of who I was back then, it had to be someone who was also able to tolerate the kinds of people that I come into contact with in the show business life.”

The guy at the bar was named Nick, and he met all the necessary criteria. The two quickly fell in love, and before they knew it, were discussing the possibility of having a child together. At the time, Bianca had been saving money for a gender reassignment surgery, but having a family was something she was willing to put that on hold for.

The couple looked into the various forms of conception – from adoption to surrogacy and freezing sperm. “But everything just came out to being way too expensive,” Bianca remembers. “So Nick had the bright idea of, ‘Hey, what would you think about having children naturally?’ And I said, ‘Well, we have the parts, sure. I think I can hold off on my gender reassignment surgery so we can do this.’”

And so, after having been together for seven months, the couple was to have their first child. Nick, who lived as and looked like a man, was pregnant. Although raising a child and creating a family was something they both knew they sincerely desired, they didn’t know the full extent of what having the child naturally would do to their psyches.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to bare the children,” Bianca relates. “So, constantly, I’m there with the emotional and mental frustrations of not being able to play the role of the ‘woman.’ Whereas Nick had a harder time because he had to deal with the physical as well as the emotional and mental frustrations. And he was confronted with it on a daily basis during that final term – looking like a man but being physically pregnant and making heads turn.” Indeed, for his third trimester, Nick actually went into seclusion, rarely leaving the house.

“A family was something we always wanted, but we never took into consideration those 10 months each that we’d be standing there and have to be laughed at or ridiculed or pointed at or talked about. But we also understood at the same time, in our lifespan, those 20 months total were nothing … It doesn’t outweigh us having a family.”

It was an exceptionally difficult period for the couple to reconcile, as they knew they had to do what they were doing, but the process was far more difficult than either ever could have anticipated. “A family was something we always wanted,” she affirms. “But we never took into consideration those 10 months each that we’d be standing there and have to be laughed at or ridiculed or pointed at or talked about. But we also understood at the same time, in our lifespan, those 20 months total were nothing. Even though it was a really hard time – especially for him – in the long run, it doesn’t outweigh us having a family.”

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That proved to be true. In July 2011, four months before the couple married, their first son, Kai, was born. And although the process, from conception to birth, happened the way it would for a cis heterosexual couple, Bianca and Nick assert that their personal emotions throughout that journey were more in line with those of the genders they currently live.

Similar to most mothers, Bianca remembers her attachment to her son forming early on. “My first sign of happiness and awareness of having a child was the first time we went into getting the first ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat come over the monitor,” she recalls. “That’s when I fell in love, and that’s really when I found that actual connection. And for Nick, it was when he actually saw Kai.” Despite Nick having carried the child, his first true moment of connection came when he physically saw and held Kai, the moment at which many fathers first fall in love with their child.

Though their son was everything they ever could have hoped for, taking Kai home from the hospital presented its own set of challenges to the couple. “We’d heard all the stories, but you don’t know what’s going on until you actually live it!” she says of caring for an infant. “The constant feedings every three hours even at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning…”

Though difficult, it was a challenge the pair enjoyed and one they were prepared to tackle once again. “As Kai was getting older, we realized we didn’t want him to be an only child – not that there’s anything wrong with being an only child – but we wanted him to have a playmate,” Bianca recounts. “And with the fear of not knowing how society would treat us today, would he grow up not having any friends because his parents are way different from anybody else’s parents?”

Accordingly, Nick became pregnant again, this time knowing what to expect, and gave birth to the couple’s second son, Pax. The couple was prepared for each part of the journey this time, from Nick’s pregnancy to caring for Pax through the night. They also knew, just as they hadn’t with Kai, they would not breastfeed Pax. “Nick had already gone through the process of pregnancy, and trying to breastfeed would only increase his breast size even more and define him as a physical woman,” Bianca relates.

The pair proved to be excellent parents, just as in love with their children as they were with each other. However, the process of bringing Kai and eventually Pax into their lives inevitably led them to reevaluating and reaffirming their own relationship. “I think all parents have a difficult time trying to reestablish their relationship when children are born,” Bianca muses. “I don’t mean this in a negative way, but it throws a wrench into the relationship because you start off being this couple with no life responsibilities and then you throw a child into the mix. And you have to take all your focus from your relationship and put it on this life that you’re raising.”

“Am I glad to be a voice for people like us or a beacon of hope for people who may want to eventually raise families like this? Yeah, definitely.”

Due to their unique situation – albeit a completely normal one in nearly every respect – the couple has received a tremendous amount of media attention. Appearances on “The Ricki Lake Show” and “20/20” garnered the pair international fame, constructing them as pioneers in the 21st century trans movement. “Am I glad to be a voice for people like us or a beacon of hope for people who may want to eventually raise families like this?” Bianca poses, “Yeah, definitely.”

The couple isn’t aspiring to take on any sort of activist lifestyle; rather, they want to inspire others simply by living their lives as who they are, gradually establishing a new normal for society. “A lot of people who have spoken up negatively about us are like, ‘Oh, well, they’re just trying to get their 15 minutes of fame,’” she details. “And actually, no; I would prefer that these kinds of stories not be news. I would prefer this be just something that is as normal as any other household.”

However, society isn’t quite there yet, which means someday Bianca and Nick will have to sit down with Kai, and then Pax, and explain their situation. Bianca knows it will happen but doesn’t know when, and that’s okay with her. “It’ll happen when it happens,” she maintains. “I can’t really put a time and date on it. When he is ready, I know that he will know and we will know, and it will be like any other serious conversation a parent would have with their child.”

Similar to telling a child he or she is adopted, the conversation is something Bianca and Nick will be ready for and approach with sincerity and honesty. And of course, they will be there for their children as they have been ever since they were born. “No longer is our relationship about us; it’s about our children and us,” she asserts.

Today, the Bowser clan operates just as any family would. And with Nick working and going to school through the week, Bianca sometimes feels like a single mom – not because of lack of support from her husband but rather because she is simply the only one available to care for the children through most of the day. “As any single mom would say, I think, it has its ups, and it has its downs,” she considers. “Any job is extremely difficult at times. But this is a job with no pay but amazing benefits.”

When she and Nick are out together – on those rare instances when their free time overlaps – they do occasionally get recognized due to their media presence. But Bianca contends that, in person, all public comments have been positive and supportive, which speaks greatly to the state of society and its direction. “Society is coming around,” she says with a smile. “It’s becoming more open-minded. We’re not living in the 50s!”

We certainly are not. And with the help of people like Bianca and Nick Bowser, a modern family doing nothing but being who they are, society is quickly catching up with the open-minded and loving mentality so many have already adopted. “I just see us as a family, regardless of the titles and labels,” Bianca offers. “What we are is a family unit, doing our best to raise our kids in the most proper way.”

For the Bowsers, life continues as normal every day. Bianca and Nick are more in love with each other than ever, and Kai and Pax continue to grow and develop as all children do. And someday, Modern Louisville won’t need to write a story about the Bowsers because it won’t be newsworthy. As Bianca dreams, “When my children grow up, I hope that it is to the point where something like this isn’t news or something like this couldn’t get you a reality TV show – that this would be the new normal.”