Crossing the T

Life at the intersection of Church and Trans with Rev. Allyson Robinson

My Trans Soundtrack – The Obvious Child

Some people say a lie’s a lie’s a lie
But I say why
Why deny the obvious child?

My mom bought me Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints album for Christmas in 1991. I had been a huge fan of Graceland, which she sent me while I was living in Brazil, and I thought it an odd sort of coincidence that the new album was as profoundly influenced by Brazilian beats as Graceland had been by African sounds. I really loved Rhythm, and I listened to it over and over again that cold January at West Point.

“Obvious Child” is the first track on the album, and for some reason I always thought of my mom when I listened to it. What I really thought about was my mom, thinking about me:

We had a lot of fun
We had a lot of money
We had a little son and we thought we’d call him Sonny
Sonny gets married and moves away
Sonny has a baby and bills to pay
But Sonny gets sunnier
Day by day

I’d smile. That’s just the way my mom has always loved me–like I got a little bit more lovable every day. And then Paul would get to the bridge, and the samba drums would fade into the background, and I’d feel myself being carried away into a future, looking down on myself at 40 or 50:

Sonny sits by his window and thinks to himself
How it’s strange that some rooms are like cages
Sonny’s yearbook from high school
Is down from the shelf
And he idly thumbs through the pages
Some have died
Some have fled from themselves
Or struggled from here to get there
Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls
Runs his hand through his thinning brown hair

For a long time, I’d just turn my heart off when the bridge came on. I never stopped to wonder why, but somewhere down deep inside I knew. One of my deepest fears was down there under Paul’s bridge–regret. Of all the things I didn’t want to become, the one I feared and hated the most was Sonny, flipping through the pages of an old high school yearbook in a room like a cage, wondering what might have been.

Fifteen years later, my mom was the second person I came out to. When I told her that I was transgendered, she said to me, “Honey, I wondered if you were ever going to get around to dealing with this, or if you were just going to go on living like it wasn’t there.”

Why deny the obvious, child?

“The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon, from The Rhythm of the Saints, 1991 (Lyrics)


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