I call him Mom


Austin Gittemeier has attended the annual Atlanta Youth Pride festival with Oscar ever since he was baby. “I have a lot of friends that go and I want to support them in any way I can,” Austin said. He takes part in the action by marching in the parade while holding LGBQT signs to voice his support.

Sophomore Austin Gittemeier finds himself in an interesting position when he calls out ‘mom,’ and the person who addresses him is a balding man with a beard and a mustache.

Austin’s mother was born Maureen Gittemeier, but changed her name to Oscar when she underwent the process of physically becoming male. Austin wasn’t at all surprised when his mother chose to change genders.

“My mom has been wearing men’s clothes for my entire life, so I didn’t have a hard time seeing her as a man,” Austin said.

While most people think of Oscar as a ‘he,’ Austin changes pronouns a lot when referring to his mother. For most of his childhood, Austin identified his mother as a woman so he goes back and forth between using both ‘she’ and ‘he.’ You will never hear Austin use the word ‘dad.’

“She’s still my mom,” Austin said. “That’s what I grew up with her as, so that’s how I’ll always think of her.”

This unique life began on Oct. 1, 1996, when Austin was born. His mother was only 17 at the time and still in high school. Making the situation even more difficult, Austin’s biological father left him and his mother only three months later. Austin isn’t phased by his dad’s departure.

“It doesn’t really have an effect on my life. He left. That’s all I need to know,” Austin said.

Several years later, financial problems forced Austin and his mother to live in a homeless shelter. He was only seven years old at the time, but Austin still has unpleasant memories of his time there.

“I remember we were the only white people there, and I didn’t have any friends because all of the black people there hated me,” Austin said. “When I sat down with some people, they would all get up and leave.”

Oscar recalls living in the shelter as one of the worst times of his life. He was in constant fear for Austin because of the violence in the shelter.People
threatened to stab Oscar.

“The shelter wouldn’t let Austin sleep in my bed,” Oscar said. “I remember him crying in the bunk above me and there was just nothing I could do about it.”

Fortunately, after only a couple weeks at the shelter, they were able to move in with Oscar’s friend.

Five years ago, Oscar started taking serious steps to achieve a more masculine appearance. He had breast removal surgery to make his chest appear flat. He also started to take testosterone which made him grow facial hair and develop a deeper voice.

Around the same time of Oscar’s gender change, he met Jesse, his current partner. Like Oscar, Jesse was born a female but had breast removal surgery and takes testosterone. About three years ago, Oscar got a hysterectomy, a surgical operation to remove the uterus.

Oscar had fears of getting the surgery in regards to how it would affect Austin. Oscar’s family is very conservative and never approved of Oscar identifying as transgender. He knew undergoing the surgery would make an even bigger rift between him and his family, whom Austin was very close to.

In contrast with Oscar’s fears, Austin wasn’t opposed to his mother’s gender change.

“I just wanted her to do whatever it took to feel comfortable with herself.” Austin said.

Up until high school, Austin attended the Friends School of Atlanta. There, he was embraced by a very accepting community and was exposed to a diverse student body, including many other kids with LGBQT parents.

“Having not only a supportive family, but a supportive community too really helped Austin with the transition,” Oscar said.

Many LGBT families face discrimination in their -community. Oscar can recall many instances when he and Jesse have received hateful looks when in public. Kids of LGBT families sometimes experience bullying in school, but Decatur has proven to be different.

“I have never experienced any bullying at DHS,” Austin said.

Austin chooses to see everything he has been through in a positive light. He even likes the idea of not being in a pictureperfect family.

“I see the world in a very different way than most people,” Austin said. “I’ve grown up around homeless people and homosexuals and it has made me into a person that accepts all kinds of people.”