On Beverly, Jack and Being a Boy Mom

Jack helping Beverly up after being injured at the beginning of Season 3, in sickbayWith his debut, swinging a phaser to protect his mother in the last minutes of Star Trek: Picard’s third season premiere, I loved Jack Crusher on sight. Just as I loved Beverly when I met her swinging a phaser to protect her son in the last minutes of “Datalore”: my first exposure to Star Trek: The Next Generation. My love for both Jack and Beverly only grew as the season progressed. Each layer added to Jack’s character was a gift to me personally, hitting every single button I have. He is distinctly similar to every original character I’ve ever made up— for fiction, role playing games, childhood daydreams. And they are all based on my interests and experiences, on what matters to and about me. The only difference between all the hundreds of versions of me I’ve made up and Jack Crusher is they are all girls like me and he’s not. He’s a boy like my son.

Beverly Crusher is also a version of an original character based on me—at least in my head. She was the star of all my first fanfiction, written when I was thirteen. Those early stories were seldom about the Enterprise. They were about Beverly in middle school and Beverly mourning her parents and the plays Beverly put on in her backyard. I wrote about my life through the lens of Beverly Crusher, my favorite character on my favorite television show. It was aspirational. I wanted to be Beverly when I grew up so I put myself into her life and I put her into mine.

Beverly Crusher holding a rifle in Season 3 episode 2

And thirty years later she returned to give me exactly the representation and reference I needed at exactly the time I needed it.

Two and a half years ago, I had a casual conversation with a coworker, Megan. She asked about my daughter and I explained, for the first time at work, that he was my son. Tae had come out publicly just a few weeks before and gave me permission to talk about it openly because he wanted to be visible, to make a statement. Megan and I chatted about how his mood was improving, about his ongoing self-exploration, and how relieved I was to see his positivity return after so many years of instability (since puberty, turns out that was a clue). And Megan, who has a young son herself, said something that stuck with me: “You’re a boy mom now!”

Tae started testosterone the month after I was dubbed a boy mom, and if I had any misgivings about his choice they disappeared when I saw the look of relief and joy that crossed his face after the first injection. But I didn’t really have any misgivings because I identify so strongly as a woman myself. I’m cisgender but being a girl is core to my identity. I grew up with Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, and the Spice Girls and I fully embraced their varied versions of Girl Power. My main interests — Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, robots, playing outdoors — were boy-coded but I was a girl who liked those things. I wore overalls all the time and I cut my hair short but I was a girl with short hair and overalls. I was always, and am always, a girl, a woman. I know it to my core. So I understand that trans individuals, including those who are nonbinary or genderfluid, experience and know their gender in the same way.

The strength of my gender identity made me confident about raising a daughter but anxious about having a son. Intellectually, I knew this was silly. To paraphrase Tuvok in “Elogium,” why would gender make any difference in what I teach my child? But I struggled emotionally. My perception of myself as a parent became confused. I didn’t want anything to do with the #boymom influencer subculture; neither I nor my son give credence to gender stereotypes. But I wanted to be a boy mom for him. Words, names and identities have the power we give them and Megan’s offhand comment birthed a need in me to fit the label. It was my journey parallel to my son’s transition. But I didn’t have a map.

Beverly Crusher was introduced as the single mother of a teenage son, Wesley. But over the course of The Next Generation, we saw pretty much every other character parent him more than she did. Nor has she been given credit for his gifts or his choices or his character on or off screen. I can infer the strength of her influence but it’s not text or subtext in the series itself.

Beverly and Jack embrace on the bridge of the Enterprise D

With Jack it’s different; Beverly was the main, if not only, influence on Jack’s development. They lived alone on a little ship for two, traveling around the galaxy solving problems. When we meet him he’s an adult, if a young one, and while a burgeoning relationship with Picard impacts him, his core being is already formed. Jack is Beverly’s son, first and foremost. We watch them protect each other, trust each other, worry over each other. Their relationship is at the heart of the story. And it’s my story.

I’ve been Tae’s main caregiver since my divorce when he was eight. We’ve been through a lot together, a decade punctuated by varying degrees of upheaval and isolation. During the pandemic it was just us, living and working in the same small house, seeing no one else for months and months. We are very close, borderline codependent, but with a bond based in trust. Beverly and Jack Crusher represent me and my son.

Transgender children are under attack. More than once my son has told me through tears: “I just wish the world didn’t hate me for who I am.” Star Trek: Discovery gave us transmasc Gray and nonbinary Adira, both played by nonbinary actors. They are representation for my son on and off screen. With Discovery ending with season five, I hope Strange New Worlds and a potential Star Trek: Legacy will add new queer and specifically transgender characters to their line ups. We need media, and ‘utopian’ Star Trek in particular, to be bold with their representation to drown out the voices of those who convinced my son the world hates him.

Anika and Tae

Jack Crusher is not transgender representation. As a straight, white, able-bodied, cis man from an elite European background whose parents are professionals at the absolute height of power he’s nearly the opposite of diversity in character (‘nearly’ because he is neurodivergent). But for me personally and specifically he represents my son. And Beverly represents me. A single mom with a lot of baggage who loves fiercely and never gives up. Their relationship is a gift and the reference I needed to fully embrace my boy mom life.

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