Nearly thirty years ago I was blessed to watch two women as they fell very much in love. I was subsequently honoured to be present at their wedding, and then later at the birth of their very special child. Caitlyn/Aiden had two of the best “moms” in the world. No child was ever wanted more than he was, and my heart and prayers go out to Patty and Cathy over their devastating loss. ~ mary
There was nothing ordinary about Aiden Rivera-Schaeff’s life.Â He was the first of some 20 babies born to a lesbian parenting support group in Kingston in the 1990s that paired lesbians with willing sperm donors and arranged for their artificial insemination.
He was the first child in Ontario to have two women’s surnames on his birth certificate and later watched his two mothers legally marry.
Aiden was born a girl named Caitlyn in 1992 but came out as transgendered in his first year of high school.
He told his mothers that he identified as a man and wanted to physically become one.
At the time of his death, he had begun the female-to-male transition and had the muscles, Adam’s apple and body hair of a young man as a result of testosterone treatments.
“He had hair on his arms and a hairy belly, and he was so proud of that,” said Cathy Schaeff, one of his mothers, with a laugh.
But the journey was harder than anyone knew or could have imagined.
He fought addiction, bullying and intolerance about who he was and what he was becoming, and on April 22, in the middle of the night, Aiden sent an electronic goodbye to those he loved before killing himself.
He was one month shy of his 18th birthday.
“I cannot imagine how my child could feel unloved or lonely when he had this incredible support network with us and his friends and his incredible extended family,” said Schaeff from the family’s home in Maryland.
“The lesson I hope people will learn from Aiden is that they have to be careful about what they say and not to let other people get away with bullying or harassing other people because of how they look or what they are.”
Aiden had recently completed an addiction recovery course in British Columbia and his friends and family hoped that it would mark a new start for the young man.
Patty Rivera, Aiden’s other mother and who is known as ‘mama’ to Schaeff’s ‘mommy’, could hardly speak of her loss.
“He was a great kid, a great kid and unfortunately he’s no longer with us,” she said.
She said he was a trailblazer from the moment he was born.
Until the two women took on the government, a lesbian or gay couple had never been allowed to put both their surnames on a baby’s birth certificate.
“They would only allow one name in that box, so what a lot of lesbians were doing was hiding the mother’s name in there as the child’s middle name,” Rivera said.
“We sued the province through the ombudsman’s office and they had to recognize lesbians as a distinct cultural group, which set a precedent for gays and lesbians in Ontario.”
Aiden was born female but in his early teens, told his mothers how he felt and how he identified.
“When he came out in his freshman year of high school, I was shocked,” said Schaeff, from her home in Maryland.
“I was as shocked as any straight parent would be at the time,” Schaeff said.
The two mothers say that while Kingston has a thriving gay and lesbian population that has never been underground, the U.S. is a different story and intolerance, particularly to the transgendered, is much more prevalent and bitter.
“Kingston and Canada as a whole, is more accepting”, Schaeff said.
“People really don’t care if you’re gay, for 80 per cent of people it’s not an issue. When I lived there, my neighbours didn’t care, my employer didn’t care, I was a red-headed lesbian and it wasn’t a big deal to most people.
“Things were different here in the states, and they were different particularly for transgendered youth..”
A memorial service was held for Aiden last weekend in Maryland and another is planned for Montreal on May 23.
Kingston’s Cindy McQueen, who helped found the lesbian parenting group and who knew Aiden all his life, travelled down to the service last week.
“It was amazing,” she said.
“So many of his friends showed up and they gave them the microphone and all the young people were allowed to speak and to say as much as they wanted. I have never seen that happen at a funeral.”
That outpouring found an electronic outlet on Facebook until the social networking site pulled the page last week, claiming it violated their terms of service.
At the time, hundreds of young people had posted, some gay or transgendered and many straight, who fondly remembered Aiden and the effect he had on them.
It is that remembrance that his parents hold onto and they want his story told so other transgendered youth don’t feel abandoned or isolated.
A fund has been established in his name at American University, where Schaeff teaches, and it will be used to send university-age mentors into high schools to tell their stories to and support gay, lesbian and transgendered youth.
“We want the queer and trans university students to show the young kids that yes, they can get through high school,” Schaeff said.
Hannah Kaughman, another member of Aiden’s extended Kingston family, said she was touched by the number of young people at his service who described the way Aiden had reached out to them when they were suffering or isolated.
She was trying to reconcile the kindness he was so willing to show to others with the idea of a young man battling his own terrible demons.
For all the online support, there has also been electronic hate spewed about Aiden and his parentage, and Kaughman said it was that hate that she wished people could get beyond.
“People are going to read this and think what they think, but the important thing in all this is that like Aiden, we are all extraordinary ordinary people,” she said.
“We’re all complex people who are just trying to live our lives and live the most meaningful life we can.
“Even if you don’t agree with how someone is trying to live their life, if they are doing it with grace and honesty the way Aiden was, you have to try and respect that, and that’s the lesson I hope we can all learn from this.”
by Ian Elliot
May 3, 2010
Kingston Whig Standard
SCHAEFF-RIVERA, Aiden – was born in Kingston, Canada May 25, 1992 and died in his struggle with Transgender Intolerance on April 22, 2010 in Maryland, USA.
He leaves behind his mothers Cathy Schaeff and Patty Rivera, his dog companion Addy, his cat Marco and Patches, his four legged “sibling”.
Here in Kingston, his “family” struggles with this unacceptable loss: Cindy, Malcolm, Sebastian, Stacey, Janis, Hannah, Mary, Auntie Kathy, Elizabeth, Kathleen, Ron and countless other members of his Kingston “village” celebrate his life.
Aiden’s life was remarkable. He was the first baby, of over 20, that was conceived and born into Kingston after the Lesbian Parenting Support Group formed in the early 1990’s. He was the first child in Ontario to legally have two mothers on his birth certificate. He watched his mothers legally marry in his lifetime and he bravely carved his own path when he reached out on his transgender journey.
This struggle was somehow more complicated in Maryland than in his birth community. Aiden had a wonderful sense of friendship, compassion, creativity and acceptance. In Kingston, Malcolm, his friend from birth, will never forget him. In Maryland, hundreds of youth have rallied, reached out to each other and created a facebook page.
Please take from this announcement the lesson that you don’t need to understand transgender issues but you can smile, offer kindness and be supportive. Should you wish to do more, a fund has been set up in Aiden’s name to help at-risk youth. Mail to
University – Wide Initiatives Office
4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC. 20016
– made out to “In memory of Aiden Rivera-Schaeff”.
Please see the follow-up to this Article on Aiden’s own website.