Guest columnist Mariel E. Addis: Unconditional love and no questions asked

Samuel the cat.

Samuel the cat. CONTRIBUTED


Published: 05-31-2024 2:28 PM


I wrote a piece about my bestie Samuel a while ago. Samuel is my now 6-year-old black cat; I adopted him back in 2018 from the T.J. O’Connor Shelter in Springfield at 9 weeks of age. He came to live with me one week to the day before I underwent gender confirmation surgery.

Sam is not my first cat; in fact, I have owned or otherwise shared my home with 15 cats, the first one coming to live with my family when I was just 6 years old. Mittens was a spunky long-haired “Oreo” cat, but over the 12 years we had him, we became wonderful friends. When still a tiny kitten, he followed my friend and I to school. I had to carry him back home and get a ride from my grandfather so my friend and I wouldn’t be late for school.

When I was still living with my wife and two sons in Maine, we’d generally keep six cats, all unrelated, all spayed or neutered, and all very well cared for. And they cared for us; I’ll never forget how our polydactyl tiger princess Calliope left four dead short-tailed shrews, side-by-side, at the back door for us. I assumed by the number that her maternal instincts had kicked in and she wanted to make sure her inept-at-hunting human family would have something to eat. We praised her for her efforts but respectfully passed on her meal contributions.

Having so many cats over the years, I certainly have a lot of great cat stories. I also have a lot of stories of the incredible unconditional love they provided both me and everyone in the house. So in a way, I am currently in a place with my cat “ownership” the way my family started with cat “ownership” back in 1971: with just one cat.

The best thing about Samuel is that there are no tough questions. He doesn’t ask or care about my trans status nor does he balk when I call myself his mom, obviously his adopted mom, but I don’t think I could love him more if I was his birth mom (although that’s kind of an odd prospect).

Sam doesn’t care what I do for a living, how much I make or have in the bank, but he’s almost always there at the door when I come home from work. Loving pet owners obviously know exactly what I am talking about: to me, he’s my kid.

My transition from male to female has greatly strained my relationship with several key family members. This makes me immensely sad, but luckily, other members, and many friends, have provided a backbone of support. And although he may be “just” a cat to some people, Samuel is one of my biggest supporters and fans. I’m certainly his.

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Considering all of the above, I don’t know how families shun members who transition to a new gender or fall in love with someone who is the “wrong” race, religion, gender, or political views if that gender expression or new love is so key to that family member’s happiness. One would like to that think a family’s love is unconditional, but as we all sadly know, in all too many situations that is not the case.

As we begin International Pride Month, I would like for us to all reflect on relationships with family, friends, and coworkers, regardless of whether they are a members of the LGBTQ+ community or not and love them just for who they are, no conditions attached. I think if we could all do this, the world would be a much better place.

Mariel Addis is a native of Florence. She left the area for 16 years but returned in 2013.