Mosaic Motherhood

Trans parent, artist and activist, Deeja Sol-Moon

Deeja Sol-Moon.Photo Todd Cooper.

When her children, aged 8 and 10, expertly dodge questions about their homework during the car ride back from school, Deeja Sol-Moon never hears “mommy.”

“Mommia — is what we came up with,” she says, “to make sure their birth mother’s role is respected.” Sol-Moon hosts her daughter and son together on alternate weeks in a cozy Skinner Butte-area home, where her art is plastered on every imaginable surface.

“My biggest allies are my kids. They’ve been extremely supportive,” says Sol-Moon, a single parent for six years and transitioning into womanhood for two. Faced with curdled expressions over her changed appearance, she simply presents a business card: “Hello. I am a Transgender Person,” it begins, spelling out how to acknowledge the fact. Sol-Moon hands them out anywhere, but the idea began while interacting with other parents at the charter school her children attend, where she regularly volunteers and, as she jests, is both “transparent” and “a trans parent.” On Mondays, “In the cafeteria, I serve food to every single kid that comes through,” she says. Sol-Moon is also a helper for the fifth-grade art class, which she is spurring toward the production of a mural.

When Saturday Market reopens next spring, don’t be shocked if you find some new color in your life. Sol-Moon wants to paint rainbow segments between the white crosswalk markings at Eighth Avenue and Oak Street, on all four sides. While occupying the transgender booth at Eugene/Springfield Pride this year, Sol-Moon pitched the idea to Mayor Kitty Piercy and has since begun a formal process to modify the space.

Though her career is in digital graphic design, Sol-Moon is engrossed in eco-conscious mixed-media art, forming wall-hangable mosaics — everything from a license plate fragment off a Volkswagen Beetle to a bottle cap Día de los Muertos skull.  A collection of Sol-Moon’s work opens Dec. 6, at the Oregon Supported Living Program gallery. Friend and fellow trans activist, Cass Averill, who joined Sol-Moon on the latest First Friday ArtWalk, says of her assemblages, “Flowers, suns and moons. Deeja’s work definitely screams Eugene.”

“I began cross-dressing when I was 6,” Sol-Moon says. An Air Force brat growing up all over Southern California, she had the support of her mother and grandmother, who never made her adhere to her sex assigned at birth. “I had long hair until I was 10. Then I went to go live with my dad. He made me get a haircut,” she says. “It was tough love from the universe.”

Studying at California State University, Chico, Sol-Moon had overcome persistent threats of military school and also came out as bisexual. She was paying her way through school as an outdoor recreation guide, still engaging in “masculine work” that didn’t suit her. “That’s what we do for survival,” she says. “As long as I was at the front of the raft, I was fine, but I couldn’t go back and mingle. I felt very out of place.”

Sol-Moon moved to Oregon with her former partner, looking to double down on the hippie creed. “We dreamed of living on a farm with organic food and driving a car running on biodiesel,” she says. In Eugene, Sol-Moon felt more accepted, but didn’t know exactly what for. Married life revealed that, “Any time I was at a potluck, I’d find myself in the kitchen with the women.” As she learned more about her gender identity, eventually, Sol-Moon says of transitioning, “It was just time.”

“I thought the best I could ever hope for was to be androgynous, but now I’ve assimilated myself fully into the female identity,” she says. Sol-Moon attends Transponder, a monthly support group for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, hosted by Averill. “Everybody’s journey is different,” says Averill, who is transgender female-to-male, “but we have in common what it’s like to be dysphoric and misperceived.”

Sol-Moon’s kids watched her transition. They saw her closet spill over with unfamiliar contents and slowly witnessed her Facebook activity represent no longer the life of a man, but a woman. She recalls a galvanizing exchange, while tucking in her daughter, who said, “I’m glad you’re Mommia. I see how much happier you are, and it makes me happy.”

Part of a series of profiles of trans people in the community.

This story has been updated.