*FYI to the one (1) person who reads my blog (hi!), I wouldn’t read further if reading about abuse isn’t your thing…
I came out to my mom (again) when I was 21. I told her I needed to talk with her about something important, told her to sit down. We were on the phone; with our mutual financial situation, living so far apart, doing it in person was impossible. Doing it over the phone may have been easier.
I’m wondering how acceptance will change over time. There’s a cycle of grief that’s been co-opted to explain the process of family coming to terms with a trans child. As we’re told, it’s akin to losing a family member. Like I died. Something about that seems a little extreme; I’m not dead. Nor dying. There’s irony that acceptance from parents with serious resistance to a transitioning family member sometimes only comes after the suicide attempt. I guess there’s a death worse than gender transition, after all. And, it’s hard to blame those who attempt suicide; being abandoned by family, or at best, helping them through their grief when your choice is akin in their eyes to a death of sorts, is hard. Hard to deal with. The suicide rate for so many reasons doesn’t surprise.
I have no desire for suicide. Even if I did, my parents’ thoughts would be about the last motivation I could conjure. I think I’ve been lucky. Having a semi-crappy childhood made me take a step back from them sooner than later. After you see them as people first and family second, for all their virtues and flaws, and forgive for any real or perceived injustices, it’s easier to really see them. Neither all good nor all bad. People in maybe the hardest role of their lives. Parents. I’d guess parenting gender variant children is even more challenging than usual. Imagine that. A hard job made harder.
Also, my parents haven’t taken an especially negative look at my gender issues. At least, not since I’ve come to this point. Like suicide, I think my father felt like he faced losing me. Not that I’d die, but that I wouldn’t involve him in my life. Maybe that I wouldn’t talk with him at all. When you’re getting older and you only have one child (at least with whom you keep contact) that idea has to sting.
When I was younger I experienced some pretty nasty s–t. So it goes. My father had anger issues and his anger was flared by one of three issues; my school performance, my gender issues, or his own person stuff. The moods meant yelling. Screaming, really. Interesting swearing. Intimidation. Manipulation. Threats. Beatings. Broken noses. Bruises. Crying. Some of what happened sort of defies description. Here’s an example of crazy. When your father is upset at your twelve year old self because you can’t find a stand-alone eraser (those on your pencil simply won’t do) and decides to scream at you for hours, tell you you’re worthless, and a hopeless f-g f–k up? That’s crazy. When he starts punching you, pushes you to the ground, and then tips the desk on you? That’s also crazy. When you’re pinned down by the desk and he tips the bookcase on top of you? Also crazy. All this, and more, can be yours, for the low low price of continuing the cycle of abuse. Hey, we’ll even throw in –for free– your mother standing in the kitchen crying, too afraid to step in and help. Act now!
It’s a bad deal. What’s wild is that those weren’t the worst times. I’m not a masochist, I don’t look back upon them fondly, they were just better than the mind games. My father was good at messing with my head. He was even creative, I guess. My father doesn’t remember much of this. My mom doesn’t remember any of it. The scars and journals I kept make it hard to maintain the illusion that it’s all copacetic, though.
There’s a don’t ask, don’t tell policy with me being a trans woman in the process of transition. There’s been a tidal shift in our relationship. Again, some of it is him getting older and mellowing out. Some of it is the perspective time has given me. Maybe him, too, but I can’t speak to that. Finally, I just think it really boils down to this– everyone wants family, no matter how messed up. I’d love to have a dad; it sucks having a father. Just the difference in two terms speaks volumes about the distance between us. And, it’s hard being estranged from your child. I’d imagine it’s incredibly painful. And, neither of us is getting any younger.
When I was in my early 20s he knew I was still planning on transitioning. Maybe because I had my hair long, or because I was knitting, or whatever. More likely because my mother told him. That little fact makes it difficult for me to be as close to my mother as I otherwise would; there’s little she’d deny him from fear. He asked if I was gay. I told him I wasn’t. He asked again. And, again. Probably a couple dozen times, no exaggeration, over period of a year or two. He asked if I was one of those transvestites. Bear in mind my father is a doctor practicing in New York City. We’re not exactly rare, there. The last time trans women were calling themselves transvestites –or medical texts were– it was probably the 1970s. I laughed. No, I said I wasn’t a transvestite.
He said it made sense from the way I acted when I was younger. He figured it made more sense than being gay, too; being trans, for whatever reason, made more sense to him as an idea. I didn’t say much. It was awkward. He kept it up. My father realized that our relationship was fractured because of my feelings about our shared past. He knew that I held against him the violence and threats. I don’t think to this day he understands how deeply it affected me. But, he’s remained convinced I’m “one of those transvestites who go on to live and women and get that surgery.”
Beyond what he was saying, there was what I heard. What he knew was that I didn’t love him. It tore him up. How couldn’t it? Sharing this personal truth would demonstrate our relationship was closer. Repairing. That I didn’t always have to hold the past against him. He was giving all the signals that it’d be okay, that he’d be accepting. He was willing me to confide so he could show it was okay. Maybe to atone for the past. Probably just so we could move forward. I heard him out. I wanted to repair our relationship, I didn’t want to deny him his chance. But, I didn’t want to tell him. I didn’t trust him. And, honestly, nothing he could have said would have made me love him. I’m sorry.
I’ve forgiven him, and told him as much. I wish the best for him. I like our talks. Our relationship, really, is very good. There’s just a line he’s not allowed to cross. There are times when the father from my childhood resurfaces. It’s not directed at me anymore, but my father still lets loose his wrath from time to time when I’m around. At the drunks at the ball game. At the neighbors who play their music too loud. He’s still well aquatinted with the police. And, even if I never saw this side of him again, I don’t know that I’d ever be comfortable. I don’t want to live nearby. I’ve seen him stalk people. In person, for days. I don’t want him meeting my partner or children, should we have any. I don’t trust him.
Sometime I’ll have to tell him I’m one of those transvestites who live as women and get that surgery. In the not too distant future I’ll be living as a woman. I’d rather tell him with some advance notice of that. For as convinced as he is, I imagine he’ll still need some getting used to the idea. Who wouldn’t, right? Hopefully he takes it well. For everything I’ve said, I think he will. One little aphorism of transition is that ya never know. People surprise you with their acceptance and intolerance. From the shocked and dismayed bi/lesbian friend to the instantly accepting republican best friend. So, I’m betting he’ll be okay with it. I’m just not betting much.
In between the time he thought I was trans and now I had to guy it up for a time. I needed the money for mom’s medical bills, and I got outed as trans at my job. There I was, even still on T blockers, but then with wicked short styled hair. Now I’m rocking the long locks again. And the E. Maybe he was hoping the trans thing was a phase. More than that, he seems resigned to having a sweet little transvestite child.
And, to end on a thought. Did my crappy childhood make me trans? Is this me getting back at my father for my daddy issues? No and no. I was trans from my earliest memories. Or, I didn’t think of myself as trans, but I thought of myself as a girl and apparently that means I’m trans. And, if I really wanted to get back at my father, I’d go into the medical insurance industry. Or become a born again Christian. Or become a republican. Or a thousand other things. Instead, I’m just a girl. He got lucky. Me too :).