Thursday, July 15, 2010


I've been thinking about my family lately. I've spent the last months growing apart from them; they're not comfortable with the changes I've made in my life, and I have no patience for people who would hold me back or deny my identity. We definitely seem to be moving in different directions. And that is a shame.

I do keep talking to my parents; after all, they live a very short distance away, and they do at least seem willing to still be my parents. I'm still their child, and they don't seem willing to give up on that, for which I feel pretty grateful. I've heard too many stories about trans folks' parents completely giving up on them, or disowning them, and that just makes my skin crawl. But they're both unwilling to try out my name or the pronouns that are appropriate for my identity. And every time they do it, it's like a knife to my heart. I didn't go through all this effort and expense for no reason. I'm not and never really have been a he. I'm a she, and I will abide nothing and nobody who tries to take that away from me.

So, that is a continuing source of friction between us. I hope that it can be resolved in time, but how much time that might be, I can't even imagine. Old dogs have to want to learn new tricks, before they can actually learn them.

My sister, on the other hand... She's made it fairly clear that she wants nothing to do with me in my new identity. In one of our last communications, she said that she wanted to save her brother. The one who was a thin veneer over top of someone different. Fa├žade. Artifice.

I do realize that I have upset her view of me, and in some ways, of the world. But it seems counterproductive to deny reality, rather than look around and try to figure out what is really going on. And try to decide how you would like to relate to that changed reality. The world changes every day, and it is up to each of us to handle those changes in whatever way we can.

My brother-in-law, when we had our short, horrible discussion before the Christmas holiday last year, said that my sister still wanted to have a relationship with me. He didn't say anything further than that, but from my reading of that comment, and our subsequent interaction (i.e. none), she seems to want a relationship with me on her terms - the old terms, which are no longer available. Now that I have unilaterally changed the terms of our interaction, she seems unwilling to accept those new terms. So, we have had no interaction.

I have a very small family. One sister, two parents, three cousins, two aunts, two uncles. There are further-removed family members, but I have only a fleeting idea that they exist, let alone who they are. So those family members who I do know are very precious, and when I lose one of them, that's a huge loss. And it seems like a big waste, all over something that really is small potatoes - a new name, and some new pronouns. That's learnable, and it's absolutely not rocket science. I have many friends, some who have known me for a very long time, who have successfully done it. And I've done it too - I've unlearned my old name such that it actually sounds really weird to me. So it doesn't seem like a huge imposition to ask my family to learn a new name for me.

And yet, there seems to be active resistance to doing it. My mom has commented that I would not understand what my old identity means to her. And I agree: I don't understand. But she seems to be unwilling to try to understand things from my perspective. I realize that transgenderism is a difficult idea to contemplate. But, I have presented the idea with as much clarity as I am able, and still they reject it, despite the fact that they see and hear me, and they have to realize that I am living in a different social role. They can't not realize that. I mean, there are some people who I've known for many years, who no longer recognize me. How much more clear could it be?

My parents know who I am now. They can see it, often. Whether or not they're willing to accept me is a question for another day. My sister, on the other hand, has not seen me or talked to me since Christmas, and is unlikely to see or talk to me anytime soon. So I think it's probably up to me to try again. I have been contemplating writing her a letter, snail-mail style, to let her know that I am still here, and she is still my family, and it would be pretty great if she could somehow talk to me again, as she once did. But the big difficulty is not rubbing her nose in anything, or making her feel foolish or stupid in any way. And I think that's why I haven't done anything about it yet - that's going to be very difficult, considering my current "I am me, and too bad if you don't like it" attitude. Perhaps just doing some free-writing, throwing words at a page and seeing what sticks, could work. Or at least get me moving in some direction at all.


laanba said...

I am definitely a believer in the write something down, anything and go back and edit theory. I suggest you start with that.

Part of me wonders where you would be right now if your parents were being as obstinate as your sister. I know it seems logical to say that it is better that they are talking to you, but I wonder in the long run if it is keeping your hopes up that they will ultimately accept something that they will never accept. I have no idea. Hopefully you can find some people that went through a similar experience (parents seeming sorta ok, but not really) and see what they have to say.

K said...

If her parents were acting like her sister currently is, it would be horrible for Trinity. On the bright side, I believe your circle of friends would be willing to pickup as much slack as they possibly could.

I like the snail-mail to the sister idea.

Paul Makepeace said...

Bummer to hear about your fam. I bet it's just a time & gradual adjustment.

When are you coming to San Francisco? I don't have a lot more time here... I don't want to hear lame excuses either :) Seriously, you need a break from Texas, that much is obvious...

Wol said...

I'm sorry to hear that your sister is taking it badly (refusing to take it at all might be more correct). And I wish I'd been in Wisconsin to tell you that in person.

Dave said...

Sadly, sometimes it seems that the only reason family wants to stand behind you is to kick you in the ass.

I wish I could reassure you that your sister will "come around" someday, but you know how that goes. So I'll just send a "virtual hug" and hope it works out for the best.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for your comments.

There is an old saying that we get to pick our friends, but we're stuck with our families.

laanba, K, I don't know how that would be, if my parents were as disapproving as my sister. They didn't play much of a supportive role over the course of my transition, though they did make it possible for me to do my facial surgery. So, who knows.

Paul, I hope it's just a time, getting-used-to kind of thing. Now that I'm not working (and already made a short escape trip), I'm not sure if I really can make it to SF anytime soon. We'll see how things go.

Wol, I wish you have been able to be there too, but knowing you're out there and sending your good energy my way helps probably more than you know.

Dave, your comment made me chuckle a little bit. It seems like sometimes the only way to keep from crying, is to laugh. But thank you; hugs, virtual or otherwise, are Martha-style Good Things. :)

Agatha Macbeth said...

Oh Christ Trin. It seems like even tho you know who you are your family don't, and they want to hang onto their own image of you rather than seeing you for who you really are. I'm afraid can't say anything more helpful than give them time to come round to accepting what *is* and not what they would like it to be. Hang in there kiddo *hugs*.