The long holiday weekend is drawing to a close, and this year I did something novel- I went home to my conservative family in Tennessee as an openly queer transwoman. It wasn’t entirely terrible, all things considered. Intense, yes, but not terrible.
This was the first time in three years we have been back, and two years since I have seen my parents. I haven’t seen my spoken to my sister in a year and a half – but that is something for another time.
One of the most difficult parts of the “coming out” process is dealing with the both the spoken and unspoken questions. Coming out can be especially harsh for parents or transfolk, as the realization of how much pain and angst their children carried is just as painful as the realization that there isn’t a damn thing they could have done to help it. Many parents pull away, choosing to project the pain of what they see as betrayal onto their children. Some parents chose instead the path of love and affirmation – seeking to understand and accept what they knew to be their child’s truth, regardless of initial sting. I am a very lucky woman that my parents chose the path of love.
Since my transition narrative is also bound in my recovery from long-term domestic abuse, my mother and I could not discuss one without discussing the other. Her struggle to understand why I didn’t ask for help – and trying to get to the place of knowing that it was not possible – is every bit as important as knowing why I didn’t stand up when I was seven and say “Um, Mom and Dad? This boy thing ain’t working for me.” It’s not an easy path, but honest and direct conversation can help make the conversation easier. Not easy- just easier.
There were two recurrent themes in Mom and my conversations. One, that Mom understood that I knew that they would have moved heaven and earth if they had known of my gender issues, and two, that I would have told them if I would have had the vocabulary to do so at the time.
Neither of them were surprised by my ability to maintain the mask of ‘boychild’- just as neither of them were surprised (in hindsight) when that mask fell and I was left. They now have a better understanding of the depth of healing I have been through – and a better idea of the woman that the fire of my past has left behind. That woman has surprised them with her strength and compassion, and they have surprised her by their willingness to love and not condemn.