It is a tired cliche, yet nevertheless true, that most trans people who come out and transition find that a lot of loss follows in their life. Ask any of us and we can list off the roster of those who supported and those who turned their back and/or condemned. I’ve got those lists, but of course often times the reality is more complex. No one actually lives a Plesentville existence where everyone is sweet and vanilla and kind.Certainly I didn’t.
My history with my “dad” can’t be really completely sorted out from the history of my gender experience. While I was born too long ago and in the wrong place to have any real prospect of an early life transition, like any child I was not always as clever or stealthy as I presumed myself to be and I know that there was clear evidence he was absolutely aware of that I was not the sort of son he was counting on. Like many, I don’t have a lot of memories of my pre-school years, nor any real resource to ask about them, but I theorize that if I gave the game away in later years, I probably did some things then that set off the alarm bells for him. At puberty he (inadvertently) had his nose rubbed in it even though I invested some considerable evidence in “playing it off.” At a minimum, he knew his first born was likely not going to deliver on the “manly man” goal he surely had, and might turn n out to be an embarrassment.
Like so many men of that (and every) generation, this knowledge did not make him favorably disposed to being a caring and compassionate parent. I won’t go into details, and certainly others could relate a far more harrowing experience than I, but there was no lack of awareness on my part where I stood and yet, at the same time his ego demanded that he maintain a constant supervisory role in my life even into adulthood. Being right has always been perhaps his first priority, and by that I do not mean “seeking out the truth wherever it lies and adjusting my views to the facts” – rather I mean “I don’t care what you say I know I’m right and if you’ll just agree with me you’ll be better off for it.”
So, yeah, clearly not an individual well situated to find out his firstborn child is trans. Layer on top of that the fact that he’d got himself a nice showing case of Traditionalist legalistic religion (you know, the sort where you can commit adultery and get divorced, but still fill obliged to throw “you need to get saved!” at everyone he disapproves of in a display of his righteous devotion to God). When I showed him the respect of telling him face to face that I was going to transition, he said I was “crazy as hell” and before long, one he concluded I was serious, I’d seen the last of him.
Still, he’s Facebook friends with my wife and so our paths occasionally cross online (like the time he ask her with all sincerity if I was beating her – anyone who knows me I’d give Gandhi a run when it comes to being disinclined to physical force or violence – including him) which brings me round to the, more or less, point of this essay. Back in January she made a post pointing out, correctly, how disingenuous it was for people to say “everyone is welcome at our church” knowing that there’s no way any of them (in our area) would tolerate my presence for even an hour, and among those who chimed in was dear old dad (making nice words about just following God and not worrying about those churches). I pointed out to him that that was a platitude given he had just as harsh a judgment as any of the churches in question but the conversation did not go all that far. However, for some bizarre reason, he dug the post back up and restarted the conversation this week.
Again, details are not important and would make this post drag on far too long. But it involved a good friend telling me (correctly) I did not owe him (and a cousin of ours who was gently but resolutely arguing his side) any explanation of anything. But I felt a different sort of obligation, to seize a rare opportunity to educate and see if simple factual knowledge could possible melt a cold heart, particularly since he’s now in his mid-70’s and he doesn’t have all that much time to mend fences. I spoke to him of Scripture and of science and of my own life experiences but ultimately, the rules he had been taught were important trumped everything, even his relationship with his child.
Ultimately, sometimes we can reach our ignorant friends and loved ones and give them insight that softens their heart – but often we can’t. It is a perverse thing that we live in a world where so many – particularly those who follow a man who was said in their Holy Book to have personified love and grace and compassion – are so willing to allow the enforcement of rules to be the driving force of their life, rather than love for their fellow human being – even when that human being is their own blood. But it only becomes an exercise in tormenting one’s self to continue to pursue a dead relationship.
The man who provided half my genetic material has opted not to be my father. I’m at peace with that. There’s a passage in the Bible where one person involved in mutual animosity with another says “The Lord judge between me and thee.” Those may well be the last words ever communicated from me to that man, and that’s okay.
Image by: Fady Habib