Mom, can we talk?
A Facebook friend is an Editor at the on-line magazine The Advocate and in anticipation of the premiere episode of “I Am Cait” – which featured an extended segment focused on Caitlyn’s discussion of her transgender condition with her aged mother – she solicited submissions from her trans friends describing what happened when they came out to their mothers, or how they imagine it would have gone if she was already deceased. The entries, at a suggested length of around 200 words, were due by Friday – but I didn’t see the post until Monday and didn’t even notice the date or the 200 words thing (which was in a reply and not the original post) until after I’d already written a 500ish word essay for submission. So while it’s not exactly in the format that I usually post here, I hated to let a quality essay go to waste. My story is positive when it comes to my mom, but it is not so when it comes to my dad or brother. However I am well aware of my friends who have had the opposite experience. Some of them – including my editor friend – lost their relationship there completely, seemingly for life. I do not present this as typical, but just one experience. I encourage you to share your story in the comments.
It was the Sunday before Labor Day in 2008 when, in a rather spur-of-the-moment conversation, I told my wife that I was a transsexual. Over the course of the next 14 months, until a committee of my in-laws demanded an explanation, I slowly worked to modify my superficial appearance and my wardrobe and it was apparent enough by spring that something was amiss. I began to compose a list of of the people, family and friends, that I respected enough to feel concern that somehow the grapevine would begin to theorize and might eventually take the opportunity to disclose out of my hands.
Of course staying ahead of the grapevine also involves taking care that what you say does not instantly become gossip and that realization put my mother first on the list. Mama, as we called her, was a quiet and placid woman, unless you managed to make her angry, who’d been relatively stern in my youth but had long since relaxed from her former posture. She lives alone, save for several rescue dogs that she’d accumulated over the years, in a house in the country 12 miles from my own. To say that my disclosure to her was a non-event might be to give you the impression that it was more eventful than it was.
I knew she was not going to be completely shocked. While I had successfully worn the “man mask” for the preceding three decades, there were episodes up until my mid-teens that she would surely recall that, in the context of my revelation, would fall into place. I also knew that even had she been completely shocked, it wouldn’t have shown. I tried to be as simple as possible in getting it out there, saying only that I realized my sudden change in appearance might be making people wonder about me and I wanted those important to me to hear it from me face to face – “I have accepted the fact that I am a transsexual, and I will be transitioning over the months and years to come.” Her response? A soft smile that I was familiar with and “Oh, okay.” And that was that.
Oh sure, in my typical fashion I over-explained and drew her out, as much as I could, on how she felt about it, both then and at the time of those childhood moments, but she said little, as was her way, while still leaving no doubt that she cared no less for me than she ever had. I’ve never heard her call me by my chosen name, or refer to me with female pronouns, but I’ve also not heard her utter my dead name in over six years, nor any male pronouns. That’s enough.
Photo by: Sunfall