I mentioned parents in my last trans-related post. One question I always get except from the rare person who also has a fucked-up family is, “How is your family taking it?”
And my answer is, “Well…they’re not.”
My crazy abusive father is dead. Saturday is the third anniversary of his death. In order to explain what that means, I’ll give some background:
My parents split up when I was sixteen. They waffled back and forth about whether they’d get back together for a couple of years. They finally did when we discovered he’d been faking cancer for a year. In 2003 or 2004, he disappeared. I heard neither hide nor hair of him for seven years.
Now you have to understand that this man was the boogeyman to me. I grew up afraid of him, afraid of his emotional manipulation and abuse. I lived in fear that he’d find me. Every once in a while, he’d send me a letter via my mother, begging my forgiveness. I was thankfully grown up enough to recognize it for the manipulative ploy it was. I always wondered what I would do if I heard from him again.
Then, toward the end of July in 2011 six or seven days before I was scheduled to move to Seattle, my older brother called me and told me our father had turned up again, and he was dying. Of cancer. I had to ask if he was fucking joking. Apparently, he was not.
I drove from Minnesota to the hospice center in Kansas to confront him. That was a bizarre, absurd trip that I’ll get to sometime. I went with Tiger and my best friend at the time. I yelled at him and told him I hated him and how he’d manage to ruin so many parts of my life. I told him he’d never done anything for me. All the while I was watching his face and started to feel guilt creeping in. I was yelling at a dying man.
Then he said, “What did you ever do for me?”
No more guilt.
I managed not to spit on him and walked out with a free conscience. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret doing it. I don’t regret what I said. I’m really, really glad he’s dead. But even so, this time of year is hard. The day after we got back to Minnesota, I finished packing and we left again bound for Seattle. I arrived on the first of August; he died on the second. It was an indescribably stressful time, and that has left its mark on me. I guess that’s why I’ve been thinking so much about parents lately.
What would he have thought of me now? I don’t know. I don’t know what he really, honestly thought of me when I was still alive. It’s an uncomfortable thing to be at least partially masculine identified but have no masculine role model. My brothers decided to identify with him after he died, and I didn’t. I want no part in that shit.
So where does that leave me? With my mother, I suppose, though that relationship is just as fucked up in its own way.
My mother rediscovered Jesus some years back and is extremely sheltered. We didn’t speak for almost two years, in part for this reason, but about a month and a half ago, as surgery drew nearer, I decided I wanted to contact her. I knew the risk that I would regret it immediately (which is kind of true), but I just felt like I needed to finally come out to her. I didn’t really have anything to lose. I wrote her a letter.
Her response was no more and no less than expected. “I’m sad you’re turning into a different person, this isn’t God’s plan for you,” blah blah. It was still hurtful, though, and I had to take a step back and figure out how to respond to that. She literally did not even know what transgender was until I told her a few years ago in a different context. How the fuck does she think she can pass judgment on something she knows absolutely nothing about? I had read plenty of parent rhetoric from other trans folks, but somehow, naively never expected it from my own mother.
My mother and I have a lot of issues, primarily having to do with my father, and I’m sure the coming-out process is going to bring every single one of those up. Maybe it was a boneheaded move to kick off the process right before surgery; her next letter is apparently in the mail, and I’m considering not reading it until after surgery. I really don’t want to go into it feeling insecure and negative. This is the one thing in my life I haven’t once had second thoughts about. I’ve second-guessed life choices, career moves, life moves, relationships, my own creative work, posting this damn blog. I’m an anxious person, so I question everything. But I have never wondered whether surgery was the right way to go. I don’t need her doing it for me.
Yet somehow I think it was the right time. For one thing, I was able to be realistic about what to expect. I knew I could handle whatever came, even if it would be hard. I am in a much better place than I was two years ago regarding my own identity and mental state. I have wonderful, wonderful friends and a wonderful partner who have gone out of their way to support and encourage me. I don’t need her support.
But I do. She’s my mother.
My parents failed me my entire life. In some ways, this goes especially for my mother. I don’t think I’m being melodramatic. My parents weren’t violent drug addicts, nobody ever spent time in prison, there was no physical abuse, but our household was filled with quiet desperation and anxiety. My father was emotionally abusive and my mother did nothing to stop him. I grew up learning to take care of myself (or not) in every way. But I never stopped wanting my parents to just fucking get it right for once. Get your shit together and be my parent when I really could use one.
You’d think I would stop wishing for that eventually.