Family is a wonderful thing. And I don’t mean exclusively blood-related family, but that sense of community and “you can count on me” that you get from a group you consider yourself to be a part of, be it comprised of relatives, friends or any other type of person.
But, as transpeople, can we always count on our families to be there? The harsh reality is that we can’t. Many of us live in fear of our families. Still others, like myself, have faced disappointing attitudes despite being from tightly-knit families that otherwise have had no significant problems.
When I first began my transition, my grandmother wanted to have me visited by a pastor because she thought I was insane and her antiquated solution was to drive that insanity from me through spiritual warfare, which to me, seemed much crazier than anything I was doing. The real obstacle was a lack of understanding and dialogue. But sometimes, despite numerous attempts at fostering that kind of open dialogue, there will be people who are unwilling to or are not yet ready to listen. That kind of stone-cold silence can breed a resentment in both parties that ofttimes isn’t easy to shake. People don’t remember words or actions, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. Still, it’s important to let go of resentment eventually. It’s fine to be angry, and in our situations we need to allow ourselves the benefit of being mad, but it’s equally important to not stay angry the rest of our lives. For me, my anger was channelled through isolation and self-improvement. I’d read, do exercise, watch old films, study how-to videos. My only ally in those days was my mother. As is so often the case, family can be a double-edged sword. Some members will protect you through thick and thin, while others can’t wait to cut you down.
I am blessed to say that I had the benefit of a truly loving mother, whose compassion and empathy saw me through those days of isolation. Some might say that isolation was self-imposed, and in a sense, it was, though it’s also true that I was driven to it. From my own experiences, I can say that isolating yourself is one of the best things you can do in these situations. Walking away gives both parties time to reflect and examine their own biases. It always helps to have friends who understand, but not everyone has that luxury. And during a transition one really needs to rediscover oneself as one’s own BEST friend. Whatever you do, don’t let your anger drive you to self-destruction. So often in our community, we resort to drugs and alcohol and other vices that will only hinder our chances at a successful transition and mar us forever.
During my transition I recall another family member’s attitude. How she told me she didn’t want me to come over her house dressed as a female because I ran the risk of confusing her two year old regarding gender identity. So I stopped going to her house, there was no compromise. And I think it’s important, that we as transfolk, establish not only a firm identity as our true selves, but also a firm sense of what we are and are not willing to compromise. Understanding is great, but only when it’s reciprocal. Sometimes, this will entail conflict and accusations of being selfish. Guess what? That’s okay. It’s alright to be selfish. This is something that’s taken me years to realize, sacrificing yourself doesn’t gain you anything, it doesn’t make you noble, it makes you a puppet, controlled by the whims of others. As a transperson, you’re your own ally and advocate. Fight for your right to exist, without apology and without excuse. The people who truly love you just may come around eventually. But they may not. And learning to live without them is a harsh reality that one just may have to accept.
In my own case, they did luckily “come around,” but I realize it’s not so simple for other transpeople and my heart goes out to you. It’s never easy, but know that you are worth it. There’s only one life and its yours! Whether family ties are meant to be double-knotted or unravel themselves completely, depends not upon you, but on them and the place they’re in emotionally. The inherent urge for freedom is never an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such…but hatred, bigotry, fear…those are very real illnesses and we shouldn’t let them infect, control or hold us back from achieving our own dreams and strengthening the most important tie we have…to our souls and to our selves.
Posted on August 1, 2012, in Ongoing Memoirs and tagged bisexual, coming out, family, gay, genderqueer, glbt, glbtq, inspirational, lesbian, lgbt, lgbtq, queer, transgender, transsexual. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.