Being home for the Holidays while trans
Hope all your holidays have been restful and joyous — or not stressful at the very least. Please feel free to hit me up about any holiday-specific or family-gathering related concerns regarding coming out or transitioning.
So I’m at my parents’ house back on the east coast — been here since the Wednesday before Christmas and I’ll be here until the 3rd of January. I was nervous while riding the bus up from the Logan Airport in Boston… not only to inhabit a house with my parents for two weeks, but also to just deal with all the unpredictable aspects of encountering people who hadn’t seen me for four months in a small, very close-knit New England town (woah—it feels like I’ve been out in CA for so much longer than that!)
I think the word about my gender identity has circulated to some extent around the town since I came out on Facebook several weeks ago. People have seemed to be very respectful and judicious about the matter, as far as I can tell, and I’ve experienced all but friendliness. One or two people have commented curiously about my voice—and I’m thinking perhaps those folks might not know what’s up (it’s getting pretty deep, and I still speak in a higher register than I want to) but I don’t expect everyone to know… I should make a voice update soon while I’ve got the time! Also, my minister called my parents house and left a message that he wants to meet with me (I was going to call him and he beat me to it, dammit)—so that’s a pretty good indication that he is well appraised of the situation. I think he met with my parents this past fall.
To my great relief, the first few days that I was here, up through Christmas, my parents did not bring up my gender identity or transition at all. They gave me a warm welcome and just seemed really genuinely happy to see me. A few days after I arrived my twin brother drove up from his place in Western Mass. We got along just as we always have—like silent partners in crime, somehow knowing each others thoughts and sharing sidelong glances and grins every now and then (if you have a twin you’ll know what I’m talking about). Him and I haven’t really talked about things directly, but he’s never been comfortable talking openly about personal or emotional issues, that’s just par for the course with Asperger’s. This issue is no different. My strategy has been to keep him appraised of what’s going on via several emails, and it’s up to him what to do with the information. I pretty much never expect him to really engage the topic, especially now because he is still processing it. But nothing is different between us, in terms of our interactions, and that is really what means the most to me. Before we all drove up to a larger family gathering on Christmas day in the mountains of central Vermont, I did ask him about my voice, since he is one person who I talk to least on the phone (but really who uses the phone regularly anymore? Not me, for whatever it’s worth). And he answered pretty honestly that it did seem quite different to him. He didn’t seem uncomfortable. My parents have expressed concern about his discomfort with this in the past, but I think that is largely their own discomfort being projected onto him. Also, when you have a loved one like my bro, you tend to be protective of him. He’s just that sort of gentle creature.
What I was dreading coming up was for my parents and I to get off on the wrong foot — all this takes is some ill-thought comment or snarky remark, or even a certain kind of visible emotion. I knew that I couldn’t control what would happen, so I basically had to steel myself and remain strong and grounded. I had a good talk with my older brother before travelling here where I voiced that I was intimidated a little by the prospect of coming home. He responded with what I already half-knew but needed to hear from a loved one: That I couldn’t take everything personally—and that a lot of times in interactions with others, we can’t prevent them from projecting their “stuff” onto us. This might happen with my parents, and I had to be ready for that, not just intellectually but emotionally.
Yes. This entire journey with affirming my true gender identity has been a giant ongoing lesson in self-respect, personal courage and autonomy… things that I admit I’ve lacked for most of my life (maybe others would argue that, but it feels like I have lacked them especially with respect to gender identity, which is a profound part of who we are, thus ignoring it or not respecting it highlighted the fear that I had). Honestly, autonomy and independence are not personality characteristics that get strengthened when you live a live that I’ve lived. You don’t really need those things when you have such a tight relationship with your parents, a really REALLY stable home life, and don’t struggle with money issues. My older brother on the other hand, lived through the abusive first marriage of my mom in a patriarchal, Muslim society, was deserted by mom for several years because she feared for her life, and then was basically kidnapped from Morocco by mom and taken to Canada for a completely new life with a new father figure. He went through the immigrant experience with my mom, and so in a way he is more part of her generation than mine… and man, that guy is driven… he’s the classic type A personality, with the American Dream in his crosshairs. He must take after his dad as well, because I take after my dad, who is sensitive, empathic and talkative. So me and my older brother are very different, though we share the maternal connection, which is VERY very strong and meaningful in both Greek and Arab culture.
One of the most poignant things I’ve been dealing with over the past 6 months to a year is that I’ve never needed to really assert my emotional independence from my parents… until now. Until I realized that I had to live my own life, and there was no way I could “get their permission” for doing what I was going to do… what I HAD to do.
I’ve grown a lot just in the past half year. But I still have so much more growing to do, and who is to know whether it all stands as a house of cards, ready to collapse with a hurtful swipe from someone close to me. Luckily for me, my parents are really doing a good job dealing with these changes. They’ve even markedly changed their attitude since they visited me in October — of course that was only a week after they’d first learned I was on HRT. As I suspected, some conversations about what I’m going through evolved organically (and luckily amiably) after the climax of Christmas togetherness had passed, and we all sat in its afterglow. I had a really good talk with my Dad in the car at one point, and an equally great talk with my mom when we went on a long walk in the woods yesterday. It seems like they are starting to digest that hormone therapy is the right choice for me, and finding the ability to respect that. Hopefully I’ll get to write a bit more about it… for now I’ll sign off!
Until next time. :)