The past few days have been rather interesting, to say the least. There have been some improvements and some regressions too. I’ll begin with the improvements first:
I was brave enough on Saturday to go to a get together with friends (including a person I hadn’t met before) while wearing my nail polish and makeup. It was both initially nerve wracking and really amazing. My wife actually helped me with my makeup (both helping put it on and giving me tips on how to do it). She was very helpful and was very supportive. While I definitely felt a little like a member of KISS, it was really liberating to wear the makeup out in public and to overcome the initial fear of how I’d be perceived. The new person I met didn’t say anything and didn’t seem to be too perturbed by my appearance either. I could tell that she was a bit confused at first but clearly not enough to ask what was going on. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t know that the host of the party said anything to her about me beforehand. Regardless, I went the whole night without having too much anxiety about it.
Another development is that my wife is starting to use my new name with greater frequency. She’s figured out that calling me Emma when I’m in a crabby mood is a quick fix to making me feel better about life, but beyond that she’s even started correcting herself when she mistakenly calls me Robert. It’s both amazing to hear her refer to me as Emma and kind of strange. She’s called me Robert for so many years it’s a bit hard to get used to hearing the new name or immediately reacting to being called Emma (feel a bit like a puppy who has a new name and doesn’t realize when its name is being called). This change came about after a conversation we had about my decision to come out publicly on my Facebook. While it was intense and I had to apologize for not really consulting with her about it before creating the post, we made some really good headway.
She admitted that she needed to go talk to a therapist to help her with coping with the changes and asked that I help her find one. While she admitted that she was worried about not being “ready to be gay” and expressed some fears about not knowing what Emma was going to be like, we were able to talk through some of that and I believe that she was ultimately comforted when I explained to her that she’d been married to Emma all along. I explained that I have always been Emma on the inside and that the main difference now was that I wanted to look and sound like her too. After that she seemed to feel quite a bit better and from that point on (this was Friday evening) she started calling me Emma (as described above).
Now to the regressive parts. I have not spoken to my mother again since coming out to her last week, which has been difficult for me. I can’t help but wonder how she is processing the news I gave her. My therapist talked about how the processing for a parent can get to be a bit ugly in the early stages, and I can’t help but imagine what those are looking like. I’m sure my mother is gravitating somewhere between denial and anger. I tried to open up the lines of communication yesterday by broaching an unrelated subject (our mutual love of the Green Bay Packers) via text and found myself spiraling into levels of anger and self-loathing when she did not respond. She did ultimately respond much later after I’d gone to bed, but for the several hours before that, I found myself in an almost inconsolably foul-tempered mood (I don’t think it helped that the Packers were losing to a team they should have easily defeated). This indicated to me that while my initial melancholy over my mother’s reaction to my honesty had faded over the weekend, it was not completely gone.
The worst part was that this came up after another regression had been plaguing me all day. My wife and I went to see her family yesterday (Sunday) for our nephew’s 5th birthday party. While it was good to see them, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged about the prospects of them eventually knowing about Emma. Because they live in a small town and carry on lives of relative simplicity, I couldn’t help but realize how hard it was going to be for them to understand what I’m going through and therefore, also not understand what Sarah is going through. As I watched my 2 nephews and 2 nieces run around the house playing in lives of childish bliss, I had to wonder what they would think of me in the days to come. Would they eventually call me Aunt Emma instead of Uncle Robert? Would they be able to understand why their uncle suddenly started looking like and dressing like a woman? Would my father-in-law, a rugged outdoorsy type of cisgendered male, be able to comprehend that his son-in-law was really a he-she? Would he be able to accept me as Emma?
I think because of my own issues with my father (and his lack of presence in my life) I feel a strong desire to be accepted and loved by my father-in-law. I guess I’m just afraid that my wife’s family, in their small-town world, won’t know how to react to my transition and might ultimately decide they can’t accept my desire to be a woman. I’m afraid they won’t want their children to be exposed to the transgender world and won’t want me to come around anymore. This thought discourages me greatly because my family not understanding is really a negligible thing because I almost never see any of them. My wife’s family, on the other hand, is much closer and we see them much more frequently, so that could create an even bigger rift in our lives and marriage. I don’t want my wife to have to be ashamed of her spouse because her family doesn’t understand.
Again I wish this could just be simpler. I wish I could just wake up in the morning and be a physical woman and no one even question it at all. It’s no wonder I waited so many years to deal with all of this; it’s such a huge mess of complicated emotions and social expectations. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m strong enough to go through the trials ahead of me. Will I survive them? Will my marriage survive them? What will I be when I get to the other side? How much different will my life be compared to how it is now? I know I just need to take things on day at a time, but I sort of wish I had a better idea of where everything was heading so I could mentally prepare.