So it has been a few days since I last wrote on here and that’s mostly because I have been on a mini vacation while my mom is visiting so there hasn’t been much opportunity to write. My last entry discussed the anxiety and worry I was feeling about my mother’s arrival and whether or not she would be willing to accompany me to my therapy appointment on Tuesday. The good news is that my mother did decide to come with me to talk to my therapist. The bad news is that she is having a much harder time accepting my decision to transition than I suspected. While she is still willing to love me and to continue to have me in her life, she is very confused, concerned and even quite angry about me coming out.
She revealed during our discussion that the news I gave her several weeks ago caused a great deal of suffering in her afterwards, so much so that even her close friends noticed a dramatic change in her demeanor and attitude. Fortunately those friends happen to be a lesbian couple who have tried very hard to be there for her and to help her understand that what she is experiencing is somewhat normal for a parent of an unexpected LGBT child. Despite that effort, my mother is really having a difficult time with everything and her struggle became quite apparent during the therapy session. The height of her discomfort and unease manifested when my therapist broached the subject of me changing my name and the pronouns I expect people to use when referring to me. The overwhelmed expression she had at the mention of my new name Emma was painful to behold and made me feel sorry for the pain I am putting her through. If I didn’t feel such a deep and persistent desire to make my transition her pained expression might have been enough to drive me right back into the closet.
I think, however, that before the session ended we made somewhat of a breakthrough in her resistance to accept me as her daughter instead of as her son. My therapist explained to my mother that people like me who come to understand that they are transgender are at an extremely high risk of suicide, most especially if they decide not to transition despite their desire to. When I confirmed this observation by admitting that suicide has been on my mind a great deal lately and there have been several occasions recently where I seriously considered taking my own life (believing it would be easier than dealing with the ramifications of transition), something changed in my mother. I think the thought of me killing myself really put things into perspective for her because after this admission she started acting a bit differently. I believe that instead of her feeling frustration, confusion, and anger with me, her perception shifted to something more like empathy and love. By admitting to her that I’d been thinking about killing myself rather than putting her, my wife, and our respective families through the awkward and difficult transition process, she finally understood how much this really meant to me, and her doubts that this was just a phase began to fade.
I’m certain that her mind, which has been reeling ever since I came out to her, was finally grounded in a bit of harsh reality as she considered what her life would be like without me. I know that this occurred to her, at least in part, because she became extremely emotional and admitted to both me and my therapist that she didn’t know that she’d be able to survive if I decided to take the easy way out (because that is ultimately what it would be, the easy way out). While I am sad that such a stark admission was necessary to really drive home to my mother that this is something I must do, I am pleased with the results. I know that she still has a great deal to process as my transition continues but I have noticed a difference in her since that session. When she first arrived she seemed rigidly unwilling to even begin to accept that I was transgender (her reaction to my painted toenails on the first night was rather indicative of her initial feelings because she became visibly disturbed at the sight of them and angrily told me I should put some socks on to cover them up) but after the session her tolerance of my decision seemed to grow. Instead of being angry at my painted toenails and asking that I cover them up as if they were shameful (which they are not!), she has since ignored them; instead of suggesting that I cut my hair, she’s asked me how long I intend to grow it out. Instead of becoming visibly upset at any mention or insinuation of my transition she has appeared to be much more calm.
Rationally, I understand that these improvements are quite small and are far from the acceptance she is going to have to come to if I ever hope to be 100% open and honest with her, but the fact that she is insistent that she wants me to be part of her life and that she still loves me gives me hope. I knew it would be horribly difficult for her and I can only begin to imagine what it will be like for my father or other parts of my family, but I am happy with my decision to come out to her.
For any out there who are not out of the closet to their friends and family I want to say this: It probably won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be all sunshine and sparkle-ponies, but you will find no greater freedom from your fear than to face it head on. I cannot promise that your family and friends will be as accepting as mine have been so far, but you will never truly regret your decision to come out. We only get to live this life once and there is no greater treasure or achievement to be had than to be true to yourself. It might sound overly morbid but one day you are going to die; there is no escaping that fact, we all eventually pass away. The only thing you can do about that fact is to live your life to the fullest before that day, because once it happens, there is no coming back. If you want to wear nail polish and eye shadow and sequin skirts (like I do) then go out and do it, and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it! It is your life, not theirs, and their judgments are more a reflection of their own fears than anything negative about you.
I am Emma, the transwoman extraordinaire, and I want you to know that you are loved. No matter who you are, where you come from, how you live your life, or what anyone has tried to convince you of, you are loved, by both me and by the source of all life. We are all in this together, so let’s break the rules and push the boundaries, because that’s what we came here to do… to live!