So, today is my mother’s last day visiting me and my wife. She flies out early tomorrow morning and as I’m contemplating her departure I can’t help but feel a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because I really enjoyed having her in town and because I know that I’m going to miss her after she is gone. It will likely be at least 6 months to a year before I see her again and that’s honestly too long to go without seeing her. Having grown up with just her (and the various jerk boyfriends/husband she had) being so far away is always a struggle. For those who don’t know, I’m not originally from Minnesota and only moved here about 5 years ago, so it’s been an adjustment to go so long without seeing my mother and it seems to get harder each time she comes to visit. I suspect that one day she will come to live in this region (especially if my wife and I have children, which is a whole other subject of discussion in itself) but until then I’m forced to see her once or twice a year for a few days at a time.
I will feel relief for a handful of reasons. The first one is that it is difficult to have house guests when you live in a 1 bedroom apartment and your guest’s bedroom is an air mattress in your living room. With 3 people, a dog and a cat all crammed into a small apartment the lack of space and breathing room is bound to drive anyone a little bit crazy. The other reason I will feel relief is because I will no longer be forced to recognize, almost on an hourly basis, how much denial my mother is in about my decision to transition. I can’t really blame her for the process she is going through, most parents have to go through a similar process, but it is very difficult to be a part of it and to witness it up close.
It is difficult to express in words just how deflating it can be to have a parent, one you are very close with, seemingly deny that anything is different at all, especially when the denial manifests in ways you wouldn’t expect or foresee. A good example of what I’m talking about occurred when my mother and I made an impromptu trip to JC Penny’s so that she could look for a better fitting set of jeans (I’m sure some of you can see where this is going). So we go into the store and start perusing the women’s section of clothing and my mother finds a few items of interest that she wants to try on. While this is happening, I am also perusing some of the clothing and am actually (surprisingly) finding a lot of clothes that I think would look really good on me and may actually fit. I express my interest in the clothes, saying subtle things like “I like this” or “this is nice” and doing subtle things like feeling the material and checking the sizes they have, but there is absolutely no acknowledgment on my mother’s part that anything is out of the ordinary (this is very out of the ordinary behavior for me while shopping with her, normally I would just stand around looking bored). Despite me showing inordinate interest in the women’s clothing section my mother takes her stuff to the dressing room and tries it on, returning several minutes later. Deciding she’s found what she wants she suggests that we leave but then says, “unless you want to go to the men’s section and look at clothes?”
Perhaps it is silly of me to feel this way, but I was almost devastated by this and immediately felt sick with despair. I’m sure my mother meant well and just didn’t really think about how this would be taken but it really drove home just how much denial she was in. It’s not like she doesn’t know that I plan to transition (we discussed me starting hormones just 4 days earlier), or that I will start to wear women’s clothing, so her refusing to acknowledge my interest in the women’s clothes and then to suggest we go to the men’s part of the store just felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Logically I know it is going to be a long, hard road to acceptance for my mother and denial is going to be a big part of it, but emotionally I am feeling completely deflated by her current place in the process. Every time she referred to me as He/Him or even as Robert, it was like a small chink in the armor of my new identity. I suppose that because it has been so much easier with my friends, and even with my wife, watching the slowness of my mother’s process was really difficult. I would have given just about anything for my mom to acknowledge my interest in the women’s clothing and to have asked about it. Even if it was as simple as asking if it was something I’d want to wear eventually at some future time, it would have shown to me that she was willing to accept a future where I was Emma instead of Robert, but I guess I will have to wait for that.
Despite this and several other moments of blatant denial that I won’t enumerate here, there were some high points to her visit that leave me with at least a fleeting hope that she will one day accept me as her daughter. The first of these came during the therapy session on Tuesday when my mother acknowledged, perhaps for the very first time, that she always knew I was different from the other boys. She explained that she noticed from a very early age that I was more emotional and sensitive than boys usually are and admitted (rather emotionally) that she was worried that she’d been too hard on me (now knowing the truth) in an effort to toughen me up. I cannot adequately put into words how profound this admission was to me. It is a rare thing in a persons life to have something they know on the inside to be so completely validated on the outside. So many transgender people go their whole lives never having that kind of acknowledgment about their identity and therefore suffer years of self-doubt and fears about what they know to be true. I count myself extremely lucky to have a parent willing to admit that there was always something different and feminine about me because now I no longer need to constantly second guess myself. If my mother had asserted that I was wrong and confused, then there would always be something inside of me that wondered if maybe she was right.
The second bright moment came just two days ago when my mother, wife, and I were playing a card game. We were listening to music and a song came on that almost always makes me cry (for many reasons that I may discuss later). When the song came on I said something about how it always made me cry and my mother looked at me and said, “you are such a girl.”
Now, I’m certain she didn’t really contemplate the ramifications of that statement and just sort of blurted it out, but it meant the world to me. Again, I found myself lucky to have an external validation from my mother, intended or not, of what I know to be true on the inside. The fact that she would acknowledge, intentionally or not, that I am “such a girl” just further solidified my decision to come out as trans. I AM such a girl and I’ve always known that, now it’s my mom’s turn to also know that and this is at least a small step in that direction.
Well that’s all I have for right now. Thanks for reading! If you have any subjects you’d like me to blog about or any questions you’d like me to answer, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.