Since late December, I have been writing my life story. I set a goal to have it completed by the end of winter. Forty-three chapters and over 80,000 words later, I am on track to make my goal. When I have the first draft done, I will seek to find a publisher, most likely by way of first securing a literary agent.
Over the past two years, I have written so much for my blog that it would seem I have few stones of my life left to be unturned. Writing for the book about one of the situations which rocked my life, I penned the following thoughts regarding family rejection. It so profoundly impacts virtually every transgender person that I am sharing it with you now.
This is an excerpt from a chapter. The chapter begins with a specific event which occurred after I transitioned, then concludes as I return to the incident which prompted the thoughts captured in this excerpt.
These are as important as any words I have written regarding what we transgender folks experience.
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And then I fell apart.
I wanted my old life back.
I bet you know the feeling, when something has happened and you want to get into the wayback machine to the time before everything went wrong. Before your spouse left you. Before you lost your job. Before the doctor’s pronouncement of your cancer. Before a loved one’s death.
I am writing this in the winter of 2017, and I still want it. I knew that the telling of this was going to stab me in the heart. Every difficult event which I have recounted in these pages has moved me to hard tears, to whatever emotion was appropriate to that moment. And, right now, as I typed, “I wanted my old life back,” my jaws hurt from the bitterness of failure, mixed with the tears of loss, because I was unable to maintain my life as a male and transitioning put me into this spot, the rejected one, the outsider which, every time something like this occurs, the hot poker jabs into my eye, the one that burns with, “You transitioned. You knew this was going to happen. It’s your own damned fault.”
From my reading and getting to know trans folks, I believe that one hundred percent of us experience these rejections by family. Sometimes, it is stark: “You are no longer my child.” So commonly, it is blunt: “I’ll never use your new name.” Regularly, they persist in using the pronouns of our birth sex, no matter how much we appeal to them to correct this. Many times, they set ground rules: “You can attend family functions as you, but not as this person you are pretending to be.” And, in that decree, they show their attitude regarding our transitioning. That they have not truly heard us. Have not heard our struggle. Our pain. How badly we have been torn apart for so many years. How much we need to figure this out so that we can finally experience inner peace. Wholeness of being.
We suffer the worst rejection from the ones we need the most. We are not respected in the place where we deeply long to be understood, to be valued, to be a beloved member of the family.
Oh, there will be allies. Perhaps, one of the two parents will be understanding, even wonderfully so. A sibling or two will hear us and rally to our side. Grandparents often surprise us with their love, their ability to accept our revelation, when we fear that their being two generations removed will make that impossible.
We are deeply grateful for the ones who accept us. We rely on them. We cling to their affection. They often go to bat for us. Might make inroads with other family members. Can be the ones who are heard when we are not heard, will not be heard, are no longer given opportunity to be heard.
Sadly, we rarely get that coveted one hundred percent. I have neither met nor read of any trans person who has.
If we don’t get the complete support of our family, there will remain those gatherings we will not be able to attend, to which we will not be invited, when we might even be told we cannot be present—“You will in no way go to the funeral”—but the others, the one or more who reject us, are able to attend, are invited, would never be looked down upon for their rejecting us.
These are the stories that I have heard firsthand from trans folks, the accounts that I have read on social media and blogs and in books, and the situations of my own experience. These are the things which always plumb the depths of our hearts and the pain we suffer, the aching for love, the longing to be understood. To be included.
The hurt is as awful as the warmth of the sun on the first nice day of spring is wonderful.
Of course, we want our friends, too. We suffer similar hurts from them but, in the end, friends are replaceable. Very few friends are lifelong, but come and go with where we live and work and the groups we join. We fill in the hole created by the friends who reject us with other friends and new ones.
But we only have one set of parents. And our children. And siblings. And grandparents. When we lose them, we lose way more than home and acceptance. We lose the first identity we knew in life. The identity we carry in our last name. In our history. In our legacy.
When we transgender women and men and queer and gender fluid persons lose our family, we might as well have awoken from a terrible injury which left us with permanent amnesia. Indeed, when we are cut off from family, amnesia sounds like a good thing, a welcome friend. With no memories comes no pain from the rejection of those who were in our past. A fresh start. The possibility of a level playing field. Build a new family from those who accept and respect us.
This all is what visited me that day, when it was thrust into my face that I was not welcome. That I was rejected. That I was an outsider.
That I am an outsider in my own family.