Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Masks and tears

My how time flies. 14 months ago, I was popping my first pills that would take me down a completely different path than the previous 28 years had taken me. In the past while celebrating anniversaries such as this, I would have alluded back to December 2009. Today's post is actually going to be more about October and November 2009 instead.

These were the months that I initially swapped emails with my parents about my transition and their rejection of it. Today, for a "31 day picture challenge" I've been updating on Facebook, I had to find a picture of something I wanted to forget. The main thing I could think of that I wanted to forget was my parent's rejection. And so I went through the countless emails from both my mother and father from back then, rereading each one with what seemed like a new set of eyes, in some cases.

While reading these emails, I found that while there was definitely a major theme of rejection and not being able to handle my change, (and of course their biblical backing of that) there was also an underlying theme of needing more time to process things. Many times they asked me if I could please not dress for this or for that or help them ease into things. It's odd because I really don't remember hearing those words. Maybe I had read them....but I had not really heard them.

I think when I was going through their rejection at such a major time in my life, my eyes were so blocked by the tears of grief that I glossed over these other details. It makes my heart sad in some ways wondering if things could have been different had I been able to really hear their pleas. Of course, I always go back to the fact that I did try to ease them into my transition with nail polish. But I can rightly admit that maybe I should have kept trying instead of giving up at the first sign of resistance.

That aside, I can't really say I regret how my transition played out after that. My first time out of the house really painted a way into my self confidence and so did flying down to my grandmother's funeral. By the time a cousin's wedding happened in March 2010, I really can't say I could have attended garbed in a suit.

Transitioning from one gender to the other can be quite a change for the person who is changing but I think we often forget how much of a change it is for those around us too. I look back at how things changed for me and in some ways, I really did leave my parents in the dust instead of staying with them the whole way. I saw the prize in front of me and reached for it with barely a look over my shoulder. And in some ways, who can blame me? The prize was not simply money or fame but living a life to its fullest.

But if I had graced my parents' presence a few more times wearing the mask they wanted to see, would it have really been more difficult? And more importantly, would it have really helped? I can never really know. I still tend to believe that they would have used those times against me when it came time to take off that mask forever.

Please don't confuse this post with an album of regrets. I see it more as an observation of events that can only be seen in third person when they've already been played out.

I don't feel like it excuses them of anything they said or did or are even still acting upon but I do feel like I need to say something to them:

Mom and Dad,

I'm sorry I didn't take more time to ease you into my changes. I know you don't understand why I needed those changes and also why I need the other upcoming changes in my life but please know that I do indeed need them. But I am sorry I did not try harder to keep the distance between us from widening. Always know that.


Teagan said...

I don't think it would have made a difference if you had worn the mask a few times more, in terms of how they reacted. I did things in the same manner that you did... if anything, not wearing the mask solidified for people in my life that I wasn't confused or hesitating about what I was doing.

I remember emailing with you on PE back in October 2009 about laser and what it was like. And now here we are.

Wow, just wow.

Dana Andra said...

I really picture a day when your parents finally realize what an amazing woman and lovely lady you are, and embrace you again. I can't see how they couldn't. Not only are they hurting you, but they're hurt themselves.

My experience with making things easier for people who knew me from before, has been by adding bits and pieces one at a time. That's probably what everyone does it. My son and my ex-wife are the only people who are having a really negative reaction though, and I think they only tolerate it, whether I'm fully dressed as I normally would be, or if I only have boots on or something. They just don't think I look right dressed as a woman. They can't get the image me from before out of their minds. Maybe they never will. And as things are now, and as plans are at the moment, it might never matter, which makes me sad. But the sense of rebirth I've experienced through all of this is priceless, and I hope they, my son at least, will come to understand that.


Ariel said...

I'm thinking it wouldn't have mattered if you had presented as male a few more times. They simply need more time, and that wouldn't have made a difference. But it does seem that maybe time is helping.

That seems like a good note to send them.

Jessica Ariadne said...

Yeah, I think you did what you had to do. It is clear in your videos that you were being rejected heavily and under a lot of stress at the time, esp when you include what happened at church.

While ultimately responsibility for this is on your parents, I think you did what you had to do in making a firm choice and standing by it. Especially since "hesitating" by presenting male for your family could have complicated therapy and hormones.

Lucy Melford said...

On the other hand, every concession you make to other people's feelings, especially to those dear to you, is maintaining their control over your person - to your psychological detriment.

Like me, you loved and respected your parents and partner. Unlike me, you initially made some efforts to thrust your gender issues aside and try the route that your upbringing and background said was right. I vividly recall early events you described, such as trying to comply with the advice and exhortations from the church elders. It so nearly drove you over the edge.

It's a terribly sad thing to lose the active support of those who are supposed to be on your side. I don't understand how your parents could place their faith and social position before your welfare. But then I was shocked to discover that my own parents could do something similar. A rude awakening to the cold facts of life. You were ostracised, and I really don't think that wearing less makeup and putting on male clothing would have made much difference. It might have been harmful, giving an untrue impression of how you felt about yourself. If you value truth, and surely you do, you could not be party to a deception that might temporarily soften feelings, but would have no effect on the fundamental fact of your gender dysphoria.

The act that really would have made a difference was a signal confession that you were wrong, had been taken with a false idea, and now wanted to return to the fold. A fatted calf situation in fact. The prodigal son welcomed back.

You are still in limbo, held at arms-length by your family, and while this goes on it will get harder for a reconciliation, but it isn't impossible at some future point. I'd say that one by one your family could break ranks and extend a hand towards you. Whether they really will depends on many things, but from your point of view the best approach - I offer this as a personal opinion, not to tell you what to do - is to be honest and truthful and consistent, and not send mixed messages. Debra is you in the correct and true form. You are still their child and still the good person you always were. People may come to recognise that. Your business is surely to be Debra with all your heart.

Shannon said...

I know where you've come
the path you walked
the thorns you felt
every prick and catch and tear
You have held your head up
unafraid to show the tears
there have been many, many tears
Yet you bear no ill will
you still hold them dear
who have loved you yet abandoned you
And for this
for this
I am proudest of you yet

Debra said...

Thanks so much everyone for your comments. I really do believe that it probably wouldn't have helped any but it is interesting enough to think about.

Melissa said...

Jerrica, I'm with Lucy. She hit the nail directly on the head!

Take care sweetie,
Melissa XX

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