Denial is a Bitch, Acceptance is Worse…?
It’s been about a decade and a half coming. In every transition where parents are in the picture, there is a mourning process as the parents process the loss of the son or daughter they thought they had. Often a parent will go through a period of denial and rationalize or belittle their child’s behavior. My mom dove headfirst into denial when I came out. It’s a psychotic episode. It’s manipulation. I’m doing it for attention. I’m doing it to hurt her.
I suppose she couldn’t sustain her denial as it was under the reality that I’m on hormones, that my body is changing and this process is permanent. I think it first dawned on her that her son was gone the first time I stuck the needle in my thigh, and now it’s clear to all involved that I tolerate the hormones and love what they do to me.
But for whatever reason she just can’t step into my reality. She talked about my decision to transition as if, because of my transition, my life is now a waste. I don’t think she’s ever been able to really set aside her beliefs about who I am in order to let me share my own beliefs about who I am. When I try, I am brushed off, criticized, shut down, argued with. This is not a new thing. I’ve been in her life for 25 years but I don’t think she really even knows me.
The hormones, the surgery, the transition, it’s everything I’ve wanted since I started the wrong puberty. I am finally starting to feel right, to think right. I finally feel in control. I am seeing change in my body that makes me happy, and that feeling itself is so new and exciting. This is wonderful, it’s liberating, it’s empowering.
I have spent hours across the span of months trying to tell her that this is me, that this life makes me happy despite the risks. That I know the risks. That I know what I’m doing, dear gods, for the first time in my life I know what I am doing. I know I am willing to die for this life now more than ever, that I am enough of a conscious human being to be able to say that. I had to really honestly consider that possibility when I started. I have said more than once that I waited as long as I could, that I kowtowed to the hideous oppressive establishment values that she seems to hold so dear until one day I realized that if I didn’t change literally everything about my life I was going to eat a bullet. I tried to be who everyone said I was. It didn’t work. It will never work. Give me liberty or give me death.
So it’s kind of amazing that as she begins to acknowledge me for the first time she does so from the position that I don’t understand what I’m doing. I suppose it’s just another vestige of denial. If I knew what I was doing that would make my decision to undergo transition profound and meaningful and would reflect legitimate gender variance and a lifetime of suffering and a hellish puberty in which my parents were unsupportive and borderline abusive about my desires to explore my gender expression.
She is in the throes of grief. I am sympathetic, as I cannot imagine what it is like to see your basic assumptions of your life shattered, to watch the child you thought you had disappear, cast off like a too-small jumper as authenticity shines through for the first time.
I don’t think that excuses the way she’s been using her grief as a weapon the past week, though. Such condemnation and blaming and shaming. Outright mind games and lies. The same kinds of controlling behavior I saw as a kid. Interestingly I have responded in a fairly mature and nonconfrontational manner. My emotions would have gotten the better of me before hormones and it would have led to a horrible fight. But I just turned my ringer off and made a delicious curry instead of worrying about it.
And why would I worry? That sort of undermining behavior is a lot less impressive now that I’m on hormones, now that I have been vindicated and my body and mind are starting to heal from the horrible effects of testosterone.
I’ve seen hormone therapy and genital plastic surgery called gender confirmation, and I am beginning to understand how profound that is. Yes indeed, it is confirmation on multiple levels. Having the medical establishment on my side (well, some of it —I should write a series on the perils of inpatient psych and the stone-age attitudes of so many medical practitioners in my area) is a huge relief. I know now, there are people who have the means and desire to help me get where I want to be. I know that I am happier and more self-assured on estrogen. And it gives me a seed crystal around which my sense of authority on my gender identity can develop, since I cannot rely on my genitals to prove my gender like gender conforming people can.
Anyway, I do hope my mother realizes that while she may have lost a son she gained a daughter. But for her to do that she’ll have to step off her pedestal and make an effort to know me. And I don’t know if she can.