by Emily Ann Smith
I can ultimately say I had a positive trip back home this Thanksgiving. It was the longest I’ve been home in about a year – just 6 days. It was also a time that was as turbulent as it was joyful.
Part I. The rundown and some narrowly avoided trauma:
My dad picked me up from school early in the afternoon and drove us straight back down to North Carolina from DC. We spend the ride speaking of our normal subjects: politics, business, what’s been happening at home, etc. We made no mention of my gender exploits – the entire family still gender me as a male – and raced home with the expectation of entertaining on thanksgiving.
Enter my dog, Mattie. The day after we got home, she started acting weird and sluggish. She showed difficulty getting up which proved worrisome for the family and I. By the night, we were carrying her, as she couldn’t walk and seemed not long for this world. inexplicably, about a two days later, she made a recover and started running around again. It was an emotional roller coaster, as I tried to come to terms with my dogs near-death. It turns out that I found myself far more prepared to lose her than I previously anticipated.
With our canine now in good health, we resurrected plans to go down to the beach for a oyster roast with the family. I was thoroughly surprised with how members of the extended family treated me. No one in the dark disparaged my altered appearance and none of the enlightened to my identity voiced disapproval. The most encouraging words I received were from my eldest aunt, who tightly embraced me and told me “I’m so happy you’ve made this discovery! As a feminist, let me tell you that I think this is a very exciting time to be a woman. I’m just so happy for you.” She had far more to say, but I can hardly remember it all; at the end of the trip she game me some books on gender and told me she wanted my opinion on gender as a social construct.
All in all, the time at the beach was great. I got to meet my brothers new girlfriend, who is wonderful. We ate the largest oysters I have ever seen along with clam chowder, shrimp, collards, tipsy-cake, and every southern delight imaginable.
Part II. Talking to my parents about where I’m headed.
I knew I needed to talk to my parents about my transition while I was home. We hadn’t really talked about it in a long time and I’ve been a little worried that they will be less receptive if i don’t keep them in the loop. I approached my mom first.
And, as expected, things ended up being pretty simple with my mom. She told me that she was glad I was seeing a therapist who was not affiliated with any LBGT center. Both she and my dad have repeated expressed a concern that I have been receiving insulating opinions as to my gender Dysphoria. However, she also expressed the belief that I have taken control of my transition and that she has faith in my ability to run my life.
Despite her equivocal support, she still genders me as her son. It seems like, to both parents, I still need to become a girl first. She is also very concerned with the concept of social transitioning; her unrest stems from fear that I will face insurmountable discrimination – a fear shared with my father.
But after all that, she still has shown a surprising level of comfort with the general thought of me transitioning. My mom has even shown an impressive flexibility with my sexual orientation and has demonstrated that she understands that it can be unrelated to gender identity.
My Dad has been a bit more rigid. He has stated clearly that he will completely support me… if… I am transgender. meaning he has not been convinced. He seems to believe that there is another deeper psychological issue at play here. It appears to me that my father is looking for excuses that will prevent me from transitioning because he is afraid he won’t be able to protect me from discrimination and unhappiness.
He continually would point to instances from my childhood where he thought I had another issue. This issue was that I have a innate desire to please people and achieve perfection as to not let loved ones down. It is true that I have a hard time disappointing people and that I am a very loyal friend. but, the fact that I have this tendency is independent of my Gender Dysphoria. In the car ride home, he would bring up example after example from my childhood of me having issues with friends – the trouble is – all these examples happened long after I became away of my gender identity.
The real reason why I have a hard time with letting people down is because I’ve been put under a lot of pressure to succeed by my parents and received a lot of support from them too. This dependence on people around me was nurtured by the fact that many of my early childhood friends were, for lack of a better term, assholes who tried to use me and put me into one-sided and near abusive friendships. My constant obsession with what other people think and my propensity to dismiss my own feelings has not created my gender dysphoira. But is has influenced the way in which I deal with it and prolonged the survival of my own transphobia.
One thing I have experienced with coming out to my parents is a new, previously unfathomable, level of openness in communication. Along with our serious talk, I spent most of yesterday reminiscing with my dad about various funny people we’d met and crazy stuff we’d seen go down. It was a blast – but sadly, I’m afraid that because I fail to fit into my dad’s mold of a transgender person, our relationship faces some harder time ahead.