Square Peg

This morning I read a post by someone who has come to be a dear friend in a very short time. She is a transgender woman and she mentions having to break herself down to become the person she needs to be to go back to work. This means she has to dress and present herself as a male.

Another blogger who is a transgender male has no choice but be “female” to receive much needed assistance at a shelter.

If you are not transgender, you cannot begin to know how this makes them feel. I can’t. I try to imagine it but I just can’t. What I do know is that it’s not a good feeling. I think that if it was me, I might be feeling a bit of panic- like- What if I’m not able to be my true gender? When can I just be me? And then there are all those emotions a transgender person feels that goes along with having to go by the other gender. I’ve talked to my son and other transgender people. I’ve read a lot. I’ve talked to parents of transgender kids. Those feelings are not good ones. They can be scary. And as a mom, to think that my child is feeling that way, it scares me too!

This brings me to the upcoming dreaded family weekend and why I can’t forget about the apple cart.

SquarePeg

Let me say, before I begin, that obviously what Kris was going through is different than the blogging friends I mentioned above. It could even be considered a small thing. But if you keep it in the frame of reference of an 18 year old who has just come out to family, maybe you can understand why it is a big deal to me.

simpleFlourish

Kris came out to us right before he left for his freshman year of college. It was a time of complete confusion for all of us. We packed up our daughter and sent her off to college. She moved into the girls’ dorm and we thought we would just figure things out.

I’m not sure what we were thinking. All I can say is that in the early days after Kris came out, I still didn’t fully understand what being transgender meant. I had a general idea but really? I had no clue. If I had, I wouldn’t have just shipped my kid off like that.

Within a month or so, Kris told us that he had asked all his professors to call him by his male name and use male pronouns. It was at that point that we decided to tell our families. My husband talked to his parents and siblings and I talked to mine. They went as well as can be expected and we moved forward. It was only as some of my pain was showing, that I realized that my mother and my sister were expressing anger toward Kris for what he was doing to me. I wasn’t going to have any of that and I immediately squashed that train of thought. It was not Kris’s fault and I made sure they knew it.

When Kris came home over the holidays, things were awkward, he was called Kerri. Everyone was ‘trying’ and Kris was quiet. I quickly realized that after Kris left, no one was really asking about him. And since they did not ask, I did not tell.

Then came my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We were planning this party and the guest list would include my aunts and uncles, my parents’ friends and us, their children and grandchildren.

As we planned the party, I asked my sisters to please call Kris by his male name and if they couldn’t use the correct pronouns, could they at least not call him “she and her”. One expressed horror that Kris was not going to be coming dressed as a girl. Both made it clear that they would not use the male name. In their opinion (and since both said practically the exact same thing it led me to believe they had discussed this) this was not about Kris. It was about my parents’ anniversary and I was not being reasonable to expect them to call Kris by a different name. With each of them, I explained how I wasn’t planning on hijacking the party and making it a coming out party for Kris. I just wanted him to feel accepted. I asked how hard would it be to call him by that name. Damn, they could have just kept their mouths shut and called Kris nothing and no one would have questioned it. And hey, guess what they did?

I drove to the party separately from my husband and kids. I was going early to help with set up and I was giving my sister a ride. On the ride, I mentioned that Kris was having a really difficult time getting a job. When she asked why, I said it was because he had to put his birth name on applications and when he showed up for an interview and was obviously not a girl, it was incredibly awkward. Besides he didn’t want to be outed before he even walked in the door. My sister’s response- “Well, that is her legal name.” So much for compassion. I had tried to explain to everyone how this would appear to Kris- their refusal to call him by his name. They assured me that it was not a sign of not accepting him; it was just all about Mom and Dad and the party.

Then there was the video. 50 years of marriage is quite a feat these days and everyone wanted a video. I’m not sure if it was luck, fate or what but the task to create a video of photos commemorating the last 50 years was left to me. It made sense. I had 95% of the photos saved digitally. And I offered. To this day, I don’t know if they all realize how heart wrenching it was for me to scroll through those pictures- watching our childhood and those of my children, niece and nephews also pass by. Most of all, to see Kris’s life through much different eyes now. I made the video. I tried to keep the girly girl pics of Kris out of the video and to be honest, as puberty hit, Kris disappears from the video for awhile. It was the best I could do and I warned Kris. I don’t think he ever looked at it. I don’t blame him. It makes me sick to watch it, knowing the circumstances surrounding its making.

Kris arrived at the party along with his father and brothers. He had bleached his hair white blonde earlier that week so it was a bit startling. He wore a binder, which I had said he most definitely would. There was no way I was going to make him girl it up for anyone. He wore jeans and a striped shirt. He looked good.

My siblings avoided him, like the plague. He stuck by me or his brothers or his dad. If he was with me, I would introduce him to whoever it was. Most of these people hadn’t seen him in 5 years or more. I simply said, “The name is Kris now.” No one gawked or stared. No one said anything. They nodded, smiled and maybe gave me a questioning glance but that was it. One aunt engaged Kris in a big conversation, not missing a step. I almost suspected she knew what was going on.

My sisters were upset that I had called Kris by his male name. I didn’t care and I made it clear that I was not going to compromise mine or Kris’s principles just to make them comfortable. Oh, by the way, that sound you heard- the thump, thump, thump,tthrrrrrrr, plop. It’s the apples slowly falling off the cart.

And things went downhill from there.

Looking back now, it still makes me angry. They didn’t show an ounce of compassion, understanding or acceptance toward Kris. They were too worried about how it would look and what people would say. They were too worried about themselves and they didn’t give any thought to what this would do to Kris. What it meant to say to him, “Oh sure, we accept you, but could you just go back to being a girl for this party because it would be easier for us?”  I’m sorry- I cannot even repeat it again- what I told them about the message they were sending to Kris, how importance acceptance is. At a time when my son was transitioning and becoming his own person, they wanted to shove the square peg into the round hole that he didn’t fit in. They wanted him to pretend to be something he wasn’t. They couldn’t see it.

And the reason I can’t forget it is because if I was to bring this up to them and asked them about it, I’m sure they would respond that they did the right thing. Based on conversations, I have strong suspicion that they still don’t get why that peg doesn’t fit. And why it shouldn’t!

And so I think about a transwoman who has to don a male get up and a male demeanor in order to provide for herself and her family and to help her to work towards the goal of being a woman all the time- not just off hours. And I think of the transman who has to live in a women’s shelter to get the aide he needs to get back on his feet and live his life. And let me be perfectly clear- these two are not victims. Kris is not a victim. They are strong, brave people. We are all square pegs in some respect but these two people and Kris and so many like them keep getting pushed into round holes. I hope that someday very soon we make strides in the area of accepting people who are different from what is considered “normal” and let them live lives full of love and happiness.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Square Peg

  1. Once I hit the part where you talk about the video, and Kris disappearing from it for awhile, the tears started as I clutched at my mouth in that way that sometimes naturally comes when you read something so…raw and human.

    It’s so sad that your family is reacting the way they are. I feel badly for Kris that his extended relations arn’t seeing him or thinking about him as a person.

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    1. I watched the video for the first time in 2 years right before writing this post. It does make me sad and I’m not sure I will ever watch it again.

      I wish I could make my family understand but they just don’t want to. The good thing that came out of this is that my little family of my husband, kids and then the addition of my daughter-in-law and grandson form a pretty tight group. We’ve been through it all together and the only people we have had is each other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wish your family could understand, too, which I know is odd of me to say since I don’t know them, or your immediate family of husband and offspring. What I do know is that the way extended family is handling things is causing conflict and pain that doesn’t need to be there. I think my main thought is this: No matter what Kris (or your other children) ever decides to do with his life, he is still your baby. Thus, he is part of your heart. To hurt him is to hurt you. And at 18, he is still a child in some ways. Sad to see grown people be so cold to a child, especially one in which they are related.

        My family conflicts are different, but still, seems like everyone has it. Even so, all I’ve really got is my husband and daughter. I always say that as long as the three of us have each other, we’re doing great. So, I get how things must be.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your sisters sound like mine; lots of gossiping back and forth but they each come up with their (identical) opinions on their own. And they’re pretty much in each other’s back pockets even though they live halfway across the country from each other.

    I can’t say I’m going through the same issues with my family right now. Jeremy hasn’t come out as anything other than gender nonconforming right now (and not to anyone in the family but myself and Emma). The most Jeremy’s getting so far are endless questions about when he’s going to cut his hair and stop dying it and comments on how he’s going to ruin his hair and that never get a job looking the way he does. None of which make him want to tell them much.

    Nine more days until D-Day. Have you got your Advil ready? I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow and picking up a big container and the brightest purple dye I can find for Jeremy’s hair.

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    1. My bff offered to drive out with alcoholic reinforcements. 🙂

      One sister won’t be there- lives across the country. I am planning enough outings so we can stay busy- hopefully.

      Knowing that my other sons, my daughter-in-law and husband are there will make it bearable. I’m just hoping that Kris is okay. He’s been home for 2 days now and he’s showing signs of anxiety. We think it’s just taking him a little while to get used to being here but I’m afraid nerves might get worse at seeing the others.

      It sounds like you will be ready for your day! I hope Jeremy’s hair is the most awesome purple ever!!! 🙂

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      1. (((hugs))) anxiety is horrible. Have you made any contingency plans yet? Jeremy and I have decided to go for a walk if things start bothering him and, if it gets too bad, just ditching the family and going for veggie burgers. Course you can’t exactly run away from your own place but could him and one of his brothers go for an emergency run for supplies if he needs a break and, if things go belly up, a movie night until family leaves?

        Thanks 🙂 Now to find purple dye (it sells very quickly).

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      2. Luckily I know I can count on Michael, Andrew and Jasmine to keep an eye on Kris. I use the kitchen as an escape when needed. I’m not a kitchen person at all but I sure can find tons of busy work to keep me moving.

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  3. For legal purposes you have to use your legal name till you can get it changed. “Kris” is often an androgynous spelling, why not at least have that changed? Yes, the gender marker may have to remain the same for now, but he can least change the name.

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    1. That was 2 years ago. He has changed all paperwork except his birth certificate. Gender marker has also been changed on all. His girl name was incredibly girly. He’s all good in the name department. 🙂

      The funny thing was the auto insurance barely required proof and was happy to switch him to male and raise our rates! 🙂

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  4. The case workers and social services know, and so does this one mother of three I have bonded with. (We especially bonded over Anderson Cooper 😀 ) The other mothers and kids know something for sure is going down when my own unabashedly calls me “Daddy” in front of them all. I don’t emphasize it here, but it makes my heart sing whenever he refers to be, directly or in the third person, in the male gender. ❤

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    1. There’s something about hearing that word- Daddy- that does the heart good. I bet it’s even more special to you! (And hey, Anderson Cooper, who doesn’t like him?) 🙂

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  5. Yikes, I can see why your apples are scattered. Disregarding someone’s feelings and explicit desires is a pretty serious violation of the family code. It’s incredibly frustrating when people can’t see when they are wrong or when they are just holding on to a position out of stubbornness. I think it’s awfully big of you to continue to try to mend these fences.
    I really enjoyed the intro to this post. This isn’t something I’ve spent any time thinking about and it was very eye opening for me to read.
    Finally, I love the new look of your blog! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m trying for my kids’ sake but I’m pretty sure my kids are trying for mine. Not sure how it’s going to end.

      Thanks! I spent the day bouncing between 3 themes and ended up with this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I ended up previewing my three finalists and taking a picture with my phone so I could see all 3. I’m also trying to find a new photo for me. I sent one to my 2 best friends and asked if it was obviously me. One said yes and the other said no. It was enough work for me to encourage me to not change it anytime soon! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Too funny. That must be difficult trying to find one that works. Maybe while Kris is home you all can take some selfies in a dark room without the flash on or something and come up with some cool “artsy” photos.

        Liked by 1 person

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