My niece is getting married next month. She is my only niece on my side of the family. I have oodles on my husband’s side. We aren’t overly close. There’s no bad blood. It just worked out that way and doesn’t really factor into this post much except that her bridal shower is the setting for this post.
The shower took place about 2 weeks ago. It was very small- my sister-in-law hosted it at a restaurant. The guest list consisted of my mother, sister, daughter-in-law, niece and her fiancé, a bridesmaid and a family friend. To the best of my knowledge, with maybe the exception of the bridesmaid, everyone there knew about Kris being transgender. (Kris was not there)The family friend was my brother’s best friend’s wife. We go back to teen years. Our kids played together when they were younger so she knew Kris as Kerri. She had actually seen me with Kris a few times in the last two years.
At some point the conversation turned to an anecdote from when Kris was around 7. He had gone to spend the night at my parents’ house and them proceeded to stay for a week. I’m not sure how this came up. What I do know is that my mother referred to Kris as she/her/hers for the entire conversation. My sister sat mute by her side, making no attempt to correct her. I responded by recapping most of my mother’s remarks but with the correct pronouns. My mother replied with feminine pronouns. Kris came up on another occasion and my mother, once again, pointedly used the wrong pronouns. My sister- the boldest, most obnoxious, outgoing person I know- said nothing. I corrected yet again. My mother came back with more feminine pronouns.
You might ask why I didn’t confront my mother about this afterwards. It’s a good question. It really is! I gave it some thought. I knew what my mother would say if I asked her what was going on. She would say she didn’t even realize that she did it. I know she knows she did it. She knows I know she knows she did it. (Yes, it is turning into that Friends’ episode with Phoebe, Rachel and Joey- “They don’t know that we know they know…” If you’re a fan, you know which one I’m talking about.) What am I going to do? Beat a confession out of her?
I have openly shared my theory that the family* uses the proper pronouns only when they are with one or all of us** and this adds to my growing pile of supporting evidence. I’ve shared it WITH them. They do so much squirming and justifying….it’s as if they read the “signs you are lying” article just minutes before I bring up the pronoun subject.
It’s the intention behind the use of the wrong pronouns that is an issue. (The wrong pronouns are an issue, too. Trust me on that one!) Why would she use the wrong pronouns? (Other than habit.) Because she doesn’t want to be seen as possibly supporting Kris? Because she’s embarrassed by Kris? I can tell you one reason she is NOT—–because she forgot. How do you forget when the person who responds corrects you with the he/his/him at least 8 times following your remarks?
And my sister sitting next to my mother, without a voice. If my mother’s words were a slap, my sister’s silence spoke VOLUMES. How could I view her behavior as supportive? Her silence seemed to support my mother’s misgendering Kris.
Love? Support? Acceptance? Yeah, not feeling it right now. I don’t care about it for myself but for Kris, who is really struggling right now? I’m furious. He definitely doesn’t need this. What he really needs is some sign that they really do care. It’s been 3 years. Either they are with Kris or they are not. They know how they feel. (This is family- unconditional love and all that, right?)
family*- my parents, my siblings, nieces, nephews….
us**- my children, husband- us 7.