My mom came to visit, and she seems to have backtracked some from her initial, surprisingly supportive position on me being trans. She informed me that I am no longer welcome in her house, both because her husband can’t stand to be near a transsexual (her exact words were that I would make him “very uncomfortable,” because my transition was “very hard for normal people to understand”), and because she would feel “very uncomfortable” having to explain to friends and neighbors why I was no longer female. She has totally gone back on her prior very generous offer to talk to my Puerto Rican family about my transition in person when she visits. She now says that it is my responsibility to talk to them and to get over any initial bumps with them. She doesn’t even want to be present if and when I’m first allowed to visit after discussing the transition with them. And she went to great lengths to warn me about what a difficult time they are likely to have accepting and understanding it. Therefore, what she is currently envisioning in terms of the future of our relationship is her coming to see me every two to three years. No family time whatsoever.
It’s apparent to me that she, in this situation, is more cowardly, paranoid, and afraid of scandal than I am, even though she has much less to lose. This makes her a terrible ally when it comes to anything regarding extended family or wider-circle coming out. Unfortunately, she thinks that she’s helping me by relaying her paranoia, giving me useless advice on how (not) to handle things with them, and asking me to wait a certain amount of time before telling them or seeing them at all. Acting as if it is reasonable to ask me to absent myself from any family affairs (not just her home) when her husband is present, (that coward didn’t even have the guts to talk to me directly), or to absent herself when she fears something uncomfortable might occur is the exact opposite of supporting me, and certainly does not help me respect her more as a person.
It is apparent to me that I’m going to have to throw out everything she’s told me about family, and possibly go over her head in some cases. I still feel grateful to her for accepting me at all, and therefore have the impression that I should bend myself to whatever she requests in terms of the rest of the family. But I know that doesn’t give her the right to demand things that are not helpful. Since she’s putting the onus on me, I’m going to just have to go about this as I see fit.
So what changed? The only person she’s talked to my transition about so far is her husband, who obviously must have said some awful shit, in addition to “not in my house”! I can only surmise that this was a painful and uncomfortable conversation for her, and that afterward, she decided that she would never again put herself in the position of being an intermediary with any friend or family member. She must have also began to really dread what others in her family might think. Since she’s arranged her whole life so as to appease social convention and lived in constant dread and ignorance of what might lie outside of social norms (she is what you might call prissy and a prude), it is only natural that she would grossly overestimate our family’s potential for a negative reaction. She has, however, agreed to talk, a couple months from now, to the mother of a trans friend of mine, and I am going to try to arrange a conversation between her and my aunt before then. (She knows that my aunt and her sister in law from a previous marriage knows that I’m trans and that she’s offered to talk to her, but her shame is so great now that she doesn’t want to talk to her). Hopefully this will give her a different perspective that just that of her husband. Though I’m sure talking to the family won’t be easy, I think that once I do, and once she (hopefully) sees that their reaction is not as negative as she feared, she will be able to be much less fearful and more supportive.
On another note, though it wasn’t the end of the world, it did feel really weird to spend days with someone who was referring to me by my given name with female pronouns and (in Spanish) feminine adjective endings, who plainly did not consider me a man. She told me that she wasn’t ready to switch yet, and I told her that was understandable and fine, but still it felt… very unpleasant, dysphoric, and depressing. I felt like I did at the beginning of my transition, when it seemed like my gender and my right to be male were in doubt and I constantly had to “prove” who I was. On a brighter note, though, even on the first night, she did throw in some masculine adjective endings without visibly pausing and trying. It would seem that, though she says she still sees me as a woman, my maleness is nevertheless coming through to her subconsciously such that she can’t consistently linguistically categorize me as female. Finally, though, again, it wasn’t the end of the world, I find it really unpleasant to have to tell my transition story to someone, to explain the effects of testosterone, and to allow them to comment on precisely which body parts seem to have changed and which still appear female just because that person is a family member. Normally, I would only have this conversation with people I trust. Again, though, I suppose I accept that mothers have the right to certain intimate commentary.