I have been struggling these past couple days with some anger, due to the societal limitations placed on gender distinctions, but tipped off by my father’s reaction to my trans coming out. I will attempt to decipher these feelings here, but I also have some exciting news to share. So this post is two-fold.
The Good News
-Pre-op appointment scheduled on 5/23
-Surgery still on 5/25
-Post-op appointment on 5/31
We have booked plane tickets and made contact with a sweet private b and b, through airbnb, a great website to find nice places to stay while out of town, without paying for hotels. We have used this site before, it’s totally legit, user friendly, and we have had wonderful luck there. I highly recommend it as often you can have kitchen privileges and are given a nicer space to stay in than your run of the mill hotel. Also, usually the places listed are way cheaper than hotels (we found many reasonable options in Cleveland for much less than even the cheapest [read: shittiest] hotels).
Things are moving along. We are happy. I am excited and nervous, but much more excited than nervous.
The Recent Anger
So I sent my dad the letter I posted here last week. And he didn’t respond for a few days. He talked to my sister and asked her all the reasonable questions: how much would it cost, was I sure about this, isn’t surgery dangerous, etc. He cares about me, for sure, and I thought it kind of him to ask these types of questions. I wish he would have asked me, or some other trans-educated individual. Not to dis my sister, but she doesn’t know the answers to those questions. I sent the letter last Thursday and he called me on Monday night. I am okay with this lag, I wanted him to take his time, which is why he got a letter, rather than a phone call, in the first place.
He said two things:
“Well, I have loved you your whole life, I might as well keep on loving you.”
“You know, you could have called me, you don’t have to wait and send me an email to talk to me.”
The first thing might have been cute, or endearing, coming out of someone else’s mouth. But coming from my dad, it is just another example of his lack of conviction. My whole life he has done things the easy way, he “raised me the best he could” has always meant he raised me the way that was the easiest for him: whenever I really needed him, whenever my mom was too drunk for me and my little sister to be left alone with, whenever my uncles were drunk and terrorizing us, he was nowhere to be found. But if I wanted to smoke some weed, or go out for a hike or play guitar, he was there. He was there because those are easy things, things he liked to do. It is easy to claim he still loves me, it is easier to say he will just keep on doing what he has been doing because loving me requires very little of him: he has never supported me in any way that would put him out, he has never been asked to do anything difficult. So saying “I’ll just keep on keeping on” allows him to circumvent the specifics of my surgery. It allows him to be neither supportive nor confrontational.
When I got accepted to college I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted him to tell me I did good. Instead he didn’t speak to me: he pouted because I was going to a school that was out of state. You have “loved me this long, so [you] might as well keep doing it?” Don’t do me any fucking favors. I know this may sound childish, or like I’m being bratty, but I am learning not to settle: I deserved to be loved, and I deserve that love to be sincere and strong when coming from my parents. If he can’t provide me with that kind of love, then he isn’t my father.
Oh and, “You know, you could have called me, you don’t have to wait and send me an email to talk to me.”
What can I say? The dude just loves to complain, always has, always will.
This betrays a larger issue in my life: the complete lack of positive male role models. My father is actually my sister’s dad; my biological father skipped town after knocking up my mom: he was 24, she was 17, and I have never met him. And I never want to: he is a coward and I surely don’t need him. I got a Masters degree and am loving and kind and have a wonderful partner and many good friends. I have a lot going for myself and I sure don’t need to clutter my life up with people who have no regard for my well-being.
So between my cowardly father and my selfish father, I’ve got no good male role model. That’s a problem for a young boy. It’s worse when you’re male only on the inside. I would ask my dad about cars, and he would dismiss me. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t be good at it because I was female, maybe he thought I was not being serious (I asked many times, I don’t see how that could be possible) or maybe he saw this coming, saw this trans part of me, and didn’t want to encourage my maleness. In any event, my male identity was never acknowledged by another man. My uncles are shit to me, always have been, and are not a viable option for any kind of positive role model.
Ugh, I look back over this and think I sound so whiny. My life could have been much worse: I wasn’t abandoned, I wasn’t sexually abused. But then I wonder, am I making excuses for others’ shortcomings because I am trying to exercise empathy, or is it because I was socialized as female and feel it my job to make other people more comfortable? Is it my fucking responsibility to make excuses for the shortcomings of the men in my life? Hell no. So fuck that shit.
I sympathize with my dad: I have spent a great deal of time and effort searching for jobs when he was unemployed, printing out college applications, recommending local groups to get involved with when I thought he was lonely. And for what? He never investigated any of those jobs, never filled out a single application, never contacted any of those groups. I don’t care if he doesn’t do what I suggest to improve his life, but he didn’t act at all. He rarely does anything to improve his station in life, including giving his child his honest opinion on important matters.
So I got mad, really fucking mad: I, like so many others, was cheated out of having a dad, or any good male role model in my life. All I wanted was to go camping (but dad’s car was in the shop, or he was broke, or he was lazy) or practice guitar (but if we didn’t play the songs he wanted to, then we didn’t play at all), etc. etc. etc. Enough. I’m done giving him full access to my life when he doesn’t appreciate it. When he doesn’t respect me enough to give me his honest opinion, or voice his legimate concerns, when I tell him I’m having surgery.
And then I started thinking about my gender, and getting all riled up about having to use the women’s locker room at the gym and not liking my pronoun options and feeling generally angry at the world for being unable to see who I really am. But the problem is obviously this: I’m not mad at the world, I’m mad at my dad. I want an apology I will never get, I want a do-over life with him and that is impossible. So instead of being mad I have to let it go: I have to accept that he is not the man I wish to have as a father. And I have to recognize I am not the girl he wished to be his child.
I have to accept the defects of our language. I have to accept that being trans means spending a lot more time and effort figuring out my identity. And I have to remind myself that all this pain and anger and doubt is worth the trouble. I get the reward of living this life honestly and with no regrets. I have to remind myself that this will pass: today I am hurt and angry, tomorrow I am excited and pleased and two months from now I will no longer have breasts. I will, however, still have two middle fingers. I will retain the right to be mad: I was dealt a shit hand, born poor into a dysfunctional family. Join the club, right?
But I don’t blame the abusers in my family, I am happy with the person I am and am becoming, and without that start (read: without those assholes) who knows what kind of person I could be right now. And I like this anger: it reminds me I am strong and complicated and my emotions are working. My anger tells me I have questions that need to be answered. It is an alarm for my brain telling me something is amiss and I need to take a look at my insides and find out what is wrong. I am fucking pissed off I didn’t get an extraordinary dad, one that could see the boy in me, despite all my defenses trying to hide him, and raise me accordingly. So I will be that man: I will be my own dad and teach myself how to be that good man, the one that has always wanted to be acknowledged and loved. I will love myself, and stop waiting for others to fill that spot for me.
In the book Gender Outlaws, Scott Turner-Schofield authors a short essay called The Wrong Body, and in it he states, “I knew that being born female would build a bridge to the kind of man that I wanted to become: a man unlike [my] father in every way. Being born female makes me a man that good men may look to for ways to understand and honor women, a person that people may look to for ways to find and appreciate themselves.” I have to stop being disappointed with my father, that he is a disappointment is not news. I want to start being the kind of man he never could be.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli