OK, this should be interesting…I only have a vague idea where I’m going here, so fasten your seatbelt, top off your coffee and come along.
This is being inspired by a guy named Glenn. Glenn is a guy I’ve never met in person but who shares the career of radio broadcasting with me. That’s really about all I knew about him until recently.
About a month ago, that changed. Glenn posted that his dad was in the hospital after having a stroke. He put “Dad” in quotes, explaining that this guy was never a father to him and had done inexcusable things to him and that they hadn’t spoken in many years. He asked in one post “should I go visit him?” He was obviously struggling with this.
There was a lot of pain and raw emotion there. It didn’t help that his “father’s” current wife had only animosity for Glenn asking the hospital to give Glenn no information on his “Father’s” condition.
As his dad’s condition worsened, Glenn began to reflect. Posting old pictures of the two of them together at baseball games and happier times. He became more interested in his father’s condition. He was able to get it 3rd hand from his sister and the news wasn’t good.
Last Sunday, Glenn’s dad passed away. He is devastated and haunted by words left unspoken. One post wondered whether if they had talked to each other back in the day – would that have made a difference? Those words were left unspoken…and forever will.
Now, Glenn is building a website dedicated to his dad. The person he despised a month ago and hadn’t spoken with in years.
I never men Glenn, I didn’t know his dad, but the anguish he feels is shared by too many people I have met. They have left words unspoken and then (often suddenly) that person is gone forever.
My writing is usually about some aspect of being transgender, so how does this apply? I lack the digits on my fingers and toes to count the number of trans people who are mortified at talking with their dad about this issue.
My case is somewhat different. I had a marvelous childhood. Aside from knowing I was born into the wrong body (actually, I have a rockin’ body, long legs and slender…I refer to the baby making region) but otherwise, my relationship with my mom and dad was as good as it gets. I could tell them anything. Except I didn’t.
I could list a slew of reasons and all of them would be valid:
- It was the 1960’s and the word “Transgender” wasn’t invented yet.
- I got married and if I told my mom and dad I would have to tell my wife and well…I didn’t…until later.
- I had 2 young daughters…I didn’t want to jeopardize their childhood by exposing them to ridicule for something I did.
- Blah blah blah.
My dad passed away in 1987 and I miss him more than words can ever express. My mom followed him 5 years later. Neither of them ever knew they had a daughter.
I’ve rolled this around in my head and I’m no closer to having the right answer now than when I started. One thing for sure, my mom especially would have been thrilled to have a daughter. She would accept me with open arms. But how she would grieve at losing her oldest son. In one brief moment, I could give to her something she had wanted her whole life, while at the same time snatching away what she loved most in the world. How could I do that to her? So I didn’t.
My dad was old fashioned. Born in 1919 and raised during the depression. He didn’t understand anything alternative. He was not accepting. Race was fine, my dad didn’t see color. But let’s just say, you wouldn’t ever see my dad at a Pride Parade.
To sit him down and tell him that his son, his first born, his pride and joy was really a girl would have broken his heart. Not because he wouldn’t have loved me as a girl – but because he SO badly wanted a boy.
So I didn’t say anything.
What would he think? I’ll never know. That ship has sailed. Do I have regrets? That’s just it..I DON’T. KNOW.
Sometimes though, I think he may have suspected. He wanted to pass along his knowledge to me. He showed me how to work on cars. I hated getting my hands dirty. Still do. He showed me how to use tools. I just never had the interest. He showed my how to bake pies. I took to that like a duck to water!
The point of this? I guess it’s this: Please don’t let your parents die with words unsaid. Forget your ego. Reach out, make things right. Send them off knowing you loved them and that they made a difference in your life.
Today is different. There are resources (even vocabulary) for a child to express gender issues early on. If I was 6 years old today and could “do over” a conversation with my mom that took place in 1964 it would go something like this:
(My mom from around that period…)
Me: “Mom, if I would have been born a girl, what would my name have been?”
Mom: “Well, we were going to name you Leslie”
Me: “I like that name”
(In 1964 that was the end of the conversation. I ached for the ability to take it somewhere but just didn’t have the words. I thought I was the only kid in the world with these feelings.)
Here’s what I would have liked to say:
Me: “I like that name. Can you call me that instead? Because I feel like a girl inside. I pray every night for God to let me wake up and be a girl. Mom, can you help me?”
Mom: Sure honey. (and so it would begin)
So, that’s my story about Glenn. You may now unfasten your seatbelt by releasing the buckle.