For my friends and readers who know me only as Leslie, I love you all. This post is for my daughters…and those who knew me before.
If you knew me before I transitioned, chances are unless you were really paying attention and knew what to look for, you never would have guessed. That’s just the way I wanted it too, so don’t feel bad.
As a matter of fact, I thought I had a fighting chance to keep the torment inside from ever escaping, but as we all know now, I was wrong.
Everyone is different, but in my case, when things unraveled, they unraveled quickly and there was no turning back. As a result, most of my friends found out when they received a phone call from me coming out to them. (Oddly, several laughed thinking this was just another of my famous pranks)
My daughters learned of my impending transition from my now ex wife when she travelled to see them shortly after she learned of my being Trans*. Not how I wanted this to happen at all.
For me, this was a very happy time. I just had the heaviest load I’ve ever carried lifted from my shoulders. I was almost euphoric. However, one thing we who transition must remember is that while many times friends and family members are ultimately happy for us and want us to be happy as well, they do go through a grieving process and initially at least, there is often a mixture of shock and sadness. Quite often, the process for moving past this involves a period of mourning. Unfortunately, we often mistake this mourning process for a lack of support or enthusiasm for our transition and feelings can get hurt.
In my case, both daughters were outwardly supportive and have been such a source of strength to me, but I could hear in their voices that they struggled with this new reality. I don’t blame them.
My oldest, now 33, shared a thought that still haunts me; she said “When I came to visit you in 2011 (she and a friend drove to Dallas from another state) I wish I’d known it would be the last time I’d ever see my dad.”
I had no response for that. It’s been 2 months since she told me that, and I still don’t have the words. What do you say? “Sorry about that?”
I understand the importance of a father in a girl’s life, (I never had a son) and I tried to be as good a dad as I could. I also feel terrible for taking theirs away from them. We have a good relationship, but it’s different.
I suppose I maybe should have just gotten on a plane and flew to see them, as dad and given them a chance to say “goodbye” to their father. I just don’t have an answer. It’s one of the things that make transition the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
It was maybe somewhat easier for my youngest. Shortly after finding out about me and before I had transitioned 100% (I was still a guy at work) she came out for a visit. I came home in work clothes and she recently shared that she thought I looked ridiculous and miserable. She said, “why don’t you go get comfortable?” So she and I went upstairs together and I changed. She witnessed the change and that’s how she’s seen me ever since. But still, it’s been a process.
I recently spoke to a former employer and dear friend. When he called and I answered he said:
“This is she” I answered.
His response: “That was hard.”
We shared a couple of laughs, but clearly, things were different. He asked if I still enjoy golf. (We used to play a lot) I said “Yes, but now I get to hit from the ladies tees.”
My roommate experienced a similar reaction when she told her mom. Her mother’s initial response was “You’re still my kid and I love you” but there have been many tears since, as she mourns the loss of her son.
Sadly, I believe that many of us who identify as Transgender mistake loved ones reactions as rejection when often that reaction is that of mourning the loss of someone they loved very much. That’s not to say they won’t love this “new” person as well, but they often need time to wrap their heads around it.
I’ve had my whole life to think about this but friends and loved ones pretty much had to accept this new reality in a way that was more “shock and awe.”
Maybe in a perfect world, I would have been able to tell them in person, explaining what I have felt inside for so long. That my need to be my true self has nothing to do with my love for them but that I am going to transition.
Then I thought it would have been cool to offer the opportunity for a kind of “living wake” if you will. A chance to say goodbye to the old me…to say any words left unsaid. I wonder if that would be positive or cause more harm than good.
I still don’t have “THE” answer. It saddens me that my daughter’s last memory of her dad was a hug and a kiss in a Dallas hotel room before driving back home. The thing is; EVEN I didn’t know that was the last time she would see me. I thought I had things in hand, but 7 months later it all unraveled. That’s how it happens sometimes.
(Old me – just 3 months before coming out)
I tried with both girls to play off the whole “But I’m still the same person.” My youngest (27) called bullshit right away laughing at me saying “You are nothing like you were before.” She wasn’t talking just appearance. As her dad, I was pretty uptight and had some fairly stout walls up.
This new person is free. She is open, completely honest, loving, a good listener and affectionate. This is taking some getting used to.
Change is hard for everyone. For the person changing gender it’s epic. For family members it can be traumatic. Whether this change is gradual or like ripping off a Band-Aid, a little compassion and understanding on both sides will go a long way.
And love. Lots of love.