Shortly before Mother’s Day, my sister called and granted me a ten minute visit with Mom who, I learned, had been hospitalized for a month with pneumonia.
After I gently “came-out” to her in a letter last autumn, Mom did not want to see me again nor speak with me. Earlier this year, she relented and called me for a quick chat, specifically prohibiting any talk of my transition and new life as a woman.
A few days ago I called, casually saying that I was passing-by and would she be up to my giving her a Mother’s Day hug? I had driven two hours so that I could “pass-by.” No answer; there were cars at her home with my sister. Mom never got my messages; I learned my sister’s husband prevented that.
Unexpectedly, my sister called Judi at the urging of my aunt who is close to each of us. I was asked not to wear “dangle” earrings, which I took to mean that they did not want me to appear looking like a sex-worker. In the aforementioned letter, I had told Mom that I “blend-in” with other middle-aged women: imagine the leap.
Mother’s Day, at the appointed time, me, Judi and our son arrived moments before five more members of the family: My sister, her husband, his son, wife and 15 month old daughter. So my little sister is a grandmother: that’s news to me too.
I was dressed nicely in a cheerful new blouse with jeans, sandals, a slender silver necklace, almost no makeup, hair pulled-back and yes, I wore my pearl-stud earrings – really quite typical of how I dress all the time.
There was just enough time to greet Mom and hug her before the tiny room filled with family and a nurse. She is so frail that my gentle hug hurt her, but she looked glad to see me, relieved even.
Moments later, my sister made introductions, informing everyone that I was her brother, “Brett:” I was totally unfazed by this, seeing irony in the fact that I was in appearance, manner and speech every bit a woman as the five other females present – and nothing like the three men! They seemed totally unfazed by the apparent incongruity.
The great surprise (I think) was that the visit went so normally – I am so comfortable and ordinary as a woman that everyone simply relaxed and we chatted about things, with Mom and the little-one being the center of it all. Knowing I am transsexual, I think they were all expecting me to be like a lumberjack-in-a-dress or like a flamboyant gay-guy in drag. I was not the “freak show” they apparently feared…
…The vibes I received felt like “Oh, it’s just Brett. He’s fine after all, apart from being a woman now, of course.”
Like Judi and our son, I strongly suspect they see me as a man who is a woman. They do not understand my womanhood but they cannot deny the reality of it, and they did not seem threatened by it. I have come to expect this reaction from people who knew me before, at times verbalized like: “I can’t see how a man can be a woman, but somehow it just works for you.”
So, my family and I “passed the test,” and even my sister’s husband warmed-up to me, and we waved and shouted enthusiastic “good-byes!!” in the parking lot, just as other close families do. How refreshing, and what a great blessing from God!
Epilogue: This last autumn of 2016, Mom overcame her cancer by passing into eternity. During our last visit together, when she was in the hospital, I shared with her about my gender confirming surgery and my effort to ready my body for breastfeeding. She replied, almost apologetically, saying “you know I will only ever be able to see you as my son?” To which I gently said, “yes, I know Mom. It’s okay; I understand it needs to be this way for some who knew me from before…”
…We shared with each other as much as the limited healing in our relationship would bear and her ebbing strength allow. As I was leaving her for the last time, I turned to her, and spontaneously & simultaneously, we blew each other “see you on the other side” kisses. A gesture I share with others, this is something I never saw my mother do with anyone – it was a very feminine tenderness we shared, and something in my spirit suggested to me that this was her way of acknowledging my womanhood.
Only days ago, I spoke with my sister again – it was by far the most intimate conversation we have had since we were young people; in this we shared our mutual vulnerabilities, her weariness in caring for Mom and others in her husband’s family, and finally about my need to transition and my life as a woman. Reflecting on our talk, I think that my sister is coming to see me for the woman I am, and maybe someday: her sister.
Here is how I came-out to myself, my mother, my employer, my colleagues and to my community. Each of these are framed differently and have differing levels of detail. The letter to my employer is the most detailed account of my transition, but none of these relate the details and intimacy of my relationship with God throughout this whole process.