A Partner Transitions and a Family Turns Its Back

Growing up with a mother who was distant and cold was a tough road to navigate.

There were no long heart to heart talks around the kitchen table or hugs and kisses at the door when I came home from school. I never heard “I love you” before putting my head on the pillow at night. Just barking the daily chores and things on the to do list. Hearing her frequently say to me “I am not your friend, I am your mother” was so hurtful to my sensitive little ears on up through adulthood. So as a child, I especially looked forward to the weekend when I knew my father would be home and the house would be full. He was my greatest example of love, generosity, and kindness. Always there when someone needed him, wether it was a neighbor, family member, or one of his own children. A spiritual person who took to heart the teachings of Jesus, and the kind of person that I aspired to be.

“I’M FAIRLY CERTAIN THAT THOSE WORDS MADE THE LITTLE HAIRS ON THE BACK OF HIS NECK STAND UP.”

Then my wife came out as transgender. My mother reacted with her usual angry and hurtful monologue. My father asked “what are you going to do now?” My answer, without giving it a thought was, “I guess I’ll be a lesbian.” I’m fairly certain that those words made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up. I told them both while on speaker phone that night that I loved my spouse, not any one of her body parts. My mother screamed some profanities into the phone, of which I couldn’t make out clearly, and then hung up. She called back a few minutes later and said that she never wanted to talk about this again and hung up on me a second time. I was left sitting there alone in my room trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with all that hurt.

Knowing my mother the way that I do, My gut feeling told me that we would never have a real conversation about this. I knew she would never ask me my feelings about the situation or inquire how my spouse was handling this unforeseen twist of events. But, I had a higher expectation of my father. I knew he would call me, I knew he had questions that he wanted answered. After that phone conversation, I religiously looked at my phone every night for a few weeks to see if I had missed a call from him. That call never came. I saw my parents when my grandmother passed away and a few family events after that. This past February my father kept a promise he made to me as a child. At the age of forty something, he took me and my family to Disney World. A trip I am very grateful to have received. Other than that we have had very little contact. My girls Facetimed with him for Father’s Day and I stepped into the frame and said hello. It was very cordial and business like.

“OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN MY LIFE I ALWAYS FELT AS THOUGH I COULD COUNT ON MY FATHER.”

Of all the people in my life I always felt as though I could count on my father. When he thought my mother was being unfair, he stepped in and stood up for me. As a crazy teenager, he would sit at the edge of my bed and lecture me on the importance of presenting myself like a lady. He canceled everything he was doing to drive me to the hospital when I was in labor with my first child and kept me company until my ex arrived. He rescued me from that same man a few years later and built me and my children an apartment in his home. He postponed his surgery to have the cancer removed from his colon to walk me down the aisle when I married my wife ten years ago. He was my very first Valentine and always the first phone call I received on my birthday.

In the two years since the start of my wife’s transition the invitations to family events have disintegrated. I only speak to one of my four siblings and my phone has stopped ringing. My oldest brother is just simply a bigot and my other two siblings stopped talking to me because I told my children of a disgusting family secret. Discrimination out in the world is painful, but discrimination from your own family is distressing. The disappointment in who I thought they were is so overwhelming. Transition is a journey full of surprises. Some of them are beautiful and some of them are disappointing.

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