Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Exist

Mila Madison

Just when I thought it was safe to simply exist as my true self, it happens. As a transgender woman, I thought I had reached a point in my transition where I had pretty much come out to everyone I needed to. I came out to my immediate family, friends, co-workers, my in-laws, and even some old acquaintances. I thought I had all the bases covered. I had the difficult conversations. I dealt with the surprises and the losses. My old existence was fading in my mind, at least as much as it could for someone who is transgender. Yes there were people I knew and distant family members who probably didn’t know about me yet, but these are the kind of people you only see at a wedding or a family reunion. Luckily for me, there were no weddings or anything of the sort on the horizon. I am sure they would have eventually found out one way or another. I had plenty of time to deal with it, or so I thought.

So what would happen if all of a sudden I was faced with seeing all these people who did not know about me being transgender all at the same time? You know the distant cousins, your parent’s friends, your grandmother’s friends, the old aunt you haven’t seen in a decade? What if there was a reason that brought them all together in one place, with little or no time to figure out how to deal with it all? It is something I was not prepared for, and now it is something I have to face with the passing of my grandmother.


My grandmother was simply awesome. She was totally accepting of me. She was also best in the family when it came to my name and pronouns. My grandmother loved me without condition, and she made sure I knew it. I want nothing more than to be able to honor her life and the person she was. The last thing I want is to be a distraction during a time that is meant to be a tribute to her life. Not only am I now dealing with this devastating loss, but I am also faced with seeing all these people who may or may not know about me being transgender.

I am already dealing with an Uncle who denies my very existence and has a plethora of negative things to say about me. I have been passed over when it comes to speaking or being involved in any part of the ceremony. This is in spite of the fact that I have more experience in doing so than everyone who will be there combined. At least they asked my daughter, but it would have been nice if they ran it by me first. At least my wife had the courtesy to ask me how I felt about old pictures of me in my former existence being on display. Yes the whole thing is complicated. But here we go, I am already thinking about me and I shouldn’t be.


I realize I have to put these fears and concerns I have away. I have come too far to even think about appeasing anyone. I won’t scale back my appearance. I won’t go “andro” for the sake of making anyone comfortable. I may get some strange looks. Some people will not even recognize who I am. There will be some difficult conversations to be had. I will have to deal with being called the wrong name and being misgendered I am sure, but I will politely not tolerate it. This is who I am, and I will not apologize for it or compromise myself to make others feel more comfortable. Not anymore.

This is yet another in a long line of things transgender people have to deal with that most other people never have to think about. Most people don’t have to come out as anything to anyone. They can simply just exist. Though I wish I could simply just exist in this situation, it is not an option. My mother will be asked where her “son” is and my brother will be asked where his “brother” is. My wife may even be asked where her “husband” is. I feel bad that they are in this situation. I feel bad that it is unavoidable that my very existence will be a distraction when we all should be thinking about my grandmother. But I realize this is not my fault. If the world were not so bigoted, no explanation would be necessary. It wouldn’t matter. My gender shouldn’t matter.

In the end, there is a reason that many of the people who I am concerned about aren’t aware of my situation. It is not like I speak to them on a daily or even monthly basis. What I do know is that it is good for everyone involved. I am sure some people will surprise me while others will disappoint. The fact that this may be the first time some of them realize they know someone who is transgender is a good thing. I am tired of being afraid. I am tired of avoiding difficult situations. Though this is not the time and place I would have chosen to be faced with having to deal with this, I will do so. I will do it while keeping my cool and holding my head up high. After all, this is not about me and I will do everything I can to make sure it stays that way without compromising who I am. It is how my grandmother would have wanted me to handle it. What I do know is that I loved my grandmother dearly and I am going to miss her. I will honor her life by being the best person I can, by passing on the lessons she taught me, and loving others without condition, just as she always did.


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