Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Exist: Part II
So what happens when an unforeseen event occurs that forces you to come out as transgender to almost everyone you have ever known all at once? This is was the dilemma I faced with the passing of my grandmother. Last week, my nerves were at an all-time high as I was about to see all the people outside my inner circle that I had yet to tell I was transgender. All I wanted to do is pay my respects to this amazing woman who loved and supported me without conditions. I would be seeing aunts, uncles, distant cousins, and family friends. These were all people I thought I had time to speak with, but obviously I was wrong. I had no way of knowing who might have heard about my transition or how anyone would react. The last thing I wanted is to take the attention away from the celebration of my grandmother’s life. I had no choice but to jump into this situation, hopefully with my head held high.
“I TRIED TO PREPARE MYSELF IN MY MIND FOR THE SITUATIONS THAT MAY ARISE OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS, BUT THERE WAS REALLY NO WAY TO PREPARE FOR IT.”
The first day would be the wake, with one in the daytime and the other in the evening. The next morning would be the burial with a lunch for the entire family to follow. I thought about calling my mother the night before to ask her whom she thought knew about my situation and who didn’t, but she was already distraught with the loss of my grandmother, and I didn’t want to put any more pressure on her. Being that I had nothing appropriate to wear for the wake and funeral, I ran out last minute and found a nice blouse for the wake, a beautiful dress for the funeral, and some shoes. At least I no longer had to worry about what I was wearing. I tried to prepare myself in my mind for the situations that may arise over the next few days, but there was really no way to prepare for it.
The morning came, and it was time to get ready. Just when I thought I might be okay the dysphoria hits, probably triggered by my worries about seeing everyone. I try to blast through it as I am going to be late if I don’t get myself out of the house. My wife left before me because she had picture boards of my grandmother that were going to be displayed at the wake, and she prepared food for my mother’s house between sessions. She took the kids with her, and I was left to work this one out myself. I got myself together and quickly decided which of the four pairs of shoes I bought (they had an amazing sale the night before) would go with my outfit. To hell with it, I put one pair on and took them all with me. I would be staying at my mother’s that night so I wouldn’t be late for the funeral in the morning, so I had my new dress and everything else packed up in the car and ran out the door.
Finally, I arrive at the wake. I was late as usual, but it was probably a good thing. This way I could see who was where in the room. For a minute I thought about not going in, but this was my grandmother. I was going to be me. I was going to be proud and hold my head up high. There would be no hiding in the corner, I promised myself I would be fully present in this moment and went into the funeral parlor. Much to my surprise the room was packed, a tribute to the amazing person my grandmother was. Everyone loved her and they all showed up. Coming my way is my best friend’s mom, I know she knows about me being transgender, but she has never seen me. This woman who had known me my entire life, walks right past me. I follow her and give her a tap on the elbow. She responded with “Oh my God!” and gave me a hug. We caught up really quick. With the first one out of the way, I began to calm down. I quickly found my wife, and she made sure I was alright, so far so good.
Next I sat next to my aunt who was in the know about my transition and said hello. Behind her in the next row was two of my older Aunts, I turn around and say a friendly hello and ask them how they are. They along with their husbands all have confused look on their face, a ‘Who is this bimbo saying hello?” kind of look. Things got tense really quick. My younger aunt leaned over and asked me, “how do I help you?” The whole moment was uncomfortable. “It is not your problem,” I told her. She insisted on helping me, so I told her to tell them who I was. I could feel the explosion of terror striking my one religious aunt, though she was very nice. I think her husband’s jaw is still open as he seemed totally in shock. My other aunt told me I was beautiful. We all caught up. I was starting to feel more confident.
“HAD IT BEEN TEN YEARS PRIOR THIS WHOLE EXPERIENCE MIGHT HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT, BUT I REALIZED THAT TIMES ARE CHANGING.”
I would continue to work the room, with my head held high as I had promised myself. My godfather showed up and treated me as though nothing ever happened. I reconnected with cousins and old family friends. It all went better than I could ever have imagined. Relative after relative came up to me and expressed their support for my transition along with their condolences for my loss. The fear I had in the 24 hours leading up to this day was gone. My immediate family seemed comfortable as well. Had it been ten years prior this whole experience might have been different, but I realized that times are changing. If my whole family can either understand it or at least be willing to understand, then maybe there is hope for the world.
The rest of the day would be a whirlwind of emotions, but the focus remained on my grandmother. The next day was the burial. The service was beautiful. We had lunch and went back to my mother’s house afterward. We shared stories about my grandmother, and I learned about her life when she was younger. For the first time I felt my family saw me as a daughter, a granddaughter, and a niece. An uncle who had problems with my transition even called me to tell me that he loved me. I still can’t believe it happened.
When we transition we sometimes go through lulls where we are just spinning our wheels. There are other times when you feel as though you reached a milestone in your journey. Though I am sure there will always be a few people here and there who don’t know about my transition, my coming out tour was officially over. I had reached the point where I am as ‘out” as I could ever possibly be. My grandmother had always helped me throughout my life. Even in her death she was still helping me. I will miss her more than I could ever explain. She saw me for whom I was and loved me without condition, and she taught me to do the same.