It has recently come to my attention that a very specific group of people are utterly clueless about who I am. Not in the way of “what’s his name?” but in a core essential way like knowing someone’s passions, dreams, likes, dislikes, and so forth. Was a significant other? No, sadly that department has been running dry these last few years – dating as a trans person is an article for a whole other day. Nope, this group of people would be my family.
While I’m told that I have the uncanny and, often times, unnerving ability to notice fine details about my surroundings and people around me, I do expect some level of knowing a person when it comes to siblings and parent-child dynamics. Sure, they could tell you that I’m obsessed with movies and Disney and have an incredible passion for pets and the weather. Then again, so could anyone that’s spent more than an hour with me.
When I mentioned to my family recently that our group meetings every Friday are open to friends and family as well if they ever wanted to come by and join the group, I was surprised to hear that no one seemed to know what I was talking about. While they knew in the most general terms that I am working with a newly formed transgender center they apparently were unaware that we meet every Friday, despite my sharing the group’s event listing on Facebook. I could justify this in my mind that it’s not like we all live together, so it’s not like they’re aware of my comings-and-goings each Friday. They attended one of our fundraisers back in April so they knew about the group; maybe they just missed the shares about the meetings.
“APPARENTLY, I’M A GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT BECAUSE I DECIDED TO SEE JUST HOW WELL (OR POORLY) MY FAMILY ACTUALLY KNEW ME.”
Around Labor Day at a family party, I mentioned something about Transgender Universe and our exciting new move. When my brother had asked me what I was talking about, I asked if he was unaware that I write a weekly article for TU, to which he, and others, answered they knew nothing about it. That was disheartening given that I’ve shared some of my posts on Facebook and my mother even liked one of the articles but apparently wasn’t aware that I was the one that actually wrote it.
Apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment because I decided to see just how well (or poorly) my family actually knew me. I sent both my parents, my sister, and brother, my sister-in-law who I’ve known since I was 9 years old, and my two eldest nieces a brief survey about me.
My sister-in-law and two nieces never responded at all, but of the four that did respond, I was a little disappointed. I’m not entirely sure how my father not only has no idea what color my eyes are but also has no idea that I’ve been operated on four different times. Oddly enough I’ve never picked up a James Patterson book and the only Stephen King book I read was his book about writing. Interestingly, despite my question being plural for degrees everyone only answered with a singular and three of them answered with the degree that I’m least passionate about as my greatest interest is with the Emergency Management degree. Everyone gave a response of crafts because I’ve only recently gotten into crafting. Perhaps in the last three months, I’ve taken it up but even then, I wouldn’t say I would do it as a method of relaxing. I am surprised, however, that my father was so close when guessing the music that I enjoy, especially given how far off he was on almost every other question. As far as Disney goes – I was thinking only of the Villains when I wrote the question, but I have to give kudos to my family for reminding me of the Hidden Mickeys, Character Autographs, and Collecting Pennies that are major loves of mine, especially the pennies.
I wanted to take a second to also specifically touch on the answers from my brother. He is someone I’ve always looked up to and admired my whole life. I more recently wrote a brief article that pertained to him when we went to a wedding, and I was gifted my first tie. Seeing his answers was upsetting beyond the fact that they were wrong. The answer for the movies being Disney and Beastmaster tells me that he’s been checked out of my life for a very long time despite spending time together for dinner and hanging out at the pool and various family events. I actually tend to be pretty selective with the Disney movies that I enjoy, and Beastmaster was my obsession – when I was about ten. While it still holds a fond place in my heart, I find it telling that the man I most admired and looked up knows so very little about me. It was his lack of awareness that there were weekly group meetings or that I wrote weekly articles that started this entire little experiment in the first place.
“..I’VE REALIZED I’VE BEEN MAKING PEOPLE A PRIORITY FAR MORE THAN I AM SEEN AS A PRIORITY TO THEM.”
I should note that by comparison, a friend of mine and co-worker of mine who I’ve known for about two years gave the questions a shot and got a good deal of them correct or almost as close as my family. Or, again, anyone who has a conversation with me for more than a few minutes will quickly discover that I’m movie and Disney obsessed or stuck back in the 80s. I would have imaged my family would have been more informed.
After seeing these responses and being stood up for a fundraiser that I got shafted for because I, apparently, stupidly assumed I could count on my family and then hearing they were bailing on yet another event that I was going to do in a few months, I’ve realized I’ve been making people a priority far more than I am seen as a priority to them. I often speak very highly of my family and when we do get together it’s often filled with many laughs and outrageous stories, and we usually build great memories. But how fantastic is a family who doesn’t really know who you are or who you’ve become? Given how close of a family I thought we were; this realization comes as a crushing blow mounted on top of one emotional rollercoaster trip after another these past two weeks.
I do want to take a moment, however, to express that I am thankful that my family has not exiled me. I am very much aware that I am lucky to have family and while they continue to struggle with some matters of my transition at times, there are others out there who are in far worse situations. I do want to lessen their pain or come across as a complete boo-hoo woe is me. It was an emotional strike that I was not expecting at a time that I was facing other crises, but I do see how lucky I am despite it all.