Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Fear Realized: Car Trip Hell

Car pooling. Isn't it great? You save money. You burden the energy infrastructure just a touch less, and you reduce your impact on global warming. I live in a very small town, and my parents both work there too, so we ride together when we can, since we all generally work a standard 8 to 4 sort of shift. 

One day last week, I showed up at 4 to drive Mom home and something happened I have been dreading for months. (Dad was elsewhere.) She confronted me on transgenderism. We have clashed in the past. And probably one of the biggest things holding me back in this world is a need for her aproval. So her insults just cut to my heart.

The whole thing started over my hair. I had not even given any thought to it all day. For the last couple weeks my sleep schedule has been off and I've not had time to even blow dry it, much less flat iron it. So I've been going to work with caveman/Einstein hair. On the day in question I had a little extra time so I managed to blow dry it. And something peculiar happened. The stars and planets must have all fallen into line perfectly, and there was this rare phenomonon, where the ends of my hair curled in various directions, looking for the world like an intenntional attempt at flipping it. But there was no time to flat iron, so I just went to work.

Anyway! When mom got in the passenger seat that evening, she was all smiles at first. But then she stared for a moment and her face just went white. And I am sure mine did to in reaction to hers because I knew what would happen next.

What followed was a 25 minute commute, with her complaining that I was probably the talk of the town. And how I was going to be such an embarrassment to everyone. How her and Dad had apparently messed up terribly raising me. And of course there were jabs reminding me that I would never have kids or a normal life. And how in her view I would never be able to have normal friends. She told me I would be damned. She told me that she would never be seen in public with me looking the way I look, and that I was going to have to "tone it down."

I stood my ground the entire trip. But I never bothered to tell her again for the thousandth time that I am a woman. I just listened to her spin the same round of arguments over and over, and continued to tell her that I must be free to be myself. And whoever wants to accept me can, and whoever does not can say what they like.

In the end, all her arguments gravitated back to herself, and it was one hundred percent "What will people think of me having a weirdo for son?" She kept telling me how selfish I was, and that I was aging her. She never seems to see that this is not a choice. I only want to be myself. And there is nothing wrong with who I am. So if she thinks I am to "man up" and spend my life living an act to protect her reputation, then who is the selfish one?

At one point I was angrily debating her and my bangs fell into my eyes. Without thinking, I raised my hand up and gave my bangs an angry little flip. Suddenly she was accusing me of INTENTIONALLY feminizing my actions. I was livid. Back when I was a child, I was free to act how I wanted. Then in grade school I got teased and ended up marching around with my hands in fists til I was 25. And now here I am, not being mindful of things like that anymore, and here is my own mother, basically implying I should start paying attention to how I move and get back to my old, quiet, anti-social, clinched fisted, male emulating self. 

The argument was getting nowhere and she saw she was losing ground. So eventually she told me she felt she was an "enabler", allowing me to have rooms at her home, and that someday she was going to burn all my clothes.

I suddenly felt outraged. It showed that from her point of view, this is all about trying to dress up and look pretty. And there was an unspoken implication that since I lived under her roof, she could tell me how to live out my life. I screamed that I would move. I hoped she would be angry enough to just say "Fine!" 

I know I need out, but I have dreaded trying to move because I know they will realize why I am leaving and what I will do. If we could just both settle my moving out while we were angry. But no, she would not let me off the hook that easily. She immediately recanted her threat to burn my things.

She can't stand the thought of having me move. Part of it is because she sincerely does worry about what will happen to me. But it is also about control. I told her I would still move as soon as I could, to spare her embarrassment. 

When the trip was finally over I was sitting alone crying, my head in my lap. I heard someone come into the room and refused to look up, thinking Mom was back to belittle me some more. But it was Dad. He asked if my hair was what started all the arguing. Without lifting my head I explained that it wasn't intentional, that I only blow dried it and brushed it out and that it came out that way. He didn't need a justification. But Mom had me feeling defensive.

I sat sideways on the couch facing away. But suddenly I was conscious of my posture. Maybe I was sitting to femme. I didn't feel like thinking about it, I just knew I didn't want anyone even thinking silently that I was faking. So I grabbed a near by quilt to cover myself from the shoulders down.

Dad sat behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and I raised a hand to his. We sat quietly for a few minutes and the stress of the confrontation with Mom just slipped gradually away. I think Dad could tell when I was settled enough, and suddenly we were talking again. Not about hair, posture, hair flips or gender. But about the latest iPhone software update. 

I found myself enjoying the conversation comfortably, free to be myself. Unmindful of whether I seemed falsely femme, or if I was coming across as a ridiculous little priss. I was just me, and dad was just dad. It was nice. Somehow he always knows what I need. its like he can read my mind.

As he let the room he asked if I would like to go with him to visit grandmother in the hospital. I said I would love to go if I am not an embarrassment to be seen with. He said I was not, and had a facial expression that clearly said the notion was incredulous. It was the answer I wanted and I knew it was sincere. 

In the end, I am just glad that I stood my ground. Used to confrontations like this damaged my self esteem and left me feeling shameful. This time I felt drained. But my self esteem remained intact and I was unapologetic about being transgender. 

For a thirty year old to be this worried about parental aproval and this tied down might seem strange to some reading this. But really I have come along way in the past year.

One other thing I must mention. As Dad left the room after our conversation, he told me he would hate to see me move. I know his reasons are unlike Mom's. Its not about control. he worries about me, and he wants time with me. And life is so short. I don't want to be 100s of miles away. But living as I am, I'm so depressed and preoccupied with just wishing I were free to be me. We would have more quality family time, if I could leave just far enough to be independent. 

I just want a town where people will tolerate me, and a few will like my company. I only want the freedom to be myself.

Friday, I straightened my hair, curled the ends under and trimmed up my bangs. The whole effect was very femme and I loved it. I carpooled with Mom morning and evening, and we carried on normal, civilized conversations. I'm not sure what she is thinking at this point. But I stood up to her and things are okay.

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