Acceptance (Part Two)

Hopefully my previous post was a fair enough explanation of what’s been going on these past few months. I realized afterward that I had alluded to a thing or two in posts earlier in 2015, but I hadn’t really said much after my accident.

So where did I leave off? Oh, right, with my mom. I guess I shouldn’t be terribly surprised. If I think back carefully, it’s actually pretty easy to see the hidden traditionalist socially conservative streak my mom hides under the surface. It’s not like my dad is much better though. I think it was back in June or July, after I’d decided to transition, but before anything medical had started, I was on the phone talking to my dad. I don’t even remember what we were talking about. Maybe we were already talking about his latest batch of conspiracy theories. Regardless, the conversation turned to Caitlyn Jenner. For the record, I can’t stand her. I didn’t like him (Bruce) and I never liked that whole Kardashian gaggle of stupid people. It’s all a bunch of Hollywood “celebrity” worship, and I’ll have none of it. That’s not really the point though. As we were talking, my dad asked me if I had heard about it. I said that I had, but didn’t lead on any more than that (I didn’t even watch the interview or anything…I was merely aware that it was a thing that had happened). He immediately continued suggesting that in his opinion, this was a conspiracy to “blur gender lines” or to make it so you can “identify as anything for any reason”. I don’t even think he had a personal opinion on it. It sounded like he was just telling me these things as though they were facts he was reporting on.

So was it any wonder deciding who to talk to about this was the difference between bad and worse? I might have gotten more sympathy from my dad…I don’t know. Honestly, I wish I had a second chance. I’d like to be able to try again. I think I actually can, since I suspect my mom never said anything to my dad anyway, and she probably ignored or forgot about it since I never pressed it again after that first time.

Against my better judgement I chose to go to my parents’ house for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was always my most favorite holiday and in the more distant past, I have very fond memories. Recent years have been far more lackluster and upsetting. I took the train, and my brother and his girlfriend were there to pick me up and take me to the house. I loved being able to see them. That was the highlight of the trip. My parents and my grandmother were already at the house. I guess I didn’t really expect much from my grandmother. I honestly thought she wouldn’t notice anything. She’s almost 90. Probably can’t see well. Certainly can’t hear well. The instant I walked in the door…and I’m talking not even having a chance to take my coat off yet. My grandmother sees me and exclaims that “with long hair like that, we should put a dress on you.” I get it, she’s 90, I’m not offended. But the speed at which it came. No “hi” greeting. Nothing. That was my greeting. My mom pretty much followed suit, constantly complaining about my hair. “Why is it so long? Why do you clip it? Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?” And really, that’s what the whole time boiled down to. I felt crushed.

I guess I should mention that the only saving grace in any of this has been that my brother and his girlfriend have not only been on board since jump street, but they’ve been supportive and a friendly face if I’m struggling with my parents. I did Christmas by myself this year in order to avoid another thanksgiving fiasco, but I did link up with my brother and his girlfriend to exchange a few gifts before carpooling to see our parents (one day only). I had only recently (as of the beginning of November) asked if he wouldn’t mind switching pronouns and names for me. He had actually asked me if I wanted to back at the end of August, but I wasn’t ready at the time. I was incredibly touched by the fact that when he made a tag for the gift he got me, he wrote “Hadley” on it.

I’m sure at some extreme level, it’s not, but sometimes it’s hard for me to feel like my parents’ love isn’t conditional. So much of my life has been focused on making them like me, and approve of me. Sometimes to garner preferential treatment and accolades, other times just to keep the peace. It was a lot easier to make major life decisions based on what my dad wanted rather than deal with the fallout from following anything but The One True Path™. As the oldest, I felt it was my personal responsibility to keep the peace in the family. To make sure that emotional blows were absorbed. Let my mom bitch to me about my dad, and not pass it along. Let my dad bitch to me about my mom, and not pass it along. Constantly wondering why there was so much pettiness and lack of understanding, love and respect. And the few times I got fed up, and just broke down and called them on it, I was accused of being dramatic.

I’d been unhappy in my life for a very, very long time. Things teetered from ages 11-14, but fell down completely once I got into high school and beyond. In high school, I kept extremely quiet about my increasing malaise and discomfort. I had personal internet access for the first time ever halfway through my sophomore year in high school. I think that allowed me to keep up appearances as I scoured the internet in search of what I was. I must’ve searched for everything back then. For a long time I latched onto personality types. It seemed to at least be a pretty accurate description, and made it easier to find people allegedly like me, but it was hollow. Things still weren’t lining up, and I wasn’t getting better. I still kept quiet. At that age, it’s very easy to tell yourself that things will get better. It’s a temporary problem. My future seemed bright enough (as my dad would’ve told it). Maybe just wait for that.

That future never really materialized though. It was like a carrot hanging on a stick in front of a donkey. It always seemed to be the same distance away, no matter how far into the future I got. Eventually towards the end of my time in college, I started hinting to my parents (with honesty) about the true nature of my malaise, though I didn’t really understand it at the time myself. I started to finally make my discomforts known. Just a little at first, but by the time I had graduated and moved out on my own, I had a handful of extremely frank, honest conversations with my mom. My discomfort must’ve been known by her by then, and in none of our conversations did it get any better.

Eventually I started to feel bad that my sadness and malaise were making my mom upset. No one wants to see their child upset like that. I started to resent myself for not being able to be a nice, normal, well-adjusted child for her. I didn’t want her to worry about me. I’m sure I didn’t make it easy, and there were a few times when conversations with her even grazed into my darkest thoughts. I guess I thought that maybe she’d truly understand what was at stake if I included more honesty. She only turned it around on me and framed it as me hurting her.

I guess the picture I’m painting here is that I was not good, and my mom absolutely knew this. So when I finally started unraveling the real bits of myself and what was up, and how to finally feel ok, better and happy for the first time in at least a decade, I thought she’d be overjoyed. To me, that’s what unconditional love is. In particular, that’s what unconditional parental love is. If I had a kid like me, and they told me what I told my mom, I’d feel two things. First, I’d feel relief. Relief that they were getting what they needed. Relief that they were finally maybe going to start finding the same kind of happiness most people have. Second though, I’d feel sadness. I’d feel sadness because I was unaware for so long that my kid was struggling with this. Sadness that they were struggling, and I didn’t know and didn’t help. I would’ve wanted to help, of course!

Instead I got my mom saying it was all bullshit. I needed a hug, and I got a scoff. I know it’s hard to understand. I know it’s weird. I’m not asking that she be able to accept that right away at all. I was asking for the unconditional love that should’ve been there. The love that would’ve allowed her to say, “I don’t understand, but I do trust you and love you and want you to feel better and live a happy life.”

I’m not saying that my mom doesn’t love me, I’m sure she does, but the instant dismissal and disbelief…after I put my completely open heart and feelings on the line. I bared my unfiltered feelings and self to her. Of course I love my mom too. I’m never going to stop loving my mom. I think I’m within my rights to say that this hurt. It hurt a lot. It’s the one thing I think about continuously nowadays. I wish so badly I could’ve gotten a loving hug instead of dismissal. I hope that I can get something eventually. I’m not willing to give up.

So that pretty much brings us right up to the present. It’s an ongoing journey and an ongoing challenge. I have to wake up every day and consciously choose to continue. If nothing else, I’ve been able to keep things going so far, and really that’s all there is to it. Just keep stepping forward.