This post is part of a series, click here to start with the introduction.
We were in our new home, we were starting to un-pack. We even went to the library and got library cards. But it wasn’t time to relax yet, there was still one thing left to do. We had to come out. We had taken the baby steps, we had come out to ourselves and each other, that was huge, and then we had confided in a select few who we knew to be compassionate and supportive, but the next step was a whole different game.
We knew our parents and most of the rest of our family and friends would not understand or be accepting, much less supportive. In fact, my mom had been asking for our new address, and I had tried to dodge because I was nervous about them knowing where to find us when we came out to them. I had memories of my parents driving substantial distances to talk to people about god and issues in their lives, what if they wanted to come to our new place and talk to us about this? I didn’t think I could handle their feelings in person right now, we’d already been through so much. Haley and I talked again and again about what words to say, and in what order to say them, but how do you break it to people gently that you are what they always taught you to hate? It wasn’t as if we could keep hiding though, Haley was living fulltime as a woman now, She’d been Haley to me and the kids for months, it just didn’t make sense to try and hide it from difficult people to keep from having to deal with their reactions.
We did it slightly different ways, Haley carefully wrote and rewrote a coming out letter, and emailed it to all her family members after a warning the day before that an important email was on the way. I wanted to try and do a phone call, but I was worried that I would clam up after my parents started talking. So I went back to my trusty method of communication, and wrote everything out in a notebook, trying to find the right words to explain that I was at least Bisexual and had felt that way for a long time, that Haley was Transgender (and what that meant) and had come out to me 2 years prior and we had discussed it at length. I wanted to make it clear that I was happy in my marriage and in love with Haley, and that I had no desire to be rescued , even though I knew that would be difficult for them to understand.
It felt like an impossible task. And when I dialed their number at the time we’d arranged, my hands were shaking.
I read my little script. My mom started crying. My dad didn’t say much, just asked “so he had a sex change?” and after I explained that it’s not as easy as that, there is counseling and hormone therapy for designated amounts of time before you can ever get surgery, he was quiet. “We did this to you” said my mom, which I found irritating. In my mind I felt like saying “ Really? I tell you things that actually hurt me growing up, and you were offended and hurt, but I share something I’ve been hiding for a long time that I actually like about myself, and you have to claim it?” Instead, I explained that I wasn’t looking for reactions or opinions right now, and that I understood this would take time to process. They told me that they loved me, and we ended the phone call, with my mom still crying.
I felt exhausted, but relieved to have it over with.
Responses to Haley’s email came trickling back in. They were mostly filled with bewilderment and sadness. To their credit, many of them were addressed to Haley instead of her boy name. They said things like “but you are my brother” and “you must be remembering wrong, you never wanted to be a girl, you were a normal little boy growing up.” Haley tried her best to answer questions and explain her experience, and fielded some long phone calls from her Dad. One sister called and talked about her questions and concerns, but in contrast from the rest she believed Haley’s experience, and didn’t repeatedly invalidate and correct her. They talked on the phone for over an hour, and it turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful new friendship.
My mom called a few times over the next little while, sometimes she tried using the right name and sometimes she didn’t. It ended up being a strange mix of both names, and pronouns from both genders. She also kept adding on “if that’s what he wants to be called” after using the name “Haley” in conversation. She expressed repeatedly that she felt hurt that I had not shared with her before this, she kept saying, “You didn’t even give me a chance, I could have surprised you.” I tried to explain that I had heard from them my whole life that being LGBTQ was wrong and bad, and it didn’t make me feel safe enough to share it with her until I was stronger and more independent. I told her how I had tried to bring up LGBTQ issues as a teen, and again the year before, and both times had heard that they considered LGBTQ persons to be wrong and “making bad choices” and “in need of god”, she still insisted that she would have handled it better if I had been open with her earlier.
So far things had gone fairly smoothly, it had been scary for sure, but no one had outright attacked us, or responded with violence or anger, mostly some intense discussions of disbelief and disappointment, mixed with hopes that this wasn’t going to stick and we would come around.
But the summer wasn’t over yet, there was more to come.