I am now out to both my parents and step-parents. The reactions have run the gamut of the grief process… denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Not so much with the acceptance, though. With exactly one week left until Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), and less than a month until my name change becomes legal and binding, I find myself simply moving on. I am an adult. So long as they do not try to hurt my wife and children, they can feel whatever they want and it does not affect me one way or another. So far, they have both been very sympathetic to Janis and her plight. While they are correct that she did not ask for this or want it, she has moved past anger as part of her own grieving process. So, for the moment, she is safe from retribution for her support of me.
However, some of my parents’ reactions have been unintentionally hilarious. Sometimes well meaning, sometimes bargaining, sometimes denial, and sometimes just based on good old fashioned religious ignorance. I thought I would share some of them, and the snarky things that ran through my head when I heard them.
(Step-father): This was probably all Janis’ idea because she’s such a feminist.
(Me): I have it on good authority that most feminists like sex with men. So did Janis. I can safely say that there is no secret cabalist conspiracy to marry heterosexual men, and convert them into transsexual lesbian feminists. I think I would have been read in by now.
(Mom): I can’t read any of this stuff you gave me to read. It’s too hard.
(Me): Try being trans. Or writing to tell your parents you’re trans. Or holding together a marriage after you have told your partner you’re trans. Or holding down a job in a military male dominated culture as a transitioner. Or faking all the guy stuff for 25+ years. Forgive me if I am less than sympathetic about the impossibility of reading a book (True Selves) written at an 8th grade level. A book in which I also helpfully highlighted and annotated all the important passages so you can skim and scan it in 30 minutes.
(Mom): Why don’t you just explain all this to me?
(Me): What, the annotated book and biography wasn’t enough? Or the copy of She’s Not There? Oh, wait, you haven’t read any of the stuff I spent hundreds of hours on. Or the three hour conversation Janis and I had with you? Or that you wouldn’t talk with any of the 20 therapists in the Phoenix metro area. You know, the ones I found for you, talked to, gave you their names, addresses, and phone numbers, and who specialize in GID? Or that you got huffy, sniffy, and weepy every time I asked you to read something or talk to someone? Still not enough? Fine. Here is my explanation:
“Being trans is really complicated. It’s definitely been there since I hit puberty, and some signs were there before. You didn’t see it because I worked very hard to hide it. No one knows exactly why or how this happens. It just is. Janis is coping, the kids will be ok, other families have made this work and we’re on track to make it too.”
(Father): You just went looking for a diagnosis and found a liberal psychologist to tell you what you want to hear.
(Me): Yes, because finding out for certain I am trans has made my life so much easier the past two years. Because therapists get paid to tell people what they want to hear. Because it in no way shape or form violates their professional ethics to tell people things which are highly likely to make them attempt suicide.
Oh, and my therapist? She’s Republican, Catholic, and been fantastic throughout.
(Father): Why haven’t they run brains scans on him? There are differences between the male and female brain. I know they can measure that stuff now.
(Me): Yes, there are differences. But there is no test for “the trans.” If there was, people would be using it as part of the standard diagnostic package. In short, there is no test for this, and no one knows why this happens.
Well, there is one physiological marker in the brain (BSTc region) that seems to be indicative based on preliminary research, but you can only test it post mortem because it is so small.
Don’t get any ideas.
(Father): His letter was really selfish. It was all I, I, I, me, me, me.
(Me): Would it have been more appropriate for Janis to write the letter describing to you how I am trans? Just saying.
(Father): Hasn’t he considered what this will do to his career? His standing in the community? What it will do to you (Janis) and the kids?
(Me): In agonizing detail. For two straight years and a hundred therapy sessions. With every waking moment, and even in my dreams this decision hounds me. At work, at home, awake, asleep, in public, and in private it has been my greatest mission in life to find a way through this minefield without blowing up my career, my family, and hurting people I love more than I already have. I mapped every decision, analyzed every action and their potential outcomes. GANTT charts, PERT charts, risk matrices, and cost /benefit analyses: all of which were designed with one goal in mind: how do I keep my family taken care of. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried with wracking sobs over the decisions and seemingly impossible dilemmas I have faced in the past two years. The lead propulsions engineer for the freaking space shuttle was also transitioning, and when she saw what I was doing as part of mine she called it the most anal retentive thing she’s ever seen.
But other than that, no, consequences of my transition hadn’t crossed my mind.
(Father): I knew someone who had anger management issues too. He took wellbutrin and it basically cured him. Why don’t these medical frauds just give you wellbutrin too?
(Me): There may be a link between my anger issues and my Gender Identity Disorder (GID), but one is cause and one is effect. You’re confusing the two. Wellbutrin or other anti-depressants MIGHT help with the anger management, but it’s not a standard treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is. However, no pharmacological solution or cure to GID has ever been identified, though not for lack of trying by researchers. Given that I am not clinically depressed (i.e. I get depressed when things are going to hell in a handbasket because of the situation, not because of a chemical imbalance), medication is contraindicated anyway.
So, let’s just say I took wellbutrin anyhow. You’d end up with a slightly more stable transsexual, not a cis person. That’s why no one has gone this route.
But let’s move beyond wellbutrin. Let’s imagine that there’s a cure, or something that makes me think there’s a cure. Why would you think that I wouldn’t take it, in a heartbeat? What makes you think I haven’t looked for alternatives accepted by the medical and psychological community? And no, I don’t accept anything put out by Exodus or Evergreen Internaltional. Their programs wouldn’t work for me anyway, even if they were effective for some people, because I am an atheist. You want to know what kind of cure I was looking at? If Janis decided to leave and take the kids with her, I had done the math. The optimum thing I could do for them financially and to support them going forward was to put a gun to the side of my head and pull the trigger. Even if I didn’t go forward with transition, my marriage was a shambles because of the GID. Janis was rapidly reaching the conclusion she couldn’t live with me as Bryan anymore.
There is no cure, other than a loud and messy one. I would not be doing this if there was. I would have taken it if I could find it. What I am doing is the best of a lot of bad options. And it’s the only one where I thought there was a prayer of holding my family together. I am in no danger of hurting myself now, but hey, we could always try a different route that you suggest and hope I’m not left with the hollow point option in the end.
(Father): Please tell me you’re not taking any of those drugs that destroy your testicles.
(Me): I promise upon all that I hold dear that I am not taking any drugs that will cause testicular atrophy.
That hasn’t been necessary since I had them surgically removed.
Seriously, though, Janis had tubal ligation before I started hormones. There weren’t going to be any more kids no matter what. We were both done, and trying to have more might have killed Janis.
(Father): You know, taking those hormones is going to have effects on intimacy.
(Me): I know! You finally understand! I have been having the most mind blowing orgasms since my body, hormones, and mind have all started lining up, and I am feeling more comfortable with myself. Plus, given all we’ve been through the sex is so much more meaningful emotionally.
What? TMI? Or just not what you meant?
(Mother and Father): You he can’t be trans. We never saw any signs. You couldn’t have possibly hidden that from us.
(Me and Janis): Like we never could have hidden the fact we eloped a year before the marriage you know about? Or it could that being told by your parents they would rather you be dead than gay would provide great motivation. Or the experiments with electroshock therapy being run at BYU might have had something to do with me, you know, covering up a little. Or the fact that Janis describes me as the most amazing chameleon she has ever seen. I can can always seem to size people up and mirror their expectations of me.
What about my friend Melissa making some really astute guesses almost 15 years ago? How about Janis seeing through this to some extent after she met me? Or Janis could tell you how hard it was for me to for years orgasm because sex felt so awkward because of my dysphoria.
Oh, right, the TMI thing again. Thought it was germane, though.
(Father): Are you sure he’s still sane and stable enough to be executor of my will and trust?
(Me): I just wrapped up a project doing systems engineering work for Air Force One. My Top Secret clearance is intact. I managed to hold my family together and find new work in my field in the middle of this. I have convinced everyone who knows me in Dayton that I am still perfectly sane and reliable, including medical professionals, psychological professionals, security clearance assessors, the VP of my current company, the team lead of my next job, and my spouse. If the company and the government can still trust me with work on the President’s aircraft, you can probably count on me not to !@#$ up a visit to probate court.
You can re-consider the matter if I go on Jerry Springer’s show, though.