06 August 2008

The Woman Becomes a Daughter?

This morning I got to say "hello" to my mother's friend, Lee. She'd come to pick up Mom so they could visit the family of a friend who suddenly died the other day.

I was happy to meet her: Mom has talked a lot about her. She seemed every bit as friendly as Mom depicted her. And, even though our encounter was brief, I felt as if, for the first time in my life, a member of my family introduced me to someone and I felt like a peer.

Perhaps that was natural considering that I am middle-aged and Lee, like my mother, is in very, very late middle age. And Lee has a very warm and radiant smile.

But there was something else. Maybe it's simply that it's been so long since I met a friend of a family member: In fact, I don't think I have had such an introduction since I was under the legal age for just about everything. When you're a kid and you meet you parent's friends, no matter how well you get along, there is a generational and experiential divide. And, whenever I met my father's or brothers' male friends, I always felt that, no matter how much I may have liked them, I had almost nothing in common with them.

Now, to be fair, Mom did tell me that a relative of Lee's is transgendered and her daughter is gay. And Mom had told her about me in advance. However, I didn't feel pity or any special, contrived effort to show that she had nothing against who I am. (In other words, she's not like some of the white liberals I've met.) Rather, I felt as if she were talking to the adult daughter of one of her best friends. Which, of course, is what I am.

As she and Lee were leaving, Mom said that Dad wanted to take me to the Beall's outlet store. Dad said he wanted "something to do," besides, he had an errand or two to run. I thought it was an odd thing for him to offer me, but I did not protest. I simply gave him a mock-warning: You're going to take me clothes shopping? Do you know what you're getting yourself into?

He was remarkably patient. A couple of times he even brought over things he thought I might like: two--a pair of black velour and plaid tweed pants--I actually bought.

We must have spent close to two hours in that store. I bought two other pairs of dress pants, three skirts, two tops, a cardigan and two shirt sets--all name brands. All for $73.00, tax included.

And Dad was very gracious about helping me carry things. I joked, Did you realize what you were getting yourself into when you went shopping with me? To which he replied, I did; no problem.

What really made me happy about our shopping trip is that I got to talk with him a good bit more than we normally talk. I have been concerned about him: His health is worsening and, as a result, his mood has been darkening. Which means that I'm also concerned for my mother because she has to bear the brunt of his gloom. I don't know whether I can be any kind of example to him (or anybody). But I tried to help him understand that he has treated me well as I have made changes that must have been difficult for him accept; I understand how difficult that must have been. Now, I want him to take such good care of himself so he'll be around for me, my mother and everyone else.

He actually seemed to like hearing all of that from me. Maybe it's because I let him do most of the talking, and he expressed anxieties as he had never expressed, really, anything else before. I think he also senses that I am not going to give up on him, as I have at other times in my life.

It just may be that he and Mom are seeing their son-who-turned-into-a-female turning slowly into their daughter. They have offered to accompany me when I culminate that a very important part of that process next year.

Odd, isn't it? I've always thought that women were someone's daughter before they became women. Now, of course, my experience is different from that of most women (not to mention most men!) But, I wonder: Could there be other women--however they became women--who became daughters in ways similar to the way I have?

1 comment:

Michael said...

What a fascinating experience you describe, Justine. Family situations are so tricky, and we are often surprised by reactions from people who we thought we could read from a mile away.

I knew I was gay when I was about 12. However, I was firmly convinced that my parents would have totally flipped had I told them. I went so far as to marry and have a child, divorce after the death of our child, and then get married a second time, also to a woman. When that marriage failed in under two years, at the age of 33, I finally decided to come out.

But I did not come out to my parents. I moved to Boston, where virtually no one knew me, and began living an openly gay lifestyle. Two years after moving there I met my partner, and soon to be husband, Arnold. Sadly my mother died before she could meet him, and she died not knowing, or at least not having me acknowledge to her, who I was. I believe she suspected it strongly, but neither of us brought it up.

When my dad finally did find out, I was ready for the big rejection. Instead, he and Arnold became the closest of friends and had a marvelous relationship until the day my dad died. When I think back to all of the years I probably cheated myself out of, by prejudging what I believed my parent's reactions would be, I feel very sad.

Arnold and I have been together since 1982. We live in Canada where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005. We are getting legally married August 31. After all these years I am not only becoming a husband again, but I am actually acquiring one as well.