30 November 2012

Andy Marra: Moving Ahead With Two Families

For so many of us, the stories of our "coming out" and gender transition are inextricably woven with our families.  A few of us are actually encouraged by our family members to live our lives in our true genders; for too many of us, family members discourage or deter us from, or simply cause us to feel more inhibited about, doing the things we need to do.

Today I read a story from a young trans women who had both sorts of family influence.  Andy Marra was born in Korea but adopted, as an infant, by an American family.  She came out as a trans woman to her adopted family, whom she says were "encouraging", in 2003.  However, she would not begin taking hormones for many years because she also felt the need to meet her Korean family.  She wanted to see them--at least initially--as a male because she feared rejection if they met her as a woman instead of the man they would have expected her to become. 

One thing that further complicates her story is that fewer than three percent of Koreans who are adopted in other countries ever find their birth families. And, in fact, Ms. Marra almost ended her 2010 visit to Korea as one of the other 97 percent.

However, on what would have been the last day of her trip, a police officer found her mother, who had been living about an hour away from the station. As a result, she extended her trip by two weeks.  During that time, she met other relatives, including a grandfather who bestowed a Korean name on her.  However, after a few days, her mother realized that Ms. Marra had to tell her something.  "May I offer a hint at what I am talking about?," her mother suggested.  "Please don't be offended by my hint. But I don't think you will be."  After Marra nodded with tense curiosity, her mother continued, "I think it has to do with how pretty you look."  

Marra hesitated again, fearing she would lose the mother she'd just met.  After her mother reassured her, "I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere," Marra slowly and hesitantly explained, "I am not a boy. I am a girl.  I am transgender."

After a long silence--in part a result of Marra trying to communicate something that is not part of very many everyday conversations in English or Korean (or any other language, for that matter)--her mother responded.  "Mommy knew," she calmly said.  "I was waiting for you to tell me."

Her story has a happy ending:  Her "new" family accepts her, and she could return to the States to begin her transition with the support of two families on opposite sides of the world.

Now, if all trans people could have the support they needed, from their families or elsewhere, in whatever part of the world they inhabit...

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