So, I came out as trans to my mom maybe a month ago now. My mom prefers letters to communicate big news so I chose that method, even though I hate the waiting game that goes along with it. I thought this might give her a chance to react better, too. She would have time to process; time to come around; time to see how her words of rejection looked on paper and maybe think to revise them.
No such luck. Her response was to tell me I was unquestioningly wrong, that I was on a high created by my supportive friends who weren’t doing me any favors, that I would deeply regret transitioning, and that she refused and would forever refuse, to call me by my chosen name or acknowledge me as anything but female. She followed this by asking me to reply explaining more about how I came to this decision, and that she wanted to maintain mutual respect.
Let me say this. My mom and I are not close. We generally don’t see eye to eye, nor do we have similar personalities or values. We operate very differently and our relationship over the last 9 years has felt distant, fragile, and very near collapse; only held together by our mutual refusal to let the relationship fall apart entirely. My mom only acknowledges the parts of me that she likes and approves of, and fears anything else. If we didn’t have such a history, I might have seen her response through a softer light; however, her reply felt like a resounding, final slap in the face of disrespect and lack of acknowledgement of who I was, and entitlement to still have me open up to her, to be fine with it, and to hand her a big prize for still loving me.
This was my reply:
I would like to systematically address the things stated in your reply to me, so I can give a thorough and justified response to your letter.
Number 1—I have zero doubt that you love me the best that you know how. Also, your grief is justified. I’m upset that you said I would accuse you of being un-loving for not supporting my transition. You are not un-loving, you are simply dismissive and disrespectful of me and who I am telling you I am. I do not pretend to know your grief, nor am I offended by it, your feelings of grief are valid and justified; rather I have compassion for it—so much so that I have shielded you from the truth until it was unavoidable. Not from fear of you withdrawing your love or worrying you wouldn’t accept me. I anticipated correctly that you would both continue to love me and simultaneously reject who I am, as you have. The last few years I have hid to protect you from your own pain. You have lumped me in with the pain of your divorce: I am not your husband and that is unfair, and I have never expected you to just “smile and pretend it is all normal and fine.” No, I expect you to grieve.
Number 2— You are being dismissive and closed minded, and as such, unless you change, you have effectively CLOSED the door for further discussion on the matter. You have asked that I reply sharing more of my story on how I have reached where I am today. But how can you ask me to open my heart and mind to you, when you have already made it abundantly clear in your letter that, before seeking to understand, you have already decided the narrative that is my life; you have already decided that you know better than me what my name is, what my gender is, what my current emotions are, and what my future will be. You do not get to hear my story when you are listening with shut ears, a closed mind and already a judgment over me.
I am not on a “high” off my decision to transition; transitioning is very difficult! I do however have a peace and certainty about the decision; but this is pointless to share as you have already made up your mind about what my feelings are and will be. It is offensive to tell me that the gender I am telling you that I am is a delusion and a lie. You are saying that I am a lie, that who I am is fake; that the person I know myself to be is no deeper or more important than the sex between my legs. You are holding up your own definition of what gender is high on a pole, at the cost of erasing and invalidating me as a person. This is offensive and always will be offensive; this is personal and always will be personal. No, I cannot respect your beliefs when you have come to them so quickly without being open minded for one moment. No, you cannot disrespect and dismiss me and in the same breath expect the privilege of me sharing my heart with you.
Number 3—Your refusal to call me Ray is plainly disrespectful and has nothing to do with a moral viewpoint. Take the moral high ground about my gender, despite the Bible saying NOTHING about being transgender. Fine. But you cannot argue that GOD named me Sarah. No, you did. And I am now naming myself Ray. The truth is, I am not your possession. I am a grown adult and my own person. You should respect my chosen name Ray the way you respect my chosen name Didier. The fact that you refuse to even open your mind to the possibility of calling me by my chosen name tells me that you think you hold the right the define who I am more than I do. I understand making the switch being difficult. That doesn’t make ignoring my name a respectful option. Ray is a gender neutral name and you choosing not to acknowledge even my name just tells me how little you are willing to budge to accept me at all.
Number 4—John does not own me, but you should be thankful for his support. You said in your letter, when I got married, you saw it as him taking the responsibility for caring for me and leading me. John does not lead me or get to decide who I am or what I do with my body and my life. He doesn’t care for me in any way that isn’t equally reciprocated by me caring for him. I am a grown adult who makes my own decisions. I love him very much and he loves me very much, and we share our hearts and lives together. Despite your beliefs, that is how it has been and how it will continue to be. You should be thankful that John is supportive of my transition, not angry at him; because I’m not sure I would be alive without it.
Mom, ultimately, you have come at me making it very clear that you have no intention of listening before you make your judgments; and your standpoint is one of uncompromising rejection of who I am and disrespect for me. I would ask you to reconsider your stance. If not, there is not much else to say on the subject.
I kept thinking this was harsh. But she had been harsh with me, and this letter was after years and years of hiding, sugar coating, speaking incredibly gently to her to avoid upsetting her; erasing myself for her comfort. I sent her a text afterwards essentially summarizing my terms in a bit less angry sounding, but firm fashion.
She replied, saying in essence that she wanted that mutual respect and to please be patient with her as it was all foreign to her and was difficult for her. I think this is a very positive response. I am crossing my fingers that all will turn out better than expected!!