FFS: facial feminization surgery.
I sit here and watch my father in pain, nauseated, swollen, and disfigured. I wonder how anyone can think that someone would chose this path, as if it were a choice. The internal struggle of living your life on the outside as someone you are not on the inside is one I will never know, but can now see through lens of my father and the steps one must take [however extreme] to get to a place where they can live.
I grew up in the ‘ideal’ white Christian family: mother, father, son, and daughter. Middle-class. Not wealthy by any means but never struggling [or at least that I knew of us a child]. Addiction, divorce, the LGBTQ community [although in the 90s in my home the term LGBTQ hadn’t emerged and it was simply: homosexuality] were distance notions that my world would never collide with.
I was naive. I never worried and it never occurred to me that I may have faced the tribulations that I have. It was as if they were not even options.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer which ultimately metastasized and let to her death at the age of 52. I had just been married to my college sweetheart at the age of 22. I guess a fallacy I had grown to believe was that I would end up alone if I wasn’t engaged by the time I graduated college. I later realized that the things I needed in a marriage were not present in mine and that I had to make the decision to end it in order to live a most happy and authentic life. While it was the best decision for me [and I think for him as well] it was still a loss I had to come to terms with.
My brother began using drugs at some point in high school, though I believe just marijuana and the occasionally recreational ‘other.’ I believe his opioid addiction began when my mother was ill and became worse after her death, then ultimately lead to his. He was dead at the age of 25 from a heroin overdose.
As I was finally emerging from the grief of the death of my mother, the death of my brother, and end my marriage [and not yet to the age of 30] I was then confronted with yet another ‘hurdle.’ My masculine, male, right-wing, evangelical Christian father was transgender. I often chuckle thinking about this all.
While my conservative ‘values’ had been left behind many years prior and I had in fact crossed over to the ‘liberal’ side, this confession by my father was one that really shook me. Of course I am supportive of the LGBTQ community. Many of my closest friends identify as queer, though none transgender. And while I would have no problem supporting anyone else in their gender identity, this was different. This was my father, and he was all I had left of that ideal family I spoke of.
I went through all the stages of ‘grief.’ Anger, denial, bargaining, and so on. And while it took almost two years I finally came to realize that this was her authentic self and that her life as a woman was one where she felt most: happy, alive, free, accepted, close to God, [I could go on]. One simply cannot understand this without entering into a meaningful relationship with a member of the transgender/LGBTQ community. As the months leading up to the ‘transition’ came closer and closer, I realized of all the feelings I had been having, frustration with ‘the other’ was the one that stood out of the most.
‘The other’ is the family member who has been openly against the LGBTQ community, the politician who was taken away the protection of the community, the strangers on the street, the church who speaks out against.
*That leads down an entirely different path, the struggle of ‘the other’ and not wanting to view them as ‘them’ because that makes me no better and it does nothing to bridge the divide. That discussion is for another day though.*
My frustration lies with how to best communicate with those who do not see the world as I do. Sometimes I just want to yell out loud: “Don’t you get it?” “Can’t you please just understand!” “Quit being so ignorant! “Get over it!” My father has told me many times that, “Facts don’t change people’s minds.” This is the truth for many things. I am thankful that my life has brought me a partner [husband-to-be], friends, and a church that walk beside me and support me, my father, and the LGBTQ community.
Which leads me back to sitting here watching my father recover. I do not understand it, I cannot. I have learned that. I have realized that all I can do is love my father [and everyone], and support them in their decision to be happy and live a life fulfilled. My prayer is that somehow the minds and hearts of those ‘others’ do change. That they may abandon the fear of the unknown, let go of their discrimination, and simply love and let be.