It is Mothering Sunday in the UK this weekend so I want to take the opportunity to say how grateful I am that I still have a relationship with my mother. Many trans* people are not so fortunate to transition and to keep their family relationships intact.
The fear of losing family and friends because of “coming out” is the overriding reason that we stay in the closet for so long. Nobody stays in the closet because of the judgement of a nebulous blob called “society”. They stay in the closet because of the unpredictability of the reactions of those closest to them. Society influences our families and friends in ways that we cannot always know and, therefore, cannot always predict, which is what makes us hesitate to be out about ourselves.
The matriarchs in my family have always been strong minded women, predominantly churchgoing, unafraid of stating their opinions, on the right of the political spectrum, appreciate it when things are “done properly” and aren’t very keen on the changes they see happening in modern society. Given that description, there was every reason to think that coming out as gay and then trans was not going to be a picnic. Actually, I couldn’t have been more wrong because what these women also have is a huge capacity to love, not just me, but the wide variety of people that they meet. They may not always approve of the way people live their lives but they never seek to exclude or discriminate against them and they don’t wish them any harm.
All the women in my family are also blessed with intelligence. They may not have gone to university but they have never stopped learning about things that interest them and the world in general. An appetite to learn goes a long way when people are facing the unfamiliar. It helped me when I came out to be able to explain to them what it meant so that they had the wherewithal to understand my situation. They asked questions when they didn’t get it, and began to educate themselves, taking an interest in trans* stories and issues being reported in the media.
LGBTQ people sometimes forget that it isn’t just them that have to come out. My mother has also had to come out as “the mother of a transman”. This wasn’t something that she sought. It was something that I put on her. I know that the same worries about the reactions of family and friends have played on her mind, as it did on my mind. Mothers have a tendency to wonder whether it was something they did to make their child this way, arguably more so than fathers, this makes them more vulnerable to criticism by those of a mind to be phobic about these things. So, I made sure that my mother and I negotiated the spreading of the news together, sharing the positive reactions that we had received from people.
Now, when people say to my mother, “you’re amazing for accepting Vic’s change so many people wouldn’t have done”, she doesn’t really understand why a parent wouldn’t accept their child for who and what they are. She can only see that both parent and child lose out in that situation. She says that it was not a big surprise that I am trans. Looking back, she sees now that it was obvious. I never wanted to do girly things and, I have to say, she always did her best to accommodate my wishes, although she found it hard not to insist on a dress when a special occasion demanded it!
If you are a Mum who hasn’t spoken to her trans* son or daughter since they came out, please get in touch with them today. Everyone needs a Mum and that includes trans* people. Being trans* isn’t easy and we don’t choose it to make a statement or to be awkward. In fact, we don’t choose it at all. That’s why we need the love and acceptance of our mothers. Open your heart and open your mind to who and what your trans* son or daughter is and respect their right to live in the best way that they can. Your life will only be richer for it, I promise, and you’ll find that they’re not that different from who and what they were before. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not a big surprise, you knew that they were a bit different, didn’t you? Mothers know these things.
Finally, to my Mum, thank you. I am all that I am because your support has never wavered.
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