So i know i keep saying i’ll do better at keeping this thing updated and all of those repeated protestations of scheduling and such, but i think a big part of the problem has been that i needed to write something else. i have needed to write something else for months, perhaps years–something that has been floating in a few different pieces in my brain for various lengths of time. Anyway, i think it’s been part of what has been clogging up my writing process for so long, and i’ve finally done something about it. i’ve written it.
Essentially, the form this took was a ten-and-a-half-page long novella of a letter to my mother. i needed to clear the air on a few different things with her that have been in our history for many years. i have also been increasingly torn up by the necessity of living a double life out of fear for what might happen to me professionally if i were to be outed by someone else. So instead of waiting for someone else to do it to me, i’ve decided to come out myself and see what happens (and that way be prepared and not get completely flat-footed if i have to remake certain aspects of my life in order to live my truth). This letter was Step 1 in that process. i have since printed it and sent it via conventional mail, so it is now out of my hands. It is done, and the trepidation i feel about the eventual reaction is increasingly outstripped by the feeling of freedom and release for having finally done what needed to be done. i will post the full text of the letter below with proper names obscured.
Please read this letter in its entirety before taking any action. I was prepared to never have this conversation with you. I had pretty much convinced myself that both of our lives would be easier if I could just hold out and keep it to myself long enough. You would retire, you and Dad would move out of state, the necessity of constant up close and personal interaction would fade, and I would be free to be more fully myself in your absence. During the holiday times, when we would inevitably come together in person, I would be able to put the mask back on, if just for the few days that we were in each other’s company. That way we could maintain a peaceful relationship without the awkward tension of what I’m going to tell you in this letter ever being a problem.
However, events, deep-seated emotions, depression, and a lot of serious thought over the past couple of months have necessitated that I rethink this position. I will need to do something about the situation in which I have found myself much sooner than I had anticipated even a few short months ago. As a result, there’s pretty much no way to avoid you hearing about this anyway once I pull the trigger on what I feel I need to do. This process is going to result in a lot of unspoken emotions and baggage coming to the surface, so I’m writing this letter instead of confronting the issue in person because I have difficulty dealing directly with uncomfortable issues with you in person.
Before I go any further, please understand that I know that everything you do in regards to me and our relationship comes from a place of love. I know that you want to help me, and that you do truly love me. Because of our history, including things that are out of my control entirely and things that I could have handled better at the time, your love has been colored by fear, worry, and disappointment. Moreover, it seems to me that your fears, worries, and disappointments have become so powerful that they have taken control of your emotional reactions and have taken you to a place where you have become overzealous. You invade privacy, you violate boundaries, and you often ask that one question too many that pushes you from the realm of curious inquiry into intimidating inquisition. Even though you have the best of intentions at heart, the level of invasiveness makes it difficult for me to be honest with you. You push and you push and you push, and I retreat into a shell of silence and lies, because I know that if I give you the wrong answer it’s just going to become another incident. I feel cornered and my fear and anxiety take over. It’s a fight or flight response, and as we both know, I’ve never been much for fighting, so I instinctively choose flight.
That’s why this letter is addressed specifically to you and not to both you and Dad. I feel more comfortable around Dad. I feel like I could tell Dad almost literally any possible thing, and he would accept me and try to help me move on. He would probably need some time to process emotionally in some (or even many cases), but after taking that time he would be there for me without character judgement to support me in whatever direction I decided I needed to go. The problem is that if I tell Dad anything, it generally comes back to you, and I don’t feel that safety with you. You pay lip service to the idea of supporting me no matter what, and I think you think you really mean it, but your actions have not borne that out historically. Instead of focusing on how to make the future right, your focus is on the transgressions that have taken place in the present and the past. This has become such a driving force for you that it gives the impression that nothing is ever truly forgiven in your world. Literally everything I’ve ever done wrong is fodder for the failure hit parade that seems to always get dragged out every time something goes wrong. You never seem to move on, and that doesn’t allow me to move on.
The other key difference between you and Dad is that Dad says he just wants to see me happy, but you say that you just want to see me successful, and what you really mean is that you just want to see me successful according to your personal, limited definition of what success looks like—a definition with which I often find myself disagreeing. This can furthermore be seen in the fact that you ask me if I’m taking care of business and pry and prod and poke at me over that. When you ask me how I’m feeling and I give you a throwaway answer, you rarely pry, prod, or poke at that. I’m not saying that I want you to; I would really rather you never pried, prodded, or poked at all.
What I’m saying is that your focus is on my success, whatever the emotional cost to me might be. You place the practical concerns over the emotional ones, even when the emotional concerns often have a profound effect on the practical ones. This is why you are able to worry about <sister>’s emotional state but completely disregard your internally self-destructing son. You have accepted <sister>’s practical and material success as a given (and for good reason, as there is pretty much no possible way she won’t be successful, at this point, and I am just as proud of her for that as you are), so that allows you to worry that she’s having emotional difficulties and “burning out.”
Well, you know what? I’ve been burning out for most of this year, but you haven’t seemed to notice or give a damn about that. You may say that <sister> has bigger concerns and larger problems, and that may be true. You may say that I should just suck it up and take care of my practical responsibilities regardless of my emotional state—it’s something you seem to be fairly adept at. I’m not cut from the same cloth as you. My emotional state is all-consuming, and while I may have learned how to conceal it after years of bullying by peers in elementary and junior high school, it is not in my personal make-up to be able to be able to engage in such emotional subduction for extended periods of time. I cannot function when I cannot feel, and it always catches up with me. You may see this as weakness, but in an odd way, I actually see it as a strength.
But now I’ve gone on an extended tangent and lost the original thrust of this letter (although some of that is material I’ll probably come back to later), so I’m going to try to get it back on topic. By now you’ve figured out that I’ve been lying to you again. The truth is that on some level I don’t think I’ve ever stopped lying. There has almost always been something that I have felt the need to keep shrouded from you. I’ve explained my basic reasons for it above, but it generally comes down to the simple fact that you almost always ask at least one question too many. You take me out of my comfort zone, into an area where I don’t want to share everything, and where it frankly becomes not your business anymore. They say that you should never ask a question you don’t want the answer to, so maybe it’s time I give you exactly what you want. Time to open up completely and let it all come tumbling out. Maybe if I clear the air between us, we can start to rebuild whatever relationship we have left.
Let’s start with the most recent stuff. You already know that I’m not as on top of my finances as I’ve said. Well, the truth of the matter is that I’m not as on top of my academics as I’ve said, either. I’ve basically let everything slide with my Master’s Degree this semester. I told you that I turned in that big paper, the MoPTA, that I told you I need to write. I actually haven’t written a single word on it. My student teaching observations did get done, but only because my observer came here and found me and did the observations. To be completely and totally honest, I’ve been completely rethinking public K-12 education as a career. This is mainly because I’ve also spent the entirety of this past school year (and the summer before it) rebuilding my entire sense of self. The result of this has been a boiling cauldron of stress and anxiety and depression that have permeated almost my entire existence for the majority of the last nine or ten months.
The reason for all of this stress, anxiety, and depression while working to reconstruct my entire understanding of my own existence is because I came to a realization over the summer. Mom, I’m Transgender. To be more specific, I am Gender Fluid, a non-binary gender identity that is neither wholly male nor wholly female. Basically, if you think of gender as a continuum between being entirely male and entirely female, I kind of float around in the middle ground in terms of my internal gender identity. And I’ve never really felt entirely comfortable identifying as a man, to tell the truth. But I also didn’t feel like I was entirely a woman either, so even though I had had thoughts that I might be Trans from time to time, it never really presented itself seriously until recently, when I was reading and discovered that there was such a thing as non-binary Transgender identities. Suddenly everything clicked. It felt like coming home. In the time since then, I’ve been attending meetings of a couple of Transgender support groups that meet in Springfield (I’ve been getting rides to and from with other group members since my driving privileges went by the board). So that’s another lie that I’ve been telling you, because that’s what I’ve been doing most Sundays. I haven’t been going to Freethinker events every week.
So why did it cause such stress and anxiety? The simple answer is my job. I’m Trans, and that sort of thing isn’t the most accepted thing around here, to put it mildly. I’ve heard of other Trans people who have lost jobs, careers, friendships, even been disowned by family simply for being Transgender. These concepts have made it so that I feel like I have to live in fear, putting on a mask and hiding my true self and constantly being wary about betraying too much, being outed, and losing everything. To be perfectly frank, I’m not that scared of how my students would react. Young people are increasingly more and more accepting of people in the LGBT community as time goes by. I’m not even that directly worried about colleagues or administration. What scares me the most is the potential (and probable) caterwauling uproar that would be raised by parents if my true identity were to be made public.
So I hide myself away, only allowing the real me to come out when I am alone or among friends who know of my gender identity. It has come to the point that I am not myself more than I am myself, and I have found myself pulling away from the idea of staying in education if this is really the life that I will continue to live in this career. I won’t survive it. So I’ve made a decision. Instead of continuing to run and hide, I’m going to meet this challenge head on. If being Trans is going to lose me my job as a teacher, then so be it. I’m done hiding. I plan to come out publicly, to own myself and finally live my truth. If I lose my job as a result, I am in a position where I could switch gears academically and move into a more accepting field. If I do not, then it will fill me with a newfound sense of enthusiasm for this career field, and I will be all the better for it. Either way, living in this world of uncertainty is eating me from the inside out, and I need to make a change. I have sent an e-mail the professor in charge of my MoPTA, who is also one of the main professors in charge of the MAT program itself, explaining this situation and why I have fallen behind in my classwork. I have yet to hear back from him, but his response will also help me to determine where to go with this in the future.
I am writing this letter primarily to inform you of this particular fact. I am working on the beginnings of my social transition. I have yet to determine if I will undergo any sort of physical transition, but I have no plans to do so any time in the very near future. However, as part of my social transition, I have chosen a new first name by which I would like to be addressed: Raiyne. I know this will be a difficult adjustment for you; you’ve known me as <legal name> for all of my life—you even gave me the name in the first place—and I understand. Choosing this name was an incredibly long, very detailed, and extremely personally meaningful process that I will spare you from having to read over right now, but it is a name that I feel more closely reflects the person I am. Also, please use the non-gender-specific pronouns “they, them, their, etc.” when referring to me in the third person from now on. I know that this is a lot to take in and learn on such short notice, but if you can work toward making this transition with me and addressing me by my preferred name and pronouns, it will make me feel loved, accepted, and respected.
Now, before you try to explain it away or find a way to dismiss it, let me tell you that I’ve thought through just about every possible objection there is to this, and they all pretty much fail out of hand. I’m not delusional, and this is not a recent development—I can remember specific instances going back to my childhood where I danced on the continuum between male and female to one degree or another. Hell, one of the reasons I got bullied in school was because I acted in ways unbefitting their idea of male children. So when I got a little older and started internalizing gender roles a bit more, I pushed all of my non-male feelings down and acted as male as I possibly could, even turning up my nose at things that might be considered “girly” even when I might possibly enjoy them.
Furthermore, this is not the product of anxiety, depression, or any other mental disorder. I know this, because I first started really looking into this at one of the times that I have been most satisfied with my life in a long time; I had just gotten officially accepted into the MAT program, my provisional certification had gone through, and I’d just gotten a new job as an actual classroom teacher. Things were good. But they weren’t really, because I still hadn’t confronted this aspect of my identity.
I am also not just doing this for attention or to feel “special.” There are plenty of other ways I could go about doing that with much less wailing and gnashing of teeth. Why would I willingly choose to out myself with an identity that experiences one of the highest rates of suicide and murder out of any subgroup of humanity in this country? Why would I willingly potentially throw away my entire career as it has stood heretofore just for the cheap and fleeting thrill of being the momentary center of attention? No. This is me, and it’s not going away.
Finally, please don’t simply dismiss this out of hand because it doesn’t jive with your vision of what I “should be.” You did that years ago when I told you that I was bisexual. You asked me how I knew and if I had ever had a male partner. I was uncomfortable and a little bit offended that you felt the need to ask that question in order for me to “legitimize” my sexual orientation, so at the time I lied and told you no. It seemed like the safe answer at the time, and that thought seemed like it was confirmed years later when you reacted to the fact that I was having sex with <The Woman> with such scorn and disapprobation, but in the long run it has been a mistake, because it allowed you to dismiss and ignore the fact of my bisexuality.
So here’s the truth. I’ve had sex. I’ve had sex with more than just <The Woman>. I’ve had sex with multiple different partners of various genders over the years, and even sometimes with multiple partners at the same time. I’m not ashamed of it, and I have only hidden it from you because I know that our sexual mores do not see eye to eye. For me, sex can be the most intimate sharing of self that is possible between individual human beings, but it can also be a fun way to pass a few hours and achieve a healthy physical release; it’s all in what the individuals involved are looking for, and it’s on those individuals to openly communicate those desires and needs. That being said, I haven’t been stupid about it. I have always used protection, and I get myself STD tested periodically (still no STDs, by the way). I do everything in my power to be conscious of and minimize the potential risks.
You tell me that you want me to grow up. You tell me that I need to be an adult and take care of business. Well this is what it’s going to start looking like for me. My adulthood may not conform to your vision of what adulthood should be, but the good news for both of us is that it doesn’t have to. My adulthood is whatever I define it to be, as it is for every other individual on the planet. Do I have things I need to work on with myself still? Absolutely, and I like to think that even though I still backslide on them from time to time I am continuing to make progress. For example, I have not once been overdrawn in my bank account in the five years since I came back to Branson from Columbia. Not. Once. I have maintained a credit card responsibly, keeping it below the limit and paying it down to zero almost every month since becoming a teacher and paying more than the minimum due every single month since even before then. I am making progress, and treating me like every mistake is a sign that I have made no progress whatsoever is unfair and disrespectful.
Moreover, it is true that I engage in recreation more than you think I should. I go and have “playtime” as you like to sneeringly call it in your attempts to further infantilize my lifestyle. Well consider this. During my “playtime,” I have made lasting and incredibly close friendships. I have developed a “family of choice” that often feels closer and more loving than my blood relations. Between my weekly D&D nights, Pub Quiz, and the Freethinkers and support groups that I have been attending, I have created an overlapping and strong support network that I know values me and accepts me for whoever I am while also taking an opportunity for much needed stress relief and relaxation. Simply put, my “playtime” has literally saved my life. That is not hyperbole.
I hope that you have read this letter in its entirety. I know you are probably feeling very hurt, and likely quite offended, by much of what I have said here. I also know that you have a tendency to focus on the emotions you are feeling and use them as a tool to discredit and dismiss the feelings of others. The last time we had a difficult conversation in person like this and I spoke the truth and tried to express how intimidated and emotionally unsafe you make me feel, your response was that you were hurt and offended, as if the mere fact that you felt that way automatically made me wrong. You then dismissed everything I said and never gave it a second thought. I urge you in this case not to do that. Your hurt feelings are valid. I have kept much from you and kept you from knowing the real me for many years. However, your hurt feelings do not make my hurt feelings any less valid.
To that end, I have a request. Please take my words to heart. Re-read this letter as many times as you need to, and do not call me or try to get into contact with me right away. Allow your emotions to cool a bit so that you can really interface with what I have told you in this letter. When you feel ready, if you want to have a conversation in person about this, I will be willing on a couple of conditions. First, come to the conversation with an open mind and free of judgement. Take me as I am, because that is all that I can be. Second, do not try to rationalize or dismiss me. Speak with me as a fellow adult and not as a child to be corrected. If you come to the conversation with a dismissive or condescending attitude, I will leave the room.
Finally, if you decide that the hurt is too much and that you can no longer bear to have me as family, I will understand. It will hurt like hell, but I will understand. You have often used the words “I know you hate me” during difficult conversations as a way to disarm my replies, but please know that that cannot be further from the truth. If I truly hated you, I would be able to dismiss your rejections and criticisms out of hand, rather than being emotionally derailed by them for hours at a time. I can’t do that, so if this ends our relationship, it will hurt me more than you know, but I will understand. If you no longer wish to have me along on the Alaska cruise, I will also understand, and will work to repay you for the ticket. I hope that we can move on from this and rebuild, but I will understand if we cannot. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m truly sorry for the hurt that I have caused you. I love you, Mom.