I realized around 11pm last night as my partner and I were leaving our friends’ apartment (where we spent a good chunk of our Christmas, which was lovely) that I didn’t have anything queued up for the blog for today. It’s been a pretty uneventful week in terms of physical changes related to transition, and I couldn’t come up with a funny story. But as the holidays tend to be rough for a lot of folks, particularly surrounding family issues, I’m going to dispense with the humor for this week and talk a bit about my grandparents.
I’ve seen my maternal grandparents once in the past two years, at my brother’s wedding. It was the first time I had seen them since my paternal grandfather’s funeral more than a year prior to that. We barely talked, but it was evident that I had been outed as queer by someone else in the family (which made me angry, and caused a fair bit of drama after the fact, but that’s another story). They didn’t seem particularly pleased, but more or less avoided talking about the fact that I had not grown up to be the granddaughter they expected.
A few weeks after the wedding, I received a letter in the mail from my grandfather (dictated to my grandmother, as Grandpa is blind). He encouraged me to write. He remembered the children’s book that I had written for a college course, and expressed hope that I would continue to use my gift for words.
As I held his letter in my hands, I made a decision that I never thought I would make: I was going to come out to my grandparents officially, not just as queer, but as genderqueer as well. I never came out to my paternal grandfather, and it’s something I still regret. I had to try.
So I wrote him a letter back, and said that I was writing, and in fact, a piece I wrote had been included in a theatre production that was a series of monologues and short pieces about gender and identity. I told him that the play had been hugely successful, and had touched lives in huge ways, and that I was so proud and honored to have been a part of it. And then I explained, in terms that I hoped would maybe make sense to my octogenarian grandparents, that part of why I wrote the piece that was in the show was the fact that I did not identify as a woman or as a man, but that I lived somewhere between or outside of the two.
It was a difficult letter to write. The response was even harder to read:
We love you, and you will always be our granddaughter. We will never call you Alyx, because Alyx is an imaginary person.
Since then, I have gotten the occasional card or note from my grandparents, usually ending with something about how they hope I’ll return to Jesus and turn my life around. Last week, I received their Christmas newsletter in the mail. Aside from being addressed only to me (ignoring the fact that I live with my partner), and using my given name more times than the note necessitated, I was surprised to find no hints of hellfire in their most recent missive…just a simple statement that they wanted to see me.
And that’s when I was hit by the full realization that my grandparents don’t know that I am transitioning. And I don’t know how to tell them.
I’m afraid to tell them.
I’m afraid that I’ll be uninvited from every family gathering from now on. (I generally avoid family gatherings for the sake of my own sanity, but it’s nice to get the invitation, you know?)
I’m afraid they won’t want me to come to their funerals.
More than anything, though: I’m afraid of being more of a disappointment than I know I already am.
Because I love my grandparents. They’re good, intelligent people. I admire the depth of their faith, even if I disagree with many aspects of what they believe (though I probably disagree with less than they think). I want them to be proud of me.
I want them to be proud of the fact that another piece that I’ve written will be performed in the newest rendition of the show I was in before.
I want them to be proud that I am in a happy, healthy, wonderful relationship.
I want them to be proud that I have chosen to take steps to feel more comfortable in my skin.
I want them to be proud that I am happier and healthier and more whole than I have ever been in my life, and that I take more steps in that direction almost every day.
And I know they’re not.
And I know they never will be.
And that hurts.