Earlier this week my mom had a conversation with my wife about me, and my mom shared something to the effect that she thought I was trying to be a woman because I wanted my father’s attention as he wanted to have girls instead of boys.
This was news to me, and I’m still trying to make sense of it.
My mom is coming over this weekend to “have a chat” with me, which is also something that she hardly ever does, so in the where there’s smoke there’s fire category, I’ve been considering all sorts of things related to my father’s side of the family and the males across both sides.
I’m also trying to put into reference my dislike for men in general based on experiences I’ve had within my own family.
I’ve been estranged from my father and his family for most of my life. My parents divorced when I was around three, and while I can remember events when I was two, I have no recollection of him living in the house. He was then a mostly absent figure excepting a handful of visits that I remember when I was around five and some trips to visit family in Walla Walla. It was around that time he moved to Boston from Seattle and he remarried.
He didn’t return to the Seattle area until I was in the later grades of elementary school, and his second wife made an effort to reach out, having both my brother and I over for weekends. My father was apparently a deadbeat dad, as I have vivid memories of my mom and him arguing about that one time he dropped my much older brother and I off in new shoes and her complaining that he could buy that stuff for us but not send the money he owed her.
My father eventually divorced again about the time I was in junior high school, and then had a series of girlfriends until he remarried for a third time when I was in high school. During that time period, I would spend the occasional weekend with him until he moved to Los Angeles my junior year, and I had a couple of trips down south to visit him.
In college, I saw him infrequently, and that pattern was established by the time I was 25 when I married for the first time. Not long after that, my paternal grandfather fell and broke his hip and had to move to assisted living, and I only found out after another relative told me in passing. Confronting my dad about him not telling me, he told me he thought I wouldn’t care and then I hung up the phone and didn’t talk to him for about seven years until my grandfather died, and then didn’t see or talk to him again for another seven years until after both my children were born.
I was in contact with him and his third wife for a couple of years until it became clear that there really wasn’t any point, and I haven’t talked to him now for almost four years.
Across this framework of time, my emotional relationship with my father has waxed and waned until I finally gave up.
As a young child, I felt abandoned by him. When I was four and “graduating” from preschool, a local paper sent a photographer around and he looked so much like my dad that I thought he was my dad, and it was only after he and the staff finally told me over and over that he wasn’t that I finally realized he wasn’t. My sad, wistful look as a teacher pinned a mortar board to my head merited being published in the paper, and when I see that photo now, all I see is the day I thought my dad had returned to me but didn’t.
At five, he took me on a trip to Victoria and I remember him buying sushi and encouraging me to eat the big wad of ginger that came with it, and me nearly throwing up. To this day I won’t eat it, as it reminds me of that bitter trick.
As a teenager, I remember him complaining that the only reason I wanted to see him was to ask for money, and when he would give me gifts, he would tell me that I could sell it if I wanted to. The time I screwed up my courage to ask him for advice about girls, he handed me a copy of the Joy of Sex and told me to let him know if I had any questions.
In high school, he promised to pay for my college, then when I got there, he didn’t, leaving me high and dry and almost homeless when money he promised “was on the way” never showed up month after month. I had to quit school over and over and work since he never came through.
Around this time was when he told me he never wanted to have kids. Twice. There’s nothing like being a teenager and being told that you were never wanted.
Across that backdrop was his drinking and my paternal grandfather’s drinking. I didn’t notice it as much when I was younger, but as I entered my teens, I noticed that they both drank. A lot.
My paternal grandfather didn’t drive, so the only time I ever saw him was when my dad took me to see him, and then it was pretty much a booze fest. I also never really connected with him the way I connected with my maternal grandfather, and I pretty much stopped going to see him even when I could drive because he was usually drunk, and then there was the time he was wasted and tried to tongue kiss me. (Super-ick. This also raises a whole host of questions around potential sexual abuse in my father’s house as he was growing up, which I’ve been unable to confirm or deny, but my father and his sisters don’t talk, and one of them has completely dropped off the grid and wants nothing to do with anyone.)
My paternal grandmother died before I was born, and when my brother helped him out when he broke his hip, he discovered a huge cache of gay porn in his house, so it’s entirely possible that he was a closeted gay man who married and had kids as cover. He never remarried and he had many male friends, so…
So on my dad’s side, I have an emotionally distant father who didn’t want to have kids and grandfather who was likely a closeted gay who might have sexually abused his kid(s).
My brother, who I’ve written about before, was physically abusive to me growing up, calling me sissy and oversensitive. He’s very much the anti-me in many ways: hyper-masculine and insensitive to others’ feelings.
On my mom’s side of the family, my uncles were just assholes to me growing up. They lived out of state, so I didn’t see them often, but they were just jerks when I did see them. They were very self-involved and self-important, and as I moved into college and beyond, never missed an opportunity to put me down via snark.
When I started my own business, one of them would ask me on a regular basis if I was still in business, implying that I wasn’t up to the task and that what I was doing was stupid. He died over a decade ago, and didn’t see me sell the company for a profit. The other uncle did go through a bit of a transformation as he aged, and he actually invested in my company and amazingly to me provided some great counsel about life and business, but he died a few years ago as well.
Lastly, my maternal grandfather was probably the only “normal” male role model in my entire family and was very much a surrogate father to me in many ways. He was also very old (he was 68 when I was born), so as I aged into adolescence and beyond, his Victorian upbringing (he was born in 1899) didn’t mesh well with a kid who came of age in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
While we got along well, I was always left with this lingering sense that I wasn’t living up to his expectations. A formal naval commander from WWII and part of the Foreign Service post-war, one of his sons went to the Naval Academy and the other went to Harvard, my brother joined the Army, and I was the screw-up constantly dropping out of college.
Like the uncle who used to ask me if my company was still in business, he constantly told me that what I was doing was the wrong thing and that I should hew to a script that he had for me. I loved that guy, and he did many things for me that space here precludes me from relating, but even up until he died at age 104, we never really clicked.
As I sit here now, I’ve never had what I would consider a good relationship with the men in my family. I’ve always felt out of step and been made to feel like I don’t measure up.
Bringing this back around to my mom, is there any way my transgender reality is a way to gain male appreciation for who I am as a person because I didn’t get that when I was younger?
As a roundabout way to answer that, I’ve often felt uncomfortable around other men, particularly in large groups. I don’t feel safe. That could be a result of the abuse from my brother and bullying I endured growing up from boys at school. Even when I’ve been “the boss” or done extreme physical sports with men and received positive attention for that, there’s always been a kernel of me that has been fearful of being called out as an interloper.
Given that and knowing that women in mostly male environments increase their risk of assault, how does it make sense that I’d want more male attention when the attention I have and already receive makes me uncomfortable?
I’ve already accepted that post-transition, I’m going to stick out. I’m six feet tall and do not have a petite body frame. I know I’m going to be a target.
The idea that I’d transition for male attention seems laughable to me. While stranger things have happened, the easier explanation is that I’m just trans because I was born this way. One could also argue that I’m trans because of the lack of close female familial connections and I’m looking to close that gap in my life by filling it myself.
I’m trans because I’m trans.
There really isn’t any other reason, nor does there need to be.