My mom and her live-in boyfriend are leaving for an extended trip next week so my kids and I went to spend some time with her. While I was there, she misgendered and deadnamed me, and wished me a happy anniversary. The happy anniversary comment was her way of trying to make a joke as she knows full well that I was divorced this year. The misgendering and deadnaming were unconscious comments. All three things added up to me feeling annoyed with her tonight.
The irony is that for the first time in my life, I’ve come to actually look forward to spending time with her. Her getting older is part of it, but the other parts are I finally get to by myself around her and she’s over the hostile animosity she bore towards me for a while. In fact, she’s swung around to being supportive, which makes tonight’s comments sting that much harder.
The joke bugged me because it was in poor taste. I think she meant it to be sarcastic, but it wasn’t funny to me. I’m supposed to find funny being reminded of the fact my marriage finally fell apart because of my transition? Um, sorry, no. Try again.
The misgendering came while she was talking to my kids about, ‘Your father…’ and, ‘…he…’ a few times. The deadnaming came in a similar situation as I heard her talking to her boyfriend as we were getting ready to leave for the restaurant.
In general, I hand out many free passes to people I know that accidentally misgender or deadname me. I’ve found that they all seem to unintentional and most catch themselves right afterwards. Many have known me for decades and I understand how it’s a bit like learning a foreign language and having to transform the words in your head. This also means that I don’t get too worked up about it. This keeps my blood pressure low and means that these incidents don’t escalate into recriminations or hurt feelings.
But my mom, ah – my mom. One of the things she told me after she edged back from being angry with me was that she might have a hard time calling me by my new name. So whenever she slips up, and if anything it’s been happening more frequently, I wonder what’s gong on. I correct her, and she generally takes it in good grace, but sometimes she looks annoyed I’m correcting her.
My darkest thoughts about what’s happening here run a course from her humoring her child indulgently, to treating me like it’s a phase, to she just sees me as the proverbial guy in a dress. The lighter thoughts are that she just hasn’t fully yet swapped the words in her head yet. The truth may lie somewhere in-between.
What’s maddening in a way is that her boyfriend has been excellent with pronouns and my name. An alt-right, Trump-supporting bigot, (my mom’s the opposite and if she’s happy with him, I’m happy for her,) he’s only misgendered me once in the past year and my mom even tells me he’s better than her with using my name. However, he has an excellent reason to be on his best behavior; openly mocking or being disrespectful to me is probably a sure-fire way to get my mom to dump him out on the street.
That someone who I’m sure thinks I’m a freak manages my name and pronouns better than my own mom irks me. I’ve decided that if she turns in another performance like the one she had today, I need to have a gentle heart-to-heart with her about how it grates. Here’s hoping that won’t be necessary.