My mom’s had a cough for a while and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her, so I took her out to lunch. As part of catching her up on my news, I told her I had updated my birth certificate and she got a confused look on her face.
“Why did you do that?”
“Um, it’s not my name or gender anymore.”
“But you weren’t born that way.”
Sitting in the restaurant’s bar while she was asking me to speak up every third sentence wasn’t the time or place to tackle the nuance or explain the whole epistemology of the physicality of being trans to her again. Especially since I didn’t want the ladies at the next table to hear my trans life story. So, I swallowed my annoyance.
“It’s important to have my ID match.”
“But you already have your passport and driver’s license. I don’t understand why you need to change your birth certificate.”
Sensing this was her way of saying she missed her son, I backed out of the minefield.
“It’s important to me. How’s the cough?”
The topic drifted to politics, and how I have loose plans to maybe leave the country if things get really weird. I mentioned South America as one potential destination.
“How about Brazil? Do you know if they’re tolerant there?”
I seized on the teachable moment.
“Well…from what little I know, some are very tolerant and others aren’t. Earlier this week a Brazilian trans woman was videoed being pulled out of her house and beaten to death, so it’s a mixed bag. Here in the United States there have been eight or so murders of trans women since the start of the year.
“We’re murdered at a very high rate compared to our population, with trans women of color bearing the brunt of it.”
She didn’t seem to know what to say. I pressed on.
“So, I worry much less than some, but I stay vigilant all the time.”
She changed the subject.
We finished lunch and walked back the three blocks to her place, stopping four times so she could catch her breath. During one of the breaks, I brought up the birth certificate again.
“Does it bother you I changed my birth certificate?”
She looked surprised and cornered, “No, no, no. I just don’t get why you felt you needed to do that.”
“It’s so I don’t get inadvertently outed and discriminated against.”
She stopped to catch her breath. “Outed? What does that mean?”
This surprised me. For some reason, I assumed she knew what it meant.
“It’s when someone I know discloses I’m trans without my permission. I don’t always pass, which means to blend in, and when I’m outed, I’m treated differently.”
“Oh.” She looked somewhat uncomfortable.
“People become cooler to me and it can lead to some really awkward moments or worse if they know I’m trans but I don’t know they know.”
By the look on her face, she’d outed me. Maybe many times. It was not a conversation I wanted to have in an alley.
“Anyway, having my birth certificate line up with my other ID means I worry less.”
“Let’s go.” She waved forward. She must have caught her breath. It was also a convenient way to change the subject.
Back at her place, I helped her boyfriend figure out some sort of cleaning wand he had bought her. As he handed it to me to examine, he deadnamed me, then immediately corrected himself. A minute later my mom referred to me as he, and as I was correcting her, she corrected herself, knowing she’d screwed up.
Not for the first time, I considered having the talk with her about how it’s been almost a year since social transition and two and a half since I came out to her again. It’d be a gentle talk. I know she’s trying.
“I need to go lie down.”
Right on cue. Another day then.
I wished her well, told her to go see the doctor again, and that I loved her as I gave her a hug.
© Heather Coldstream