Monday, March 18, 2013

A Deal with the Devil

A Deal with the Devil

Right before I transitioned, I made a deal with the devil. Like most deals with the devil I did it knowingly because I thought it was the best thing to do. Like most deals with the devil, it turned out to be more bitter than I expected. And like most deals with the devil it ultimately involved a loss of hope.

Last September I made a journey back home on a special mission. It was a difficult task, and I had my spouse along for support. It was potentially life changing, the hardest thing I'd ever do. At age 56 I was going to tell my parents that I was transgender... that the third member of what my mother always proudly referred to as "my boys" was really a girl, and always had been, always would be.

I expected this to be hard. My parents were getting so old and frail that I doubted their ability to grasp what I told them. But still, I hoped that they would try... I was their child, right?  I'd always done my best to be a good kid... I knew that if it were my child I'd want to know. I'd try to understand. And ultimately I'd do my best to to support them. My parents had raised me, they had helped me form those values, so they would do the same for me, right?

Unfortunately I never found out. Before I told them, I told my oldest brother. I think I was hoping for an ally, for someone to say that whatever I had to do, I should at least be honest. I was hoping for someone to stand by me, to accept me as I was.

Instead I was offered a deal with the devil. Why upset the old folks? Why force them to face a truth that would make them so unhappy? The unspoken message was that they wouldn't be able to deal with something as terrible and disgusting as the truth of who their child was. And in turn my other brother joined in. Knowing who I was would be an unbearable burden of guilt for my parents, something that would literally kill them.

Am I really such a monster? Apparently I am. And such is the power of family that coming from the older brothers I so looked up to as a child, that judgement immediately transported me back to the child who knew, absolutely, dreadfully knew, that the truth would mean I was no longer loved. Like most deals with the devil, it exploited my deepest fears and doubts about myself.

So I made that deal. I told myself it was for the best, that I was being unselfish, putting the comfort of my aged parents first. That was noble, right? To do otherwise would be unbearably selfish, right? And they were so frail, that if I told them, suppose the shock caused a death? Or what if they died before they accepted it and we came to peace?

And yet... As I thought of their character, the values they instilled in me, I kept thinking they'd want to know. I was their child and they loved me. They were proud of me and wanted me to be happy and whole. How could they not want to see me as I was? I kept hoping and telling myself they'd want to support me, that from the perspective of 90+ years, they'd rather have a real, if somewhat unexpected, child who was happy in her life and own skin than a miserable mockery.

But the deal was done. Less than 2 months after I made that deal my mother was dead. Less than 4 months after that, my father had passed. In less than 6 months the devil had taken his due.

While even one of them was alive there was hope. There was the hope that somehow they'd find out.... that they'd think about it and then let me know that it was okay, that they still loved me. In my wildest fantasies they'd even acknowledge that I was more 'right' now than before. Clearly these scenarios were unlikely, but while they were alive they were possible. At least there was hope.

Once they died, that hope was lost. I suppose it shouldn't matter. I suppose I should continue to tell myself that I chose correctly, that it was a good cause. And yet... it feels wrong. They never had the chance to give me that most important piece of love and support. They never had the chance to be there when I needed them most. Somehow I can't believe they would think that was the right choice.

I was sold that choice, urged to make that deal with the devil by those I trusted. When I was small I looked up to them so, and on some level I suppose that feeling never goes away. And yet, when I needed them, they let me down. They haven't been there for me at all, nor have they even tried to show understanding or acceptance. In short, they behaved exactly as my childhood self had feared... "if anyone ever knows, they won't love you anymore." It's hard to describe the absolute desolation that thought brings a child, even the child that still lives inside the adult.

Those old fears made me complicit in my own damnation. They conspired to steal my hope. Like most deals with the devil. And I had chosen to go along and trade hope away for nothing. Like most deals with the devil.

In memoriam: 

Howard Ceder, July 20, 1921 - March 17, 2013
Eunice Ceder, August 27, 1922 - November 22, 2012

I love you both and I hope you're at peace. 
But I wish I knew that you still  loved me. 
For who I really am.