Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Family and the Trans Woman

I have been thinking a lot about this (I think a lot about a lot of things, some would suggest I think about things too much).  Here is why it hurts, and here is what is missing.

In every life there are relationships.  There are a few distinct types of relationships that are important for a person's mental health.  In a startlingly excellent book on the subject of belonging, Joseph Myers writes about some of these.  He breaks relationships (or perhaps it was friendships… it has been a long time since I read the book) into four types – public, social, personal, and intimate.  Again, forgive my lapse if this is not completely accurate, but his descriptions essentially are as follows.  Public relationships are those in which you may know each other’s names but little more.  Social relationships are the types you build at social events.  Personal relationships are ones in which you share slightly more detailed information about yourself - the ones in which you might talk about your problems, and the intimate relationships are “naked and unashamed.”  Simple enough?  Myers suggests that one of the most important relationships for personal well being is the social relationship, because those are where you reinforce your positive self-image.  I will link the work at the end of the post if you are interested.  If you want a deeper explanation (and a better understanding of why I agree with him), go read it.

I think there are other distinctions that are important, though, and I am only recently learning this.  Relationships can be defined in terms of depth of information sharing, but I think longevity is another important element.  This is where family comes into play.  In our lives, there are people we have known for "a while," and there are people we have known “forever.”  Generally, those people we have known "forever" are family.  I can interpret a relationship in many ways.  I can say that my relationship with someone is intimate, but what is that when my common experience with that person is limited to just “a while” in my life?  Are not the most intimate of intimate relationships those ones in which your mutual memory has no conscious beginning?  Are those not the people who truly know you, and whom you truly know?

So, our tightest, strongest, and most intricate bond is with those people with whom we have been close “forever.”  Set your emotions aside and think about it.  Is it not true that there are people in your life with whom you share more commonality and history than those people whom you have chosen to call intimate?  I am not faulting the self-proclaimed intimate relationship; I am simply suggesting that there are some relationships in which the intimacy is not chosen but instinctive.  Those are the people who truly know you.  They get you.

But that is the problem for a trans-woman.  Many of us have lived a lifetime with those relationships only to arrive at some point to the revelation that those people who have always known us, those people with whom we have always shared the most naturally, do not, in fact, know us at all.  In a single sentence, an entire history – an entire common existence is unraveled.  Suddenly, we have no instinctively, naturally, unrestrained intimate relationship at all.  Place the blame where you like; I do not believe there is one.  The people, our families, on the other end of that sentence learn suddenly that everything they thought they knew is not.  We suddenly face the fact that we are a stranger to the people we have known “forever.”

It is enough to make a girl cry.  And the people who used to share those tears no longer exist in her world.

It is a train of thought, people.  I am not proofreading or editing; I apologize if it is sloppy… you got an update, so there.

Peace and much hippy talk,

The book: