Ah the sweet taste of exclusion. I had almost allowed myself to forget. That’s a dangerous tendency often born of complacency in the wake of a successful transition.
This weekend marks the first time I have been officially excluded from a family gathering. Family from all over the country traveled to my town to celebrate a wedding. They all received invitations. I received a personal note telling me, in gracious terms, why I was not invited.
I have declined to attend some recent family events, mostly because I was worried about stealing focus from the events’ intended honorees (with a family spread across the country, my coming out was a remote activity, so my re-appearance was bound to cause a stir of some kind). But in those cases at least I was invited, and my schedule as much as my intent would have prevented me from attending regardless. This is the first time a formal barrier was erected explicitly to keep me out.
It’s a jarring disconnect from my everyday life. I’m not accustomed to living as a second-class citizen. My friends don’t treat me like one. Nor do my neighbors. Nor the parents of our kids’ friends. Nor their school. Nor my co-workers. None of these people seem ashamed to be associated with me.
And that gets at the heart of what hurts in this case. In places where I’ve been given a chance, I thrive. People go out of their way to let me know how much they value me. Some of them know my history. Some of them don’t. Once the awkwardness of transition subsided, it really hasn’t mattered.
But in my family it’s another story. In that case people still go out of their way to let me know, in various ways, that they’re ashamed of me. The fact that I have changed from a suicidally depressed wreck, into a happy and successful person is ignored. The fact that the former was a straight man, and the latter a queer woman seems too much of an impediment to overcome.
I realize now I’ve been living in a bit of a bubble. I don’t get mis-gendered in public any longer. I no longer worry about going to places I would have previously avoided out of shame or fear. I live in an area of the country which is abnormally LGBT-friendly. As a result, I’m unaccustomed to being singled out as “different” let alone unwelcome.
Things have changed for me over the past year. I’m no longer living the life of a shame-filled trans person newly hatched from my closet. Now I’m living my life as Diana. Period. The fact that I’m married to another woman is a problem I’ll let the bigots to seethe over. I simply enjoy the love of my spouse and our children. I enjoy my friends, my work, and am finally rekindling old hobbies that fulfill me creatively. I’ve got a pretty good life going… finally! And knowing how close I came to ending it all… well it colors the whole world brighter, and makes me appreciate life all the more.
I’m not sure my life has room for family members who seem, intentionally or not, to view me as the miserable, wretched creature I felt myself to be while in the closet. That’s not me. And I don’t play along with that role any more.
What’s more, I’m not willing to associate with anyone, no matter how closely we might be related, if they expect me to assume a second-class role. I’m not ashamed of who I am. In fact, now that I truly know who I am, I have come to believe I’m a pretty cool person.
Unlike most others, I had to walk through hell just to become myself. I threw open the doors to my darkest fears and most shameful secrets… and then I broadcast them to the whole world. I offered my heart on a platter to anyone who wanted to take a stab – and believe me, I felt every dagger. Then I rebuilt myself from the bloody remains, showing the world who I had been inside all along, with no promise that anyone other than myself would accept the person I finally became. The experience nearly killed me. But I finally made it through.
My family may not understand that journey. They’re sure as hell not proud of me for it. But that really doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dignity they can’t touch. I’ve got love in my life their blood can’t match.
Sometimes, unbeknownst those who would exclude, they’re not really keeping others out. They’re keeping themselves in. Which side of the line sounds like freedom?