And now for some family news.
I’m planning to visit my sister next week. It will be the first time we’ve seen one another in two years. Quite a lot has happened in the past two years so that should prove interesting all on its own.
We’ve had an interesting relationship over the course of our lives. She was born two days shy of being exactly five years my junior. Throughout our childhoods everyone insisted we looked so alike we could be twins, except for the age difference. She remembers me as the “nice brother,” in contrast to our mutual older brother, her childhood arch-enemy within the family. As we grew older she had a lot more in common with me than she ever found with the older brother, which lead to a closer relationship between us.
One of the things that has been difficult for her about my transition is that it challenged her notion that we had ever been truly close. She used to think we were, but now she sees that wasn’t true. And she’s right. I couldn’t be truly close to someone without exposing my gender “issues,” and our relationship never really lent itself to that kind of leap of faith.
She’s the baby of the family, accustomed to being the spoiled center of attention. You listen to sisters like that. You talk about their lives and their problems. If you ever start to mention your own problems you discover how quickly they turn the conversation back to themselves without even realizing they’ve done it. That’s charming when they’re little. Often exasperrating when they’ve grown up. But it has also proven extremely awkward when it came to my transition. There was no denying that this was big news that deserved attention, but she had little ability to communicate with me on such a basis. As a result, despite her often stated intention, we haven’t spoken much about it. And at times that has been a bit of a barrier between us.
She was the very first family member I came out to. I had hoped at the time, and still hope now, that we can become closer. I could really use a sister who was more to me than a Christmas card and occasional phone call. But quite often she felt uncomfortable standing up for me when my parents were in the midst of denial. She has a very hard time standing up to our mother, and so when my mother was at her coldest toward me some of that bled into our interactions. At that time she said some pretty hurtful things to me which are hard to forget. But I’m going to try. If transition teaches one lesson louder and clearer than any other it’s a lesson about second chances and the opportunity to change.
Besides our kids get along wonderfully. I’ve missed the ability to get my kids together with their cousins. This is also an opportunity for that. Her youngest just turned three years old, and has never known me as anything other than Aunt Diana, though so far we’ve only spoken on the phone. The other kids have never seen me as their aunt before, but they’ve been calling me that on the phone for the past year. That should be a fun reunion in its own sake.
Anyway, the trip will be a short one. She doesn’t live that far away (in Neenah, Wisconsin – oddly and coincidentally a former destination spot for gender reassignment surgery, performed by the now retired Dr. Eugene Schrang). If the weather doesn’t cooperate (always a possibility in the Upper Midwest this time of year) we’ll probably put it off a couple more weeks and try again. But I think this trip means too much to me to put off much longer.