Today is the First Sunday of Advent for us Episcopalians; it is the beginning of a new Church Year and the conclusion of the old. A time of anticipation of the birth of Jesus, but also the reflection on the return of Jesus and how we should prepare ourselves spiritually. It is a season of love and forgiveness which makes me reflect on those family members who still can not accept me and welcome me into their lives and family units.
I am especially saddened to learn of the death of Mike Penner/Christene Danials, everyone has heard of and commenting on his/her highly visible transition during his time as a sports writer at the LA Times a few years ago. As other sisters and their families know, whether to transition or not, is a very difficult decision; for everyone involved. We know from the stories of other sisters that families usually turn their backs to us; we are kicked aside, or disowned. And I will make the assumption that the majority of sisters and brothers who are struggling with GID have at one time or another, thought about suicide. How easy it would be if we just ended this struggle over depression, fighting with ourselves as to whether or not we should transition by ending our lives quietly and alone. But we are never alone, there are always other who's lives are linked with ours. Anyone experiencing high levels of shame, depression, embarrassment and public humiliation can easily be send someone over the edge to suicide. How easy it would have been for me to just to end my existence and slam my car into a concrete support column of an overhead bridge; or possible swerve into the path of an oncoming truck, and get out of the way of my family’s life. But for me those were just passing thoughts that didn’t happen because I knew that I had much to live for and I could cause the innocent death of others.
We expect so much, and desperately hope family can bring themselves to understand and forgive; an expectation that is froth with disappointment. Knowing that if we transition, future job offers could disappear, friendships we thought were strong and solid, dissolve before our eyes, and members of our family accuse us of deception and fraud because we follow our true instincts. They accuse us of walking out on them and place the blame for their anger in our laps. Our prayers are for them to search for answers, learn to ask the important and right questions; so that they will have a change of heart and seek us out, to reconcile with us. That would be the most precious Christmas gift I would ever have.
We are the first to ask for forgiveness from others, but should we really expect forgiveness from them? I have had some very illuminating post-transition discussions with my daughter whom I love and have only recently reconnected with; partly because she has come to an understanding that our family breaking up was because of a number of issues we refused to face and deal with. She told me, if only I had sat them down and discussed with them that I didn’t know what was happening to me or that I could have taken the time to explained what I was dealing with. They just wanted to be included, but I was afraid of what they would think of me; their father wanting to live as a woman. It would have been very reconciling to have talked about the elephant, my supposed secret out in the open. My daughter wrote the following in a “Father’s Day” card;
“Dad, I know that I never responded to your letter from the fall. I don’t know that I knew how to. I think I always wished you had said simply, “I don’t know!”. It was as simple as the fact that while we didn’t understand what was going on, neither did you. I regret a lot of the times we spent being hateful and resentful to each other. I know now that I can say I love you for who you are. Sometimes, however, I need to remember who you were. If nothing else, I need you to understand that.”
I need to remember where I came from, just as much as she needs to cherish her memories of our family during the happy times. Is it harder to extend forgiveness than to ask that it be returned? I wait and pray that her brothers will soon find the questions to ask that will begin the process of bringing the family back to a place of inner peace, if they know that I miss and love them enough to realize that I respect their distance, but wish for forgiveness and a hug or two.