Well, well, well. All the best-laid-plans and well-kept-secrets. I believe there is a Yiddish expression that sums it up nicely – “man tracht un Gott lacht” – “man plans, and God laughs”- meaning, “Despite our most careful planning, the road of life is unpredictable”. It doesn’t get much truer than that. I have been quite controlled (no surprise there) about with whom, and when, and whether I have or have not shared my trans-journey. My intended path one of self-selected privacy bordering on secrecy. I do realize how antithetical it is to maintain a public blog while simultaneously keeping something so monumental secret in real-time daily life. But that is how I have chosen to do things. For better or for worse.
Just like I don’t plan on doing a big *gender reveal* at work, I have never spoken with my family (with the exception of telling my mother) about being transgender. No one in Emily’s family knows and no one in my family of origin knows. This has been intentional on my part. Perhaps I’m wrong (I have been known to be on more than one occasion), but I can’t imagine any of them really understanding. And while I have no doubt they would accept me and continue to love me, I feel like they would simply *humor me*, dealing with me as if I were addled and unscrewed rather than attempting or being able to get it on any real level. I have no wish to charter that course at any rate. Nor do I have a wish to attempt to convince them otherwise. It has seemed easier to me to maintain a *don’t ask don’t tell* sort of policy and keep a low profile.
This has, like any decision, had repercussions. I see my family in person less than I used to in order to avoid questions about my changing appearance, demeanor and being. I do sometimes play hockey with one of my cousins and of course we share a locker-room. Whether she notices changes or not, we don’t engage in conversation about it. She doesn’t ask. I don’t tell. And I have no idea if I am a topic of conversation between her and the rest of the family (though I highly doubt it given that this part of my family is not gossipy at all). Once in a blue moon my uncle will call me and say, “Hey! Long time no see!” or I will send him or my aunt a text saying hi. We talk of getting together more, but we all lead busy lives and have a lot on our individual plates, and with one thing or another it never comes to be. And that is the extent of it.
On a whim, I recently invited my aunt and uncle to one of Joita’s final basketball games. I realized that one of the last games of the season (and Joita’s senior year in high school) was going to take place in their neck of the woods. So without thinking too much about it, I sent them a text inviting them. They were thrilled to have been invited and happily accepted. I got there early and coincidentally so did my aunt, and we parked side by side. She motioned for me to join her in her car and I did. We were both aware we had time to kill and we hadn’t seen one another in ages.
After brief pleasantries and check ins, my aunt said, “Guess who your uncle and I had dinner with the other night?” I swear, time stopped. In one part of my brain I had no idea (nor did I particularly care), unable to even guess who they had dinner with. But in another part of my brain (clearly the part where guilt and anxiety resides) I felt the whoosh and pounding of my heart, blocking my ears and making my breath catch in my throat. Red flashing warning lights coupled with the computer voice of the robot from Lost In Space shouting, “Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!” Her tone of voice said it all. I’d been caught out at something. When she said their names I knew the jig was up. They were old family friends. Friends of my parents actually. And though our families grew apart and have not had contact in probably 30 years, I know one of them follows this blog.
Before I could respond, my aunt’s body shifted so that she was facing the windshield, away from looking at me, and she launched into, “You wouldn’t believe the things he had to say about you! Crazy, ridiculous stuff! Something about you having a blog (said with eye-rolling mockery)?! And… HORmones (mockery crossing the line between dismay, disbelief or derision)??? And trans-whatever?! Just crazy talking shit. And he was very judgmental about it I’ll have you know. And I told him, I said, ‘I don’t think so. Because I think I know my niece better than that.’ And really I just got very defensive.”
The silent pause that followed as she trailed off and I sat without comment was the sound of a glacial mass shattering, like a canon going off in my face in slow-motion. Deafeningly the longest 7 seconds I have known. I found that I, too, was sitting facing forward, avoiding eye-contact without the awareness of having moved. “I guess he didn’t mention my bread baking?” I offered awkwardly.
I think she was as grateful as I was for the non-sequitur. “No,” she said, “But he did say how much you hate your mother. And I told him, ‘You know something, she has every right to hate that woman. That woman is pure evil’ is what I said.” Back on less shaky, more common ground, I jumped at the chance to change the subject. We talked for a minute or two about the latest news on my mother and brother (who was back in jail). Still, the conversation (if you could call it that) was stilted and awkward. We both were a bit shaken. She would have bet her life that not one iota of it was true. And she expected me to immediately and loudly jump in, interrupt and join her in her derisive persiflage of disbelief. But how could I? Every iota of it is true.
I can only imagine the drive home after dinner that night. My aunt and uncle unnerved and unsettled by the evening’s revelations as they fought to reconcile what they thought they knew of me and what they had heard. And of course I can all too easily imagine the flood and progression of their emotions. I felt guilty sitting there in my aunt’s car. I expect she and my uncle were baffled and confused. Closely followed by hurt. It’s isn’t like we haven’t been close or that we don’t have a lot of love between us. How could they not have been hurt by my refusal to share something so important with them?
Sitting in the car with my aunt, we both stammered, stuttered and stumbled through cotton-filled mouths gone suddenly dry, the windows steaming in the cold evening air by our anxiety-infused breathing. It was like having a conversation with a time delay. She would start a sentence and I would interrupt and talk over her and apologize and she would interrupt me and apologize and no real words were spoken. No complete sentences were formed. After several fits and stops, there was another uneasy silence. “So…. should we head in?” I said as nonchalantly as I could muster.
My uncle joined us as we entered the school building. We sat uncomfortably in the bleachers (which everyone knows are uncomfortable to begin with) and attended scrupulously to the game neither my aunt or I actually followed. After the game we walked back out to our cars, not lingering in the chilly night air. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
I paused in the parking lot and watched them drive away. “Well that went well I think” I said to myself.