No Regrets

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From the moment I came out to my parents nearly six months ago, I have known that it was simply a matter of time until the final confrontation would begin.

That confrontation started last night.

And it is going to be very ugly.


My parents have been in willful denial since I told them that early June day.

My brother and sister-in-law at least, have never made any attempt to hide their feelings. They do not "approve," as they informed me, and were explicit in their contempt for both my decision and, as they put it, "my lifestyle."

As I have come to realize, after a lifetime of my brother being told, both in words and actions, that he is their favorite, it is not surprising that he, and by extension his wife, simply assume their superiority (hence the "approval" remark).  Nor is it surprising that their sole focus is on how this affects them, since that is also the sole focus of my parents.

My parents, however, are not as open about their true feelings.

I can only speak directly about my mother. My father, as is his way, has never spoken about it since that day. Nor, for that matter, have we really spoken about anything else.

That is a longstanding pattern. He has those conversations with my brother, and only my brother. It is not for nothing that I was always introduced by him as "my other son."

I can assume, however, that her thinking reflects his. Or at least what thinking I can deduce from the passive-aggressive, borderline hostile remarks she makes. It is, I have come to realize, the only way she knows how to communicate her true feelings.

The tone varies according to her mood; the darker the mood, the nastier the tone. ("When are you telling work you've decided you're a woman?" is a representative example.)

I now see that this is part of a game, one that has been played my entire life. She makes a provocative comment like that, to goad me into a response. When I do, she drops the hammer, putting me in my place with a reply far nastier than her initial salvo.

The entire point of those exercises was to establish exactly where I stood - or didn't stand - in her estimation.

The short version: I was a disappointment, in every way. She, and by extension my father, both could and would put me in my place anytime they saw fit. Establishing their superiority, and my inferiority, was paramount.

My sense of self came from trying desperately to please them - an impossibility, because they are people who can never be pleased. Because pleasing them would mean I was their equal. And that was not then, and never will be, allowed.

Accordingly, approval became a shifting target - a shifting, unattainable target. They established that target, as well as the rules that governed reaching it.

I was never informed of either the goals or the rules; that was part of the game. And it ensured that nothing I ever did was going to be good enough.

I now see how this pattern has repeated itself in my life, over and over and over.

It applies to the girls to whom I was attracted, girls I knew deep down would turn me down. That was what I wanted, as a wise therapist helped me understand; it was a twisted way of paying homage to my parents.

And of course the one time someone was interested in me, I simply had no way of processing it. Thanks to my wonderful therapist M, I can now see that there was really no way I could have done so at the time. I had no experience with anyone in my life that would allow me to believe someone would actually be interested in, let alone accept, me for me (even if I was in total denial of who I was at that time).

I can also see now that it applies to my career, and why so many of my jobs have been so stressful - including, until very recently, my current job.

I was once again, unwittingly placed in a situation in which nothing I did was ever going to be good enough.

Once again, I want to make absolutely clear this does not include my wonderful manager L, my fellow friends and writers B, R, and S, nor the people on my team with whom I work directly every day. It only applies to one or two people.

I could - and literally did - work so hard trying to do the impossible that  I wound up in the hospital. And for nothing. The people I was trying to please could not, and cannot, be pleased. Ever.

As a side note, the reaction of my parents after my collapse illustrates why I have been able to predict how they will respond at each step of my coming out process. I alluded to this at the time, but I see no reason not to share it now.

Upon regaining consciousness, I gave my sister's name as my emergency contact (it had been my father). Even in my dazed state, I knew who was on my side, and who was not.

When I got home that night, my father gave me a stern lecture of the "I-told-you-so" variety. It was what I expected.

My mother had been away that night on a brief vacation with my aunt. Upon her return, I remember  speaking with my friends T and J on the telephone, and telling them I was going in to receive my tongue lashing from my mother.

I was, once again, correct.

She repeated my father's "we-told-you-this-would-happen" speech - then went further.

She tore apart my personal appearance.

She said I wore the same few shirts every single week.

She criticized how long my hair was, saying it looked awful.
She told me my nails were far too long for a boy.

(As a friend - I believe it was S - noted at the time, it is telling that her two criticisms were both directly related to my transition.)

And finally, she criticized me for falling asleep at a cookout at my brother's house with my family and some of his neighbors the weekend before my collapse.

"You barely spoke a word to anyone the entire time," she chided. "F and T had to have been terribly embarrassed."

"No," I remember thinking as she spoke. "You were embarrassed. Because people outside the family might think you weren't perfect." 

Not once did either of them express sympathy of any kind.

Nor did they ask if anything was going on in my life that I wanted to tell them.

Nor did they ask if there was anything they could do to help.

That was what I expected.

And that is what I got.

As I have written in the past, they are utterly predictable: they are concerned with how something affects them, and what other people will think about it.

I knew, and expected, this.

Because it had gone on my entire life.

But now something had fundamentally changed:

Me.

I no longer took my entire sense of self from how my parents were feeling about me at that particular moment.

I realized (eventually) that nothing I do will ever be enough - a lesson I learned, oddly enough, at work.

My friends D and J there made it clear to me that I - we - can only do what we can do.

We cannot make up for years of neglect that took place before any of us were there.

We cannot do what used to require a team four times our size by ourselves.

 We can only do our best to fix what we can in the time we have allotted.

Most of all, they, and my manager L, reiterated that the only people whose opinion truly matters were my peers. And they all respect me for what I do, and for caring.

That is more than enough for me, I have come to realize.

I can control what I can control. No more, no less.

I push myself to do the very best I can.

And I hold my head high afterwards.

I am much better at this now.

I know who I am.

I like who I am.

And no one else is going to take that away from me again.

No one.

Not even my family.

***

That leads to last night.

I realize this next passage is repeated from a recent post, but it is important to me that I make it explicit again.

On the day that I told them, I offered a number of ways for my mother and father to be part of my journey.

I said I was happy to answer any questions they had.

They had none.

I offered to pay for one or more sessions with my therapist, without me there, with me there, or any combination - until they were comfortable.

They declined.

I told them I had purchased multiple copies of True Selves for them, my brother and sister-in-law, and anyone else who might want to read it.

They were not interested. In my mother's words, "I know all about this. It's on TV all the time."

I invited them to dinner at my house, as I have done countless times in the past.

As they have always done, they provided an excuse for why the would not be available.

(In the twenty-plus years since I moved from their home, I can count the number of times they have visited me - including moving days - on my fingers, with leftovers.)

I said that all of those offers are standing. They are good if and when they decide to accept any of them.

They have not.

Nor did I expect that.

It is, quite simply, what I have known, what I expected, and what I still expect.

They are, I have realized, utterly consistent, and utterly predictable.

I learned this the hard way.

I finally put aside what I wished - what I longed - they would say and do. Instead, I took a long, hard, honest look at what they did say and what they did do. (Or, more often, what they did not say and do.)

Once I did, I realized that what has been going on my entire life is a game.

A game in which the prize is to win their approval.

The problem is, the game was rigged.

The rules changed to suit their needs.

So did the goal posts, or the finish line, or whatever metaphor indicates completion, and success.

I had no control over any of this.

All I could do was play the game, one I could never win.

Until now.

Now I realize that the way to deal with is simple:

Refuse to play the game.

Their approval and support should not be subject to a never-ending test.

But since that is how they have chosen to handle it… then I no longer accept those conditions.

Much as I would welcome their approval and support, I no longer need it.

I made the progress I have made with the invaluable, unstinting support and love of my sister, my nephew, my manager L and my friends S, B, R, and others at work, my friends both online and offline, my therapist M, my electrologist M, and my doctor, J.

Their support is not conditional.

It simply is.

Knowing I have that support has made me a far stronger person.

That strength was reinforced to me last night.

***

I was winding down my day at the office when my phone buzzed. It was a text message from my mother.

She asked how things were going with my transition plans at work.

Fine, I replied.

Her next message arrived:

"What about Christmas here?"

I had been head down writing for a long stretch, and thus was not clearly focused. I didn't understand what she was asking.

"Sorry?" I replied. "If you mean am I coming up there, then yes, of course."

Her reply arrived a moment later.

"<my boy name>, how r u going to be dressed at christmas."

I immediately recognized the barely concealed anger and hostility.

I shook my head in amazement.

On the day I told them, my father immediately noted that my brother and sister-in-law were going to have a hard time with this.

It was at that moment that I made certain I was crystal clear about what fill-time meant.

I told them that full-time means just that: full-time. I do not switch back and forth between "him" and me. I explained that this was not open to negotiation. I was telling them what was going to happen; they could choose to respond as they see fit.

My mother has been in total denial since I told her. I suspect my father has too.

My therapist M was, and is, baffled by their behavior.

"Do they think they can just ignore this and make it go away?" she asked me recently.

I replied that I suspect they simply don't believe I will actually do it. Or that it is simply a phase.

They have consistently underestimated me. The clearest example is when I moved to Seattle. I told them for well over a year that I was doing it. I visited there several times to get a feel for the city in different seasons, to do some practice interviews, and, finally, to rent an apartment.

After all that, and after quitting my job here, giving up the lease on my apartment, and giving away all of my furniture… they still thought I would never do it. Not until the day I left did it sink in, I believe.

My friend T told me while I was out there that it explained why they never visited me: they couldn't. It would shatter their illusion of the box in which they had placed me. It was easier to simply ignore reality and pretend nothing had changed.

Just like last night.

My reply to her query about Christmas was swift.

"I'm coming as myself. Cassidy. I am going full-time on December 13th. Not just at work, but in my life."

I refrained from adding, "like I told you."

Once again her reply was precisely what I expected:

"Who have u told this to? Not our family."

When I told them, my mother asked if she could tell my Aunt M, her twin. I was fine with that. My father began making noises about how he knew other people were going to say ignorant things, and so on.

I interrupted him.

"Quite honestly, I don't give a f*** what the majority of them think of me," I said. "Approve, disapprove, who gives a damn? I see them once a year, if that. If they don't like it, well, that's their problem, not mine."

And that is still how I feel. My mother, quite clearly, does care. A great deal.

I replied that I had told them, my sister, my nephew, and F and T. No one else in the family.

I mentioned that I was hoping to tell my Aunt B on Thanksgiving.

Please don't, she replied. This is a delicate time in our family. She won't understand.

She is badly underestimating my Aunt B, I suspect, but I said fine.

It was her comment about it being "a delicate time" that was telling.

F and T, I am all but certain, are going to refuse to invite me as myself to any events at their house - such as their annual Christmas Eve party.

And they are going to refuse to come to any events if I am there as myself.

And they will use my nieces as blackmail.

I know just how this is going to play out.

She is going to ask for a "compromise."

I will agree not to show up as myself at any family events.

And F and T will deign to appear.

I have seen this coming from the day I told them, and F and T.

They know I am going to refuse.

What will happen next?

The blame game.

I will be told that I never told them I would be myself all the time.

I wasn't honest about what was going on.

I am selfish, and (as my sister-in-law so rudely put it) "have never given a thought to how this affects people other than [my]self."

I know this with almost 100% certainty.

And I am ready for it.

Quite honestly, I want all of this over with.

They want the problem - me - to just go away.

By making me a deal they know I will not accept, they get what they want.

They get to be the victims (we tried!)

They get rid of myself, my sister, and my nephew.

And, best of all for them, they get my brother all to themselves - the only "good" one.

If that is, indeed, how this plays out, I am ready to move forward.

I just want it over with.

I do not have the time or the energy to waste on this.

If they cannot see fit to find a way to join me as I finally, joyously, begin to live as myself, then the loss is entirely theirs.

This will not stop me.

They will not stop me.

Nothing is going to stop me.

I am going to live as myself.

Proudly.

And with no regrets.

***

This has been a very somber post, so I thought I would end with a bit of levity.

I stopped off after work last night for my iced coffee, as I always do. After that confrontation with my mother, the friendly chit-chat with my friends who work at this Starbucks was most welcome.

Lately I have been noticing that people seem to be either looking at me a bit longer than you would expect, or to take a second look, or to surreptitiously sneak a glance at me.

Since I was in boy mode each time, I attributed these moments to people wondering why this guy had such long hair and/or fingernails.

(Several friends have suggested I write a post about my nails, in fact, which I find amusing enough that I will do it!)

I learned that last night, at least, this was not the case.

There are several regulars I see at this Starbucks, just as there no doubt are at any coffee shop. In this case, two of the regulars are young women (I would guess early twenties) who seem to stop in after yoga at another building in this complex.

One of the baristas there, who knows about me, came over shortly after they left, her face glowing with pleasure.

"I had to wait for them to leave to tell you this," she said, grinning.

"Tell me what?" I asked.

"Do you ever notice them checking you out?" she asked.

I admitted I had not.

"That's what I thought - you look like that type," she said. (She is correct, it would seem. :-p)

"Anyway, when they were paying for their coffee after they came in, one of them gestured for me to come closer so they could ask me a question."

"Okay," I said. "What was the question."

Her grin widened.

"They wanted to know why that cute girl (ed note: their words, not mine!) tries to dress like a guy."

I began to laugh.

"Seriously?"

"Totally." she said. "And then her friend said, 'she seems really nice. I wish someone would tell her she isn't fooling anyone.'"

"I told them I'd bring it up with you," she said.

And so she did!

***

Here's a classic from Tom Rush, one of the original artists who took part in the folk music boom in the early Sixties, alongside contemporaries such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Judy Collins, and countless others. This is from his classic 1968 album, The Circle Game.


This was filmed in 1968 at the time of the album's release, and has been cited as one of the first music videos.

He recorded "The Circle Game" before Joni Mitchell, who wrote it, even had a recording contract, if I'm not mistaken. He also recorded two James Taylor songs and one from Jackson Browne, again several years before either of them would issue their debut albums. It is a wonderful album.

He still going strong today, I might add. He released a wonderful album several years ago, and is still a warm, funny performer. On top of all that, he is a neighbor; he lives in New Hamsphire, as he has for decades. Always nice to support one of the locals... :c)

14 comments:

April on November 27, 2013 at 10:18 PM said...

I know how it hurts to be excluded from part of one's family, especially as the Christmas season approaches.

But you have your sister and nephew on your side and so many friends that recognize your bravery and strength of character.

So proud of you sis.

Cassidy on November 27, 2013 at 10:22 PM said...

Thank you hon. Yes, I guess we both understand this feeling all too well now, don't we?

I would tell you the same thing you just told me: do not underestimate your own courage, determination, and tenacity, sweetie. You are an inspiration (your "shirtless Dick Cheney" fascination aside, that is). :c)

Thank you again, hon!

Hugs & love,
Cass

April on November 27, 2013 at 11:09 PM said...

was that "shirtless Dick Cheney" dig a hint at what you want for Christmas

Cassidy on November 27, 2013 at 11:13 PM said...

Make it a "shirtless Harry Reid" and you can cross me off your list.

Leslie Ann on November 28, 2013 at 2:24 AM said...

Cassidy, my heart aches for you. I keep seeing Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People." Only Hutton is decidedly more feminine. It is all about control.

Please don't let this play out. The preemptive strike stops their game in its tracks. Don't wait to be rejected; reject them first. The best Christmas present you could give yourself, aside from being full-time, is to divorce these awful, toxic monsters that masquerade as your family.

You don't have to be a martyr.

My two cents, and worth less than that.

With much love,
Leslie

Stace on November 28, 2013 at 6:26 AM said...

Sorry to hear what you are going through - that's just unpleasant.

Keep your chin up, and know that what you are doing is for you, and you alone. I know that when I started this path the only other person I gave consideration to was Mrs Stace. Of course I wanted to make it easier on my parents if I could, but not at the expense of me.

Stace

Calie on November 28, 2013 at 11:38 AM said...

Oh my...... I am just so pissed. I wrote a book of a comment and Blogger ate it for Thanksgiving. Wrote you an email instead.

Cassidy on November 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM said...

D'oh! Stupid Blogger! I will read it right now. Thank you hon. :) Love you!

Hugs,
Cass

Cassidy on November 28, 2013 at 6:39 PM said...

@ Leslie: Thank you very much, hon.

You are totally correct: it is about control. It always has been. And I must confess: I have considered your point about simply moving on. But after much consideration, I realized I need to take a different approach.

From the moment I told my family, I have been determined to take the high road. I want to know that I held myself to the highest possible level of conduct, and that I made every effort to include them in my transition. How they chose to react, and how they have chosen to conduct themselves, is entirely up to them.

When this is over - and it will be over soon, one way or the other - it is going to be on *my* terms, not theirs. I am going to be able to say that I offered them every possible opportunity right up until the end, and they chose to reject them all. They will be solely responsible - even though they will never admit it, of course. But I will know. And that is all that matters.

So it really is all about control. Only now I am in control. Not them.

BTW, Ordinary People is a wonderful film. And so, so real. Painfully real. Every one of the actors were brilliant, especially Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore. He was so vulnerable he was nearly translucent, while she was a monster behind her perfect facade.

I always think of the scene when she throws out his pancakes, and the expression on Donald Sutherland's face when he realizes he has to choose between his wife and his son. Unforgettable. I also feel fortunate that I have had a series of therapists as compassionate and caring as Judd Hirsch's character.

Thank you again, Leslie.

@ Stace: Thank you as well.

Like all of us, I reached a point where I had no choice: I *had* to transition. I could not, would not, go any further living a lie. I spent most of the past two-plus years dealing with the impact this would have on people in my life; that was why my sister-in-law's snide comment was so insulting. After nearly twenty years, that was what she thought of me. Shame on her.

I totally agree with you. I will not sacrifice my life to please those who can never be pleased.

Thank you again, hon - for your friendship, and for being such a wonderful role model on how to conduct myself. :c)

Hugs,
Cass

Jessica Lyn on December 4, 2013 at 12:55 AM said...

Sorry I missed this hun. :( Some of the things you said about how your family (especially your mother) will or has reacted feels just about how my mom is.

"Do they think they can just ignore this and make it go away?" - I think that pretty much sums up my mom. And mostly I'm blame I think for not talking about it enough.. maybe she thinks I wont go through with it. Anyway, we're talked about that before so no reason to go on about that.

Its just weird the way some friends and family react after telling them.. I mean you could've told them that you were dying and that you'd be gone before xmas and they would have been wanting to spend as much time with you as possible, but instead you just tell them that you want to live as your true self and you will be looking as dressing different and wanting them to call you by a different name.. and they almost want nothing to do with you and would probably rather have you dead than to see you or call you by your new name. WTF People!?

Well.. I guess I don't have any words of encouragement.. nor do I think you need them. All I'm going to say is that your sister and nephew sure seem to be the best part of your family.. so I'd focus on them. Spend time with them, invite them to a nice dinner at your place, go shopping with your sis and buy that nephew of yours something nice.

Jessica Lyn on December 4, 2013 at 1:01 AM said...

Okay now that was weird.. it repeated my comment about a dozen times. But I deleted them. Hopefully this comment doesn't get posted that many times as well.

Cassidy on December 5, 2013 at 9:44 PM said...

Hi Jess,

Thank you for the comment, hon. Your third paragraph sums things up perfectly. This is something to celebrate, not condemn. Being accused by them of not bothering to consider other people… kettle, meet pot. Sigh.

My sister and nephew are keepers. :) So are my friends - offline and on. (That means you too, hon!) And it is their reaction that matters to me moving forward. Because I am moving forward - full speed ahead. :D

Thanks again, hon!

Hugs,
Cass

P.S. Blogger certainly has its quirks, doesn't it? A friend told me Blogger decided to use a long comment she had written to this post for its Thanksgiving meal. lol So you are not alone.

bashashhazbaz on December 9, 2013 at 2:52 PM said...

wow! that is quite the post! well at least those folks are checking you out! that's a good thing!

Cassidy on December 9, 2013 at 10:56 PM said...

My life has been… eventful, it is fair to say. I am looking forward to being full-time and (hopefully) things settling down.

I'm afraid my anecdote about the two girls at the coffee shop was a bit less clear than it should have been. They were being complimentary, but I guess that didn't quite come across. So I just wanted to clarify that for the record. ;-p

Thanks!

== Cass

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