Elephant in a Tiny Room: A Family "Secret"

A cropped shot of a woman holding a loved one's hand in supporthttp://
A cropped shot of a woman holding a loved one's hand in supporthttp://

I was having dinner with my remarkably intelligent friend Nicole last night at a wonderfully loud Oaxacan restaurant in Koreatown. As we feasted on guacamole with lots of fresh serrano chiles in it, a four-mole sampler plate and freshly hand-made giant flour tortillas, we were feeling good. We'd been to LACMA and seen Robert Mapplethorpe's photos, some exquisite German expressionists and dozens of tiny Netsuke. I was out in jeans, boots and a flowy top with an intelligent female friend. We saw art, and were now having great food; perfect day, pretty much. Things are also great at home; I'm dressing in the house (kids are out of the house now), and my wife told me I looked great before I left; I did.

Nicole, who has sponsored me as a speaker on being trans at several local colleges, really does know me well. When I speak, she's the one who reminds me that they really don't want to hear what "cisgender" means; they just want to hear my whole painfully honest, slutty story. I know how to tell a story; always have.

Nicole bravely tackled the elephant. "So, forgive me for being forward and for asking this so bluntly, but what is keeping you from telling your kids?" I honesty love it when others ask me this; it's just a question I have trouble asking myself. Another close, transitioned trans friend always finds a delicate way to ask me this too; I recognize it as a sign of love.

I'm getting older. I never realized it, but our bodies supply us with a sense of natural optimism, even if our behavior and persona belie that. One can be a "rebel" and "dark" and still feel a certain Pollyannaish conviction that all of one's dearest dreams will somehow come true. Here in the U.S., our restless, ADHD genetics constantly reinforce that message, and we're always told to think young, young, young with a perky exclamation point at the end. I'm turning sixty-five this year; five years from the date my Grandfather's life ended.

I'm not someone who will look heavenward toward the angry desert God of Job and shout "Why!?!" but I'm not above trying to figure out what the fuck it all meant, or even more importantly, what makes me happy. I am faced with what I can do with the time I have left.

I pretty much hit the Lottery in terms of children, so any weepy "I wish I had transitioned at seventeen" thinking is just an indulgent waste of time and emotional energy. I am incredibly proud of who my children are as human beings; even prouder that they, unlike me, are doing what they truly love for a living, rather than something they are merely competent doing. I'm also sure that they have more than a sketchy idea of who I am; they're both pretty damn bright. In fact, they're both wonderful people, so what's my damn problem?

Why haven't I told them? Why hasn't Darya, everyone else's cheerleading Transition Fairy herself, not told her own kids? Such a great question; such a simple problem so easily solved, it would seem. I think the simplest answer is that those two kids are pretty much the only two people other than my spouse that I really give a shit about. I've built my entire identity very much modeled on my mother, which was to be "other person minded;" another way of saying "co-dependent," although it often makes one wildly popular as in "Oh he/she is soooo nice."

Like my mother, I'm a resentful alcoholic/co-dependent beneath all that; I'm in recovery, she never got to be. Get me into any social situation (like my local labor union) and I'm the smiling ambassador of good will, but really, the punk in me wants to see all the internal political shit just fucking burn, and scream "fuck your egos, fuck your poses, fuck your bullshit schemes and especially fuck your bullshit fake-ass phony fronts!!" I can roil, spin and sputter in the drama of it all, but I'd rather be home (if I'm honest) reading one of the great books I never got to read in college, watching a black-and-white film, or writing about my dirty life and times.

However, it's easier to go along to get along, so I'm as fake as they are; something I never quite forgive myself for. I'm scared. I'm scared of losing the only people I truly love. Sound, fury and the ol' soft shoe keep me occupied and distracted, as do the dropping of bon mots on social media, a.k.a. the Whore of Babylon®

As Nicole pointed out to me last night, over chocolate con leche, I have this gigantic heart; my best and worst quality. She and I share some similarities in our family histories which can often lead us to doubt ourselves, obsess about perfection, try and control others and roll ourselves out like doormats at the oddest times.

She asked that, perhaps, the one person who needed to be included within the sphere of my gigantic heart space, to be allowed to flourish and be herself, was me? She scored a point on that one. I keep my "male" identity intact out of abundance of caution and to theoretically minimize disruption in the life of my wife, children, and myself. That said, I'm no less dysphoric than any of my other trans sisters or brothers, just better at repressing it.

I think my meditations might be these:

"Would your children want you to be happy and fulfilled in yourself?"

"Will your life be happier without needing to lie about yourself?"

I keep thinking of the Ten Bulls, the famous Zen parable of seeking enlightenment. An elephant would seemingly be harder to hide than a bull. A wise friend, a former Zen teacher and one of the first to see my giant heart, told me that her meditation as she transitioned was simply "Trust this."

Yes, there's always that.