We All Die Alone

Here’s my Belated Blog Against Heteronormativity Post. Go here for all the others.

When I told my mother I was bisexual, she said, “That’s nice! You’re flexible.”

I think my parents think they’ve lucked out. In fact, they’ve used those words. They were raised by four people who probably wouldn’t have considered divorce under any circumstances, and certainly not for little things like incompatibility. My mother was raised severely Catholic. She told me recently that even now, lapsed though she is, she still has trouble thinking of any spouse but the first spouse as the “real” husband or wife. She has to force herself to say “ex.” As far as her origins were concerned, divorce didn’t even rise to the level of sin; it simply didn’t exist.

My parents were the first generation that started getting divorced all over the place, and they are one of the only couples they know who have not separated to pair up with other people. Growing up, I was one of the only kids I knew whose parents still lived together. My parents seem to see themselves as extremely fortunate to have formed a durable marriage the first time out, like they managed to produce the last of a species that underwent a crucial mutation just a few years later.

They see their children, especially their queer child, as having to negotiate options that are much more complicated. While they do not believe that marriage as it is now is worse or degenerate, they seem to believe that it is harder, and that it carries greater potential for loneliness. Their anxiety about me in particular was inflamed by my shy, bookish, freakish self. I didn’t give them much reassurance that I wouldn’t live a monkish life.

That’s why my mother was gratified to hear that I was bisexual, and why she had been less pleased to hear that I was lesbian as opposed to straight. Fewer lesbian women than straight men equals fewer opportunities for her precious baby to find the loving partner [he] deserves. Bisexuality offers better odds.

When I told them that I was transsexual, they panicked. Although they had countless worries about transition, the biggest one was how hard it’d be for me to get anyone to sleep with me. “I’m just worried that, you know, people won’t know what to, people will meet you and they won’t understand how…” accompanied with a vague gesture towards my body. Although they never actually came out and said You’ll be a freak and no one will want you and you’ll die alone! that was the implication.

Obnoxious though these arguments were, I understood completely. I thought I’d never get laid again. It took months of seeing ftms online and thinking, Hey, I want to sleep with that guy! Too bad he’s married! before I finally convinced myself that life as a transsexual wouldn’t be long spells of loneliness broken by one-night stands with humiliation.

There was never any question that they would stop loving me. They just think that transsexuals have really crappy odds. They never thought of their kid the transsexual as a lesser person. They were just worried that transsexuality would keep people from seeing their kid for the wonderful person [he] was.

There are a whole lot of problems with this attitude towards tranny eligibility, one of them being the fact that I internalized it myself. But. I know that if I announced to them that I was setting up house with a tg butch leather daddy, a radical nudist, and a weekend yiffer, they would want to know one thing first: “Will you be happy?”

And I appreciate that. I really do.

7 comments for “We All Die Alone

  1. April 23, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    That’s beautiful, and I’m really glad that you have such support from your parents.

    My mom didn’t accept the very idea of bisexuality when I came out to her; she would have been fine if I said I was a lesbian, but the concept of both? What? And my dad was perplexed because I’d never dated anyone, so how could I know? But they’re much like your parents – so long as I’m happy, that’s what matters. (Although mom has asked that I not become a “flannel-wearing bull dyke” – direct quote – because I’m “so pretty.”)

    Anyway: well written, and a pleasure to read.

  2. zuzu
    April 23, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    Wow. You’re really lucky in your parents.

    I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my parents wrote me off early on because I was fat. Even though I was straight, and had all the girl parts where they were “supposed” to be, it was inconceivable to them (and to my grandparents, which somehow hurt worse than my parents) that no one would want me. It still affects me, even years after they started to realize that, yes, Zuzu could get a man, and hey, Zuzu could get a good-looking man at that.

    I will never forget my mother’s tone of voice when she saw my ex and was surprised that he was cute (I’d worked with him, and since he’d been my editor at least on some occasions, he wrote me a recommendation for law school and dropped it off at my parents’ house, where I was living at the time). All I could think was, Jesus, Mom, he’s not the best-looking guy I’ve had, either. But their earlier writing-off of me put such a wall up that I kept my mouth shut about my activities. The only reason they knew about Kevin was that I hadn’t come home two weeks in a row.

    OTOH, my sister, who was much thinner than I, got a whole lot of other baggage put on her; namely, that she should just find a husband and not concern herself overmuch with her mind.

  3. zuzu
    April 23, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Er, that anyone would want me.

  4. April 23, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    My mom weathered “lesbian” pretty well. I think she’d assumed it was coming, since I was very masculine and a women’s studies major.

    Coming out as transgender was pretty horrible. She was angry, because she is very distrustful and bitter at men. (My dad treated her like crap.) She said things that really hurt, most of them similar to what your parents expressed, but without the concern. More like, “You’re a freak and you’ll never have sex again.”

    I’ve been with my partner for nine years now and our marriage is strong and beautiful–and we are loved and respected by our community, even as two out transgender guys. Had we not been transgender, we’d have never met…so I guess it was the best thing ever for my love life.

    Who’da thought?

  5. April 24, 2006 at 11:57 am

    It’s really hard, as a parent, to know when to shut your trap.

    Actually, the formation “I’m just worried,” is really wonderful. It allows mom to share her concern without putting it on you. She didn’t say “No one will ever…” She said “I’m worried that no one will ever…” She owned her own stuff.

    As parents, we have all these worries about our kids. Every time I see happily married adults who have disorders like my kid’s, I do an inner happy dance. Because I want that happiness for him.

  6. April 24, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    I’m glad that you had at least that level of support. I’ve got that from my folks now, on various things like religion and such, but I don’t think I would have had support if I had needed to deal with coming out; certainly I wouldn’t have when I was younger. If I suddenly turn lesbian tomorrow (James Dobson says you all are tryin’ to recruit me, so I’m sure it’s comin’, especially since book-learning turns you into a man-hating baby-killing femi-nazi lesbian), Mom will probably be fine. When I was sixteen, she would have been hysterical.

    My goal as a parent is to raise a boy who is, when he’s all grown, (a) totally comfortable telling me things, tallking to me about the important things, and knowing that I’ll be supportive; and (b) still as kind and empathetic as he is today.

    So far, so good. Today at dinner, he said (in response to god only knows what, I don’t remember), in a totally off-hand way, “I don’t even know what I’m going to be [gay or straight].” And I said (with effort to be totally off-hand, and not hugging him overly much with many kisses for resisting, so far, the pressure he gets to gay-bash), “Well, sure you don’t. You’re eleven.” ’nuff said. But you know what? He’s already learned one thing–and I’m proud of him for learning it because of the context he puts it in (injustice)–but if he does turn out to be anything but het, it will be an internalized, hard lesson like what you describe above. He’s already figured out that other-sexually oriented folks are oppressed in our society. He’s already internalized that if he’s gay, it will be hard.

    I blogged (also belatedly) against het normativity too (on my live-journal), and the second half of the post is about Puppy’s perceptiveness about het=normal and homo=bad. He gets that all of that is bunk (which is great), but he’s learned the lesson, by middle school age. I’m glad he’s willing to fight against it, but I think it’s so telling that the het=normal paradigm is so strong that it’s entirely pervasive even in the 6th grade.

  7. StacyM
    April 25, 2006 at 12:21 am

    It took my mom several years to adjust after I came out to her as transsexual. In time, she became very supportive of my decision to transition—so much so, that she paid for my top and bottom surgery.

    Here’s the really interesting part. The first person I dated after transition was a man, and she was totally fine with that. After dating him, I realized that I much preferred being with women. Several months later, I dated and then moved in with another woman. My mother totally freaked. She simply couldn’t adjust to the idea of me as a lesbian. I had such mixed feelings about her reaction. On the one hand, she accepted me so deeply as a woman, that she fully embraced the notion that I would be attracted to men rather than women. On the other hand, her homophobia made it difficult to conceive of me as anything but a straight woman. I was happy and annoyed all at the same time.

    Knowing my mom, she would have eventually adjusted to the notion of her daughter being a lesbian. However, she never really got the chance to do so: she passed away in May of 2003.

Comments are closed.