I found out, a few weeks ago, that all of the aunts and uncles on my dads side of the family know. I heard this from my cousin on that side who already knew. The news went from a cousin who saw me out (and left the establishment because she wasn’t sure what to do) told her mom and that aunt spread the news to the others.
When I found this out, I about died. I felt like an animal that had to choose to fight or run. I hadn’t made up my mind.
My spouse has been going to the in-laws each weekend to help organize their house. This news came as a shock, but the ball was in motion. Within the weekend, my in-laws had been told. Twenty-One years ago they said we should split up. Twenty-One years later, they are full of love and support. They are behind me 100% and hope that everything works out. My father-in-law even said he would be with me when I told my parents, if I needed him to be.
I started texting my aunt (the mother of the cousin who already knew). Realizing that this was going to be a rather lengthy conversation, and one best done in person, we decided to meet up at Panera this past Wednesday. I was scared to death, to put it mildly. She is the “cool” aunt, but that coolness, I’m sure, has its limits.
I arrived at Panera a little early and decided to go on in and get my usual…..a Hot Chai and a chocolate chip Muffie (basically just the top of a muffin). She came in a few minutes later, looked around, saw me (in drab) and gave me one of those hugs that are usually reserved for funerals, weddings and REALLY great news. We let go of one another and decided we should, perhaps, get some actual food….so I had my desert first, so what!!
Where to begin. Well, The Sound Of Music always gave the advise to “Start at the very beginning….a very good place to start….” I began to pour out my soul to my aunt. “From my very earliest memories….”, I began, “at the age of 3 or 4 I knew something wasn’t right…..” It is an odd way to begin a story, but I suppose it must begin that way, if it is to remain true to the facts from that point on.
She had many questions. Ranging from “Isn’t there someone you can see to check if this is psychological?” to “What happens to…..you know…… as you take hormones?” Trying to legitimately explain being transgendered to someone who has No concept on Earth what it means, is like trying to describe the Grand Canyon to someone who cannot see. I am not making light of her in the least, but it is a difficult thing to actually explain. But I did my best.
She had noticed changes in me over the past several months, of course, she was looking for them and I was just being me. She noticed the slight hint of eye shadow, eyeliner and nail polish when she would come in to Target. Since I am not 100% out to my family, I do not work as myself, I work as the other me….the me that isn’t really me anymore.
As I continued to tell her, and answer her questions, I hit the point of stating that I had sort of figured out who I might lose as a result of this. She began to tear up a little and said, “You aren’t losing any of us. We __________ women always stick together.” This was such a genuine statement, I could not help but let my own tears well up. I almost lost it all together, but managed to maintain a shred of dignity.
I happened to look up and notice one of the workers cleaning the glass and such of the front doors. Two hours had gone by in seconds. They were closing.
We excused ourselves, apologized for staying past closing (by mere minutes, but still). He said it wasn’t a problem and that we looked like we had been discussing some serious stuff. So we continued to her car.
By the time this was all over, she had told me that her church had a trans woman that had just recently come out to them. She had been there for about a month and people knew something wasn’t 100% but that she really looked like someone who had gone through chemo and didn’t have a lot of money. The latter was true, so she bought thrift store (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) clothes and pieced together what she could. My aunt said she felt betrayed at this revelation of gender, and that she did not know how to act around this person now. My reply was to keep treating her with respect and dignity. She didn’t set out to fool or betray anyone, but if the first words out of her mouth had been, “I was born a male” your initial reactions would have been much different than that of accepting another person into the congregation. She agreed. She then spoke of an elderly woman at the church who went through her closet to find any clothing that “Dani” might be able to wear. My aunt also said that she felt God had brought all of this together for a reason. Even if nothing more than by me being who I am, she can better understand and explain to others how Dani is.
We spoke for an additional hour in the parking lot. She told me that my parents would probably surprise me and completely accepting. They had to see the same changes she saw, no matter how hard I tried to hide them. She suggested telling my father first and seeing how he thought it should proceed. We spoke of another amazing aunt who, now, thinks that her son might have had some of these very same issues, had he not been killed in a traffic accident. I gave my aunt a printout of some TG FAQs that should help explain, or at least give some insight, to both myself and Dani, and anyone else that they may end up in contact with. I told her to please tell the rest of the family that they can contact me any time. I told her, “Without conversations, there is no education. Without education, there is no understanding. Without understanding, there is no love.” She agreed.
After an hour in the car and a long hug goodbye, she said that she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that everyone would stand by me through this. She said that when she told her husband, his only comment was, “Well, I bet that’s a relief, now.” He couldn’t have been more correct. What had begun as a moment where every drop of blood races from your brain and you know you are going to pass out, became a moment of dizzying triumph.
The next step is to tell my parents. I am probably going to see if anyone else in the family wants to talk, and then ride that wave of strength on in to the shore and lay everything at the feet of my parents. I feel good about this. I feel very positive. Thus far i could not have wished for this to have gone any better.
My aunt told me that, of course, she looked at my Facebook profile (she made my cousin show her). She knows who Jennifer is. She told me, “When I look at those pictures, I see a woman. A very classy woman.”
btw, my facebook is https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.singleton.731