Communities

I Am Done Hiding: An Open Letter From A Trans Daughter-In-Law

by Jen Durbent

November 21, 2016
Freedom From Want

I have been out for two days to you. As I write this, that’s less than 48 hours. You have been kind and jovial and accepting thus far. I appreciate this and it means a lot to me that you would promise to support your child’s spouse through a gender transition. It’s a rather unusual circumstance, even I would admit.

I heard you had concerns about Thanksgiving. You are having guests you normally do not have this year, a pair of older Southern Baptist ladies. I also heard you do not want to tell them about me and that you would want me to come as my “male” “self”.

I think this is unwise. Let me explain. This idea has three main problems.

It Underestimates Your Guests 

Not long ago, I attended the wedding of a friend; one of the people present was a lady far older than your guests. She talked about her church a lot. Then she took out a tablet and showed everyone a picture.

“This is my grandson. I was happy when I had a granddaughter and now I have a grandson and that’s ok. There’s a lot of people talking about bathrooms. But does he look like belongs in a woman’s room? No no no. That’s not right.”

I bring this up not to praise this woman, but to show a person’s faith and age do not define an outlook on trans people. We do not know that for certain, and they may have never even met someone like me (at least that they know of). They could meet me and we could talk and they might understand. It’s not impossible. I have met one of them before.

Even if that were wrong and the statistically likely attitudes prevailed and they would be unable to accept someone like me, your idea presumes that they will not be able to hold their tongue. Are you concerned they will not be able to adjust to the rules of decorum that passes for normal in a Midwestern Thanksgiving? That they will not be able to contain their offense and would be liable to start voicing their opinions about people like me around children? The general public? And, even if so, what is the cost there? That their bigotry is laid bare? I can handle that, I think.

I think they are better than that. And even if they are not, I know I am.

It Insults Me

Your idea presumes that I am willing to subsume my identity, which I have struggled with for years, for the theoretical comfort of two people who may or may not despise my real self?

Your idea and solution to the theoretical conflict is to deny who I am, again, and the skin I live in every day for their comfort, tells me that my well-being and acceptance is less important than a dinner.

It Teaches Kids The Wrong Message: Shame and Bigotry Are Acceptable

I could handle donning the yellow cardigan that I got a few months ago over a polo shirt for a couple hours, I know it won’t damage me permanently. However, it would teach my kids a lesson I do not think I can unteach: that bigotry is to be tolerated, even coddled, merely because the bigots are old. And not just my kids, but also the nieces and nephews who also know who I am.

(As an aside, do we want to show them it is OK to lie about ourselves? Or that love and acceptance is conditional on the convenience of the persons involved?)

This is not situational awareness. This is not a surprise de-escalation of some threat. Your guests do not offer any potential physical harm; there is no reason to dress in guy-mode other than to make them comfortable.

No. Bigotry must be fought. Unfortunately, by proposing that I do this, you show that being good allies—no, fuck that—being loving and decent people can be put on the back burner when it is not convenient.

If I were to acquiesce, I would be complicit in that. I do not know if I can handle that.

But I Have A Solution

I propose a solution: Go ahead and out me to your guests. Tell them ahead of time what to expect—that your new-to-them daughter-in-law will be in attendance. Give them my new name. Use my pronouns. Be the example I know you can be.

Ultimately it is your holiday, host-wise. We’ve had 20 Thanksgiving meals together. I suppose me missing one is not a tragedy, even if missing out on your pie would be terrible. But even missing that pie is not as bad as allowing transphobic bigotry (and you know how much I like pie).

If this is your will, I respect it. However, I will then not attend Thanksgiving this year. I will not play that role any longer. Even then, me being trans may come up anyway. By not coming, my absence will be felt by those who know why I am not there because that will not be a secret.

Also, if you insist on this charade, you do not fully support me. I know you can be better, and so I forgive you, already, for this suggestion. As I said, this situation is very new to both of us—as in days for you—and we’ll both learn a lot.

I am not mad; I am disappointed. It’s OK. You can do better. You will do better. I believe in you and I love you.

With love, your daughter-in-law,

Jen

This piece was originally featured on Medium

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I Am Done Hiding: An Open Letter From A Trans Daughter-In-Law