How to Come Out to a 96-Year-Old Grandmother
“Coming out” to family members proved most difficult, seemed surreal and caused me to second guess myself – Am I sure this is really me? Do I really want to open up this can of worms? Am I delusional and making this all up? Is this a mistake?
The only existence I’ve known for 36 years is that of being female, an existence that seemed to be permanent in the forever fabric of our lives. The collective belief that I was a girl, the granddaughter, the niece, the daughter, or the sister – made me feel like I actually was all those things. In other words, my family’s perception of me, fostered my incorrect existence as a girl.
I feel crazy to change the unchangeable. This seemingly irrefutable “fact” that I had always been a girl, now dissolving, makes me feel shaky. All these labels and definitions we put in place to make our lives feel stable and unmoving, no longer provide me safety and my feet wobble on quaky ground of a world that is no longer what it appears to be. Everyone including myself probably thought I’d always be a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece, forever. What is constant if this isn’t? Perhaps that question is society talking. Nonetheless, removing those “constants” and redefining myself is an uneasy, foggy feeling – vulnerability in a naked silhouette; and for a fleeting second, I contemplate if it would just be worth keeping my comfort and security by pretending to be the gender I am not.
……No, it wouldn’t.
I picture what I hope to look like once testosterone has worked it’s magic and living as a guy just feels right. My lips awaken in a smile at the thought but my heart wants to hide and check out of the awkwardness that lays ahead of me. People judge. People assume. People wonder. People ask. People react and get scared as the ground under their feet wobbles too and we are forced to deal with life. We spend so much time and energy avoiding discomfort, but we are mercifully being forced into it now and it’s a reminder that humans are not that different; we are all in this together.
It’s 4:00 and time keeps ticking by. All day I contemplate calling my Nana to convey to her that I am in fact, a boy. I have stopped calling her because I can’t stand talking to her knowing something existed, in hiding that I couldn’t tell her. Every time I spoke to her, I felt like a fraud.
How on earth to tell my 96-year-old grandma that I was transgender was something I had not yet wrapped my head around.
I miss her. I miss our painting parties. I feel anticipatory loss in the pit of my stomach as I am bombarded with memories of beautiful paints and talent on canvas, Luby’s iced tea, coffee cups on porcelain saucers, and smells of chocolate cookies and tiny muffins from a box, and the silence of being deep in creation. A travesty it would have been to fill that silence with words. It was in that silence that I discovered how to hang onto a moment and trust I’d never slip through its grip and fall to the ground.
The thought of her being one of the people who accepts me and sees me as her grandson makes me want to spend every second with her, yet I am avoiding her now.
I put away the groceries and sit in silence. Just the thought of calling her makes my heart pound out of my chest. What if she disowns me?
What if she passes away and the chance to share my real self is lost forever? Or, what if I pass away? From their perspective, surely, they’d prefer to have me in their lives as a man rather than not have me at all? Tomorrow is guaranteed for nobody. I don’t want to die with secrets.
How am I supposed to tell her? Maybe I could just tell her over Facebook? No, too impersonal and unreliable. Could I tell my Aunt and have them rely to her, the news? No, she needs to hear this from me! I don’t trust the phone; the reception is always unpredictable as is her hearing aid; it’s too much of a risk.
I sit here in the silence of this house and I feel frozen. I am desperate to tell people, to have them know who I really am and to move forward, but right now I feel paralyzed and stuck to this couch.
Then that silence reminds me of the wisdom it has to offer.
I love her. My desire to see and be close to her outweighs the discomfort I will get from having to tell her. Would an old-fashioned letter work? It could give her time to process and let the news sink in.
Bravery is the only way. Honesty is the only way. Come what may, you have to be simply honest. Some fears you can’t go around; you can only go through.
Silence, don’t let me come crashing to the ground. I trust you.
Dear Nana, I am writing because I have something very important to tell you that I have been putting off for a long time. As you know, I recently changed my name and after many years of thinking and processing this, I realize that I am transgender. I identify as a guy, not a girl. I feel like a grandson and people have started calling me “he”, “him”, and “Chris”. After careful thought, I have decided to begin hormone replacement therapy which means I have been taking testosterone to eventually look like a guy. Basically, this will align my body with how I see myself. I didn’t know how to tell you but I realize that I have been pulling away and ultimately, I really miss you. Staying close to you in worth more to me than the avoidance of the discomfort I would feel in having to deal with this. Take all the time and space that you need to understand and process this and know that it is OK to feel confused. Call me anytime and feel free to ask questions. I hope you still see me as the same person on the inside and I look forward to more of our painting get-togethers and hopefully getting even closer to you. Love, Chris
Stamp. Lick envelope. Drop in mailbox. No going back.
Two days later, the phone rang.
“I want you to do what makes you feel right as you. I love you”, she said.
That’s when I knew my grandma was my 96-year-old hero.
So many more people out there need a hero.