May 22, 2012
Before I start this last chapter on the story of my life, I want to let it be known that what I will tell you is from my point of view. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. If I quote someone, I will give credit. Otherwise, the material as presented is my own opinion. Also, I am doing this with the permission of the principal. No surprises here except perhaps where the reader is concerned. And now on to what I can’t say is the rest of the story but more of it.
When I first met merm, he was a very outgoing talkative person. Looking back, I wonder if it was a protective mechanism to try to avoid an otherwise disturbing situation. He graduated with two degrees–Communications and Spanish. His mother called him “The Great Communicator” which fit perfectly.
He wasn’t the big, burly he-man type but I liked him instantly and grew to love him as one of my own. He had an inquiring mind and loved to learn about all sorts of new things. He could converse on a wide range of topics and seemed to never run out of something to say.
DD was totally in love with him and I could see why. He had the qualities that complemented her and, together, they seemed to be the perfect couple. So what if he wasn’t (as DS2 said after meeting him) a “manly man”? I was happy with him just the way he was.
Then, something seemed to be different in DD’s voice when she’d call for our Sunday conversation. I couldn’t put my finger on it but when I’d ask how things were going, she had a stock answer that I’d mouth as she said it, “Fine.” Like mothers everywhere, I wanted to grill her and find out what was going on but I didn’t. I knew she would eventually tell me if she wanted me to know. I’d learned from my mother’s behavior to stay out of their business. As a family friend once remarked, Mother would “jump in with both feet.” I wasn’t going to do that as badly as I wanted to. It was none of my business unless DD told me of her own accord.
Eventually, she did. It was almost a year ago when she was home that she sat me down and told me what had been developing over the years. By the time she got through, I was almost in tears. My heart was breaking for merm and, in turn, for DD. Not because of the way things were turning out but because of all that had happened to bring them to that point.
At first, I thought she was going to tell me they were divorcing or she was pregnant. However, it was neither. Her part of the story started before they were married.
She and merm had gone on a cruise with her future in-laws. An increasingly dark mood was taking merm over and he was severely depressed. It was decided by the four of them that he should seek counseling. When they got back to New York, he found a professional to talk to and began working through his problems.
As most sessions go (from what I understand), the childhood is probed. As for merm, he has a wonderful set of parents so that wasn’t the problem. It was merm, himself, who was the problem. His earliest memories were of wishing he were a girl. He not only wished, he would pray to Jesus every night that he would wake in the morning as a girl. Day after day, he was bitterly disappointed. Recently, a picture of the child merm was posted on Facebook. I asked if I could post it here and I was given permission.
Over the years, he had learned to compensate by excelling at everything he attempted. He became a workaholic while he was still in school and tried to fill every minute to keep his frustration at bay. Though he didn’t have any formal technical training, he was the IT department at the local hospital. He earned his pilot’s license and would escape to the sky when things got too much to bear on the ground.
His mother came home from work several times to find him in tears. He couldn’t tell her what was wrong. He asked his dad if he ever wanted to be a girl. “No,” his dad had answered, “girls have it much more difficult than men do.” Even though he was drawn to female activities, he forced himself to be the best man he could be.
During counseling, he finally had a name to put with his condition—transgender. Basically, that means he was in every way a female except for the fact that he was born into a male body. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually female.
By the time DD and I had our talk, merm had started transitioning. They had pledged to support each other come what may so DD had helped merm shop for clothes. She was losing her husband. It hadn’t been an easy decision on merm’s part to take the steps to become a woman. A person in that situation doesn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll be a girl!” It took merm more than 30 years.
In addition to being able to be closer to family, one of the big reasons merm wanted to move to the Northwest was because that part of the country is generally friendly to transgender people. DD wanted to move there because she liked it.
When merm emailed me after DD and I had The Talk, she said she was changing her birth name to a similar but more feminine one but she’d “always be merm”. It was from this moment on that I made the effort to refer to her as female, as I’m doing here, and use her new name.
I jokingly told her she had been my favorite son-in-law (my only one) but now she would have to compete with two other women.
Two years ago when I was visiting, merm had already started transitioning. It wasn’t apparent then except for the plucked eyebrows and that wasn’t really a tip-off. As far as appearance was concerned, merm was still the male merm. A bit effeminate but still male. I haven’t seen the female merm except in pictures and videos.
The voice is higher. Once I called and got voice mail. I later asked DD who the woman was on the outgoing message. That thrilled merm.
It was a difficult day for her to press the “send” button on The Open Letter she posted on Facebook. She told me I can link to it here for anyone who is interested.
The transition has been amazing. She (merm) looks so much more natural now than before. The faraway look is gone and now the smile is genuine. Not that it wasn’t before but it seemed to be somewhat forced.
The family on merm’s side has been totally accepting and supportive. People who knew her growing up aren’t surprised at the turn of events. My family has had a hard time. For myself, I still love her as much as I did when she was “he”. The only regret I have is for DD. She’s handling it well but who knows what the future holds?
As cisgendered individuals, none of my family can truly understand why someone would choose to transition. To me, even though I can’t completely understand, I do know that being transgender is (in my opinion) a birth defect. People freak out when genitals are involved but don’t bat an eye when a cleft palate or a clubfoot is corrected. What merm is doing is correcting her defect. For a lot of people, the alternative has been suicide. That isn’t, I’m glad to say, something merm ever considered.
Blogher published an article that caused a stir with comments galore. One that I especially noted was
We each have a set of chromosomes for sex. XX for female, XY for male. (and that’s assuming non-disjunctiom did not occur meaning more or less chromosomes). There are times in embryonic development when something goes awry and the wrong chemical is released which will lead to an XX individual with boy parts (or vice versa). So basically they have the wrong external anatomy for what their genetics and hormones will tell the body internally. Why should someone identify with a sex just because their external anatomy suggests one thing? Why should a child feel ashamed of how they feel, just because of their external anatomy? Nature makes mistakes!1
There seem to be more transgender people now than ever before and I can’t help but wonder if our chemically oriented world has something to do with it. There is a chemical that can make a girl brain look like a boy brain2 so why couldn’t the reverse be true?