Sex Change, The Family Living in Fantasy and Denial – What is in a name? I should know. To a transgender person, these are some of the most critical decisions that you have to make. Often, the reaction is even more important than the initial decision. If you are in the wrong crowd, people can make life hell for you. My grandmother says I was born Phillip and I will die Phillip. My new name of Cindy is just not going to cut it with her. The rest of my family are less militant about it but I know that they broadly agree what nana has been doing. My friends get somewhat perplexed that everyone but my nana calls me Cindy. We do indulge her and know that she is of another age.
Nevertheless, I marvel at her ability to ignore what is right before her own eyes. My mum has told her that although they disagree with my decision to change gender, they ought to call me by my preferred name. My nana stubbornly refuses. One of her arguments is that I am a man, even though I have “played with my bits”. Secondly she says that Cindy has no Biblical connections and is therefore not a suitable name for her grandson.
The other family members are too caught up in some basic mistakes such as using the wrong pronoun but I do not really blame them for it. We have been together since the beginning and they always thought of me as a boy until I told them that being called a boy was killing me inside. I had known from a very early age, that I never wanted to be a boy. I was a girl. The name Cindy just came from reading about celebrities and singers. Specifically, I felt inspired by Cindy Lauper. She is precisely the kind of rebel that I would like to look up to.
Had Sex Change and My Nana Takes an Instant Dislike to the Name
From the outset, my nana was outraged that I had become a woman. I thought she would reject me but she did not. All she did was to pretend as if I never had the sex change at all. She would speak to me as if I was the little boy that she had so loved. When she was really pushed, she might refer to “the operation” with trepidation. I was not bothered by her refusal because she really is a great grandma in every sense of the world. I could afford to cut her some slack on this one issue. After all, a name was hardly going to destroy my life.
My friends in the “trans community” were the ones that were more annoyed on my behalf. One or two of them were quite rude to my grandma when she insisted on calling me Phillip. She looked a bit bewildered at their aggression but then continued the conversation as if it had never happened. That is how my nana has chosen to deal with this thing…just pretend as if it never happened and then hope that there will be no unpleasantness.
Some of my more radical chums tell me off, arguing that I was unnecessarily indulging my nana’s prejudices and that it could become a slippery slope which would end up in all sorts of transphobia being directed at me. I get the fact that we in the trans community have to fight not only for our rights but those who are less fortunate within our community. The problem is that I love my family and otherwise they are quite good. My mum has found an accommodation that is uneasy but one that I can live with. My siblings are too preoccupied with the drama of their love lives to start pondering about my gender. For example, my brother bluntly asked: “Why would you do such a thing?”. Another shivered at the pain. Yet another wondered how I would ever enjoy sex again.
Those responses may be a bit ignorant but they are not hurtful when compared to some of the things I have heard and experienced in my life as a transgender person. The last thing I need right now is to aggravate my family when they are coming to terms with my life. Those in the community might see me as being an unprincipled coward but I have always felt that peace is superior to war. Families face enough challenges as individuals without complicating matters by fighting over things that can never be changed. I know in my heart of hearts that I am Cindy. Phillip was a mistake and I escaped that mistake by doing something about my gender dissonance.
When I look at some of my other friends in the community who have undergone transformation, it seems that I am doing just fine by comparison. Many of them have been kicked out of their homes or sacked from their jobs. Others face terrible violence and are unprotected by the people that are supposed to love them. By contrast, my family is protective of me. They do have their quirks, but which family doesn’t? I do not want to become some sort of militant campaigner in my own home. If we have a compromise that is broadly agreeable to all then I am all for it. Fighting aggressively is not in my nature and I am not about to start.
Does Time Heal All Wounds?
Although some people have advised that I give them time, I am not too sure that time will heal all the wounds. My mother is in her 70s. She lived at a time when divorce was taboo and sleeping with your prospective husband before marriage was considered to be the height of depravity. I can only begin to imagine the dissonances she has to navigate as she looks at the modern world which has challenged virtually everything we know about life. What is wrong with showing some love to a socially conservative pensioner who is otherwise the sweetest old lady that you could find?
The thing that I dread now is when I have to bring my boyfriend Dave home. I am sure my nana will think that things have gone too far this time. She might be able to get her head around a name change but a boyfriend might be a step too far. My mum says that she would like to meet Dave. She did ask whether Dave was straight or gay. I told her that Dave was “straight” and had dated girls before dating me. Once again she seemed incredulous but did not opt to pursue the matter any further.
When I first came out, so to speak, my mum was a little distant but she is getting round the idea. There are some things that seem quite strange to her. For example, she cannot understand why a straight “normal” man would go out with someone like me. Not that she does not think I am a beautiful woman…just that she had assumed that it is only gay men who hit on trans women. I educated her that in fact I had never had a single proposition from gay men and that I was not interested in dating a gay man. I might consider someone that is bi but not a gay person because we would just not be compatible.
Then the Issues of Dress Rear their Ugly Head
My nana was aghast when she knew about my sex change and the first time she saw me in a dress. She thought it did not look good on me. Apparently my back is too straight and I’ve got no hips. The one thing she acknowledged is that “the operation” had “hidden my bits very well”. This was not said in an approving manner but rather one which was startled at the extent to which modern technology can allow a person to do what they want to do. I know she is curious but is too conservative to ask me as many questions as my mum. So what I do is to volunteer censored information that is age-appropriate for her. I think it is good to talk about these things even if they are embarrassing.
I am certain that I was never happy as a boy and that I will never willingly go back to being a boy. Ideally my family would always remember my new name and use the correct pronouns because of my sex change. They would also treat me as I present myself, rather than as they remember me as a child. However, I know that the ideals are not always there for us to enjoy. We must make do with what life has thrown at us. I have a close-knit family and I am grateful that they have not pushed me out just because of who I am. I think that nana is still in some kind of denial. Hopefully she will rush through the grief stages and start calling me Cindy, if only to get my trans friends off my back for allegedly betraying the cause.