What I realized, when I heard [in Trans Form] about the photo albums, and the pictures on the walls of her [Rebecca’s] parents’ house, was that these were the memorabilia of an occupation, held onto and commemorated by its collaborators (witting or unwitting). Yes they represent a historical “truth,” a “past” one does not want to “deny”–but so do guns and chains and whips and bombs, and you don’t see them in the family photographs. Well, not if you were on the receiving end, anyway.
That concept, viewing photos or keepsakes of my past as “the memorabilia of an occupation,” finally clicked with me today.
This past weekend, my dad and I were talking about my depression. I was saying that I regretted not transitioning earlier, and he was saying he was sorry for not doing something when I was younger. Seeing something, noticing my unhappiness and its cause. And he said that, with the more tangible problems my older siblings had, it was easy to see me – with good grades, friends, a voracious apatite for books, no small skill at playing piano – as the ‘normal’ child. The child who didn’t need ‘fixing.’
And I realized, as Cedar indicated, that where we find ourselves today is not simply a result of the “truth” of history. It’s a result of how that history is viewed.
I’m angry at my parents for not knowing I was trans earlier. For not hearing my hints or cries for help before I officially came out to them. For not finding an active, participatory role to help me transition when I did come out to them. But I’m working on expressing that anger about things past, and they’re working on expressing their regret. It’s a process I very much need to keep at, but it’s one that has already begun.
What I realize now, what finally fell into place today, is that I’m also angry at them for celebrating the “occupation,” as Cedar puts it. I’m angry at them for remembering as joyful (or even merely placid) the time I felt as painful and turbulent. I’m angry at them for happily framing and mounting photos that remind me of how horribly trapped I felt at all times. I’m angry at them for mourning the loss of someone who was never really there, regardless of how ‘normal’ he was or how little ‘fixing’ he seemed to need. And that anger, I haven’t really even started to address.
My therapist said, earlier tonight, that I can think of pre-transition life as a sort of war prison: not something whose time is to be celebrated, but an experience from which strength can be drawn. Her thought was that I don’t need to be proud of having been a prisoner of war, but I can damn sure be proud I came out alive.
Except it’s difficult to find pride in that when no one else sees you as having been imprisoned. The people I value in my life have all acknowledged the validity and importance of my transition. But I’m still having such huge difficulty in grieving for the life I didn’t lead, and mourning the one I did, in part because I’ve (mostly) tried to do so alone in my understanding of that grief and loss.
I worry that asking my parents to take down old photos of me will simply mask some deeper discomfort I have with myself. And yet, from where I am right now, I don’t want them to celebrate or commemorate those memories due to how painful they are for me. And that’s not simply because it brings up anger at them, but also anger toward myself: why didn’t I transition earlier?
“Why didn’t you transition earlier?” I ask my younger selves, trapped in those photographs.