The past eight months have in no way been what I imagined. To not bury the lede: I am, unexpectedly, now the owner of a condominium unit, and my parents have begun to understand how real my transition is. And it started with my childhood bedroom.
My old bedroom in my parents’ home in Miami is full of sentimental items. It took a youthful lifetime to accumulate them all, and even with past trips allowing me to bring a few to Ottawa at a time, most of them remained trapped there. They included about a third of my Beast Wars collection (mostly the largest, most difficult items to move in a travel bag), a prodigious number of books, some art objects, tools from past adventures, and more, and they are precious to me. My last visit to Miami was under tense and complicated circumstances in 2016, and my relationship with my parents had remained difficult ever since, with only the most limited contact between us. I was growing more and more anxious that, at some point, my parents would decide that hanging on to a truckload of their estranged daughter’s items was no longer worth an entire room in their home, and I started hatching plans to get those items back. If it worked, they would lose the last of their leverage over me, and I would gain enormous peace of mind.
Those efforts went largely nowhere. Planning a vehicle or shipment for the items would be an expensive process with a long lead time, and would require, at a minimum, the cooperation of someone who could unlock the door for me. I received one package, containing some treasured books and notes, but so much more remained to be retrieved. More than that, my parents figured out what I was doing—inevitable, really—and stonewalled my assistants. Indeed, it was ultimately them who sent that package, rather than the helper I had asked, and this forced another conversation.
I knew they wanted me to call and thank them, and that they would hold any apparent ingratitude via silence against me. At a minimum, they would want to know that the package arrived. But at the time, I was maintaining the grim ultimatum I had laid down years before, of refusing to initiate communication until they showed me that they accepted my womanhood. I also maintained a policy of freely accepting any and all gifts they sent me, unwilling to let mere pride get between me and my goals, while also never letting their generosity serve as an alternative to what I actually needed from them. If they kept imagining that they could buy their way out of having acceptable politics, calling me by my name, or being kind to my partners, that was their problem. I held my silent line, alerting only my erstwhile helper that the item had arrived as part of asking them why, despite my insistence, they had gotten my parents involved at all.
My parents did indeed call, galled at my continued silence. But that conversation led in a direction as surprising as it was, in the end, par for their course.
They agreed to send more items, according to a list I would provide them, at their own expense. After I sent the list, I received a message insisting that I be available for a phone call on a particular day and time, to discuss something important. I arrived at that call with a sense of bemused dread, not at all sure what to expect. My parents asked about my long-term plans, focusing on whether I intended to remain in Ottawa. And then they made me an offer. They offered to buy me a condominium, and to deliver my items as part of a visit later that year to participate in property viewings.
I did not consider this offer lightly. Depending on how its specifics unfolded, I could have been financially tethered to them for years, a yoke I had gleefully shed when I finished my studies. Even if that leverage was not explicit in the form of a mortgage, they would almost inevitably expect concessions from me in the process, while giving nothing of what I had been demanding. I was content enough in my living situation that my then-nascent investigations into what I’d have to do to buy a condominium on my own carried no urgency, so they were not solving an immediate problem. And this adventure was, effectively, a precondition to my parents’ preferred scenario for returning the items I actually did want.
There was also an elephant in the room: my parents’ transantagonism. Up to this point, I had gotten no better out of them than careful refusal to use pronouns or names at all while I was within earshot. As of our last conversation about me, they were convinced that my ex had somehow “made” me trans, among other grotesqueries. They remained unrepentant Trump voters, at best regarding Republican bigotry as acceptable collateral damage for the rich-focused economic policies they favored and at worst considering the hatefulness a selling point. And they wanted to visit me, in my home, for an extended stay.
I investigated what would be involved, partly to sort out the practical process of the purchase, partly to assuage my fear that I’d be trapped in a financial instrument I couldn’t afford and thus break my treasured, hard-won independence for decades to come. It ultimately turned out that the simplest option was them simply wiring me the necessary funds and having me purchase the unit outright, in my own name, which would leave them no such leverage—an option they themselves suggested.
I had to wonder why they were even suggesting any part of this. As the conversations unfolded, pieces fell into place. They were trying to re-establish normalcy. This was a move trying to make things normal between us by acting as if they were already normal. My father had discussed the idea of getting his children set up as property owners in the past, and somehow, he had decided it was time to revisit this plan for me. I did not know what had finally clicked in their minds, to make this seem like the time for such actions, but I could accept it. If they managed to spoil this goodwill for themselves, I would at least still have the unit, and the even greater independence it represented.
My scheduled preparations stretched for months before their anticipated visit. I resolved on three things: being as ready as I could possibly be for the purchase, being a good host, and making sure my home was as magnificently gay and trans as possible to force them to confront their discomfort. I formed a relationship with a realtor and did preliminary viewings for weeks, sorting out likely candidates that I would revisit with my parents. I did budget calculations, reviewed requirements, checked what was needed to safely move my pets, and more. I prepared meals—banana nut bread and papas rellenas—in enough abundance that we could avoid eating out for days if they wanted. And I added several pieces of lesbian and trans-themed art to my collection, making my status as transparent and overt as possible while they stayed in my home.
Eventually, the day came. I took the week off of work and I steeled myself. Along the way, my parents’ travel plans shifted, pushing the trip off by a few weeks and, to my annoyance, forcing the delivery of my belongings to be shelved until spring. When they arrived, the only item of mine that they brought with them was my sleeping bag, which they used to sleep on my floor for the following week.
They used my name and pronouns.
For the first time, I heard my parents use my name and pronouns out loud.
They did not make it easy to enjoy this beautiful moment. They reacted with annoyance when I thanked them for it. They informed me that the fact that it took them from 25 October 2015, almost exactly four years, to take this step was a cruel test, meant to see if I persisted in my transness in the face of their opposition and so proved to them that it wasn’t my ex or some other nefarious influence putting me up to it. They required correction at various times, which they did not accept graciously. Tensions between us came to a head close to the end of their stay when my mother demanded an apology for how I handled my initial disclosures and I did not give her one. They, likewise, refused to apologize for any of their miscellaneous crimes against me, not really able to believe that either of them could conceivably do something that merits an apology.
But they used my name and pronouns.
Ultimately, I saw them off in good spirits and, in my exhaustion, looking forward to normalcy once again. In a few other steps, they sent the rest of the money. And a few months later, I was arranging a move into a home that, for the first time, I own.
I recognize the unfathomable luxury that I am currently living. It is profoundly disorienting to recognize myself as a scion of nouveau riche decadence when that privilege has been an anxious, inconsistent, and difficult backdrop for this life. The idea that my parents could finally turn themselves around on this issue, even if they determinedly refuse to address anything else in the yawning chasm between us, is a hard thing not to enjoy.
I’m putting up my wall art again, after unpacking and setting up everything else. Furniture and other items I’d been holding onto for years in anticipation of an improved living situation finally have the uses they have long awaited. I can spread out into a spacious home instead of feeling increasingly cramped in one that was just barely large enough.
And now, I wait for spring, when I hopefully finally get what I actually wanted out of all of this, and see my Beast Wars figures, my childhood nature books, and my old machete again.
And I’m a homeowner now.