Bigotriage

There are people my parents refuse to tell about me.

Technically, that’s pretty much everyone. They couldn’t use my name to my face, so there’s no way they’re getting it right around other people. They’re not much better about my pronouns yet, mostly switching to gender-neutral nouns like “child” instead of “son” and changing who they’re addressing mid-sentence to use “you” instead of “she.”

They handled my aggressively femme presentation with far more politeness and warmth than I anticipated. They said a bunch of things that tell me that they’re trying to position themselves, wrongly, as understanding and accepting parents whom I should have told about my transition much earlier, when it was still new, to honor the (also incorrect) closeness and openness of our relationship. But they still can’t say my name, not even to me.

That’s the lie they won’t admit to and don’t even understand that they’re telling me: that, to be the kinds of parents I would have told earlier, they’d have to be the kind who would get this right now, and not just around me.

They’re back in Miami now, and in Miami, for all my disclosures, I’m still [deadname]. They’ll tell my brother and sister how “he’s” doing and tell my uncles “his” convocation and how neat it was to have it in French and English in alternating paragraphs. They’ll tell my cousins how pretty I was in my dresses, and how surreal it was to watch me put my feminine curves and navel piercing on display in a crop top and shorts, and they’ll keep close at hand the subtext of he, he, he.

Alyssa, wearing her doctoral hood and robe. She is wearing a purple flower clip in her hair and carrying her diploma in a faux-leather folder.
Always a deadname, never a daughter.

Mom and Dad might never stop reeling from the horror show that having a queer child represents in this culture, in their religion, in the company they keep. Until they do, they won’t have it in them to challenge all the people around them who last saw me in shapeless button-downs and a beard, or that I’ve never met. They’ll still be mostly agreeing with someone who deadnames me that my identity isn’t real, that the cardboard cutout I was holding up for years is the “real” me and the femme goddess they spent the weekend with was a phase, an aberration, and a mistake. They’ll still be hoping, quietly and not-so-quietly, that I’ll resume the masculine disguise I’ve repeatedly told them would cost me my life. They’ll be feeling all of that, and instead of challenging or correcting those people, instead of creating a situation where those people’s participation in their, and therefore my, life is contingent on them according me basic respect, they’ll make me do it.

They will keep their social circle big and my world small, and then chide me for slowly losing the friends I still have in Miami.

There’s a reason they’re doing this, a reason I understand in between all of the bigotry shuffled into obvious piles under every rug. They have a lot to lose.

Some of the venom I received from them for the manner of my disclosure has nothing to do with the fact that I told them long after I told my friends in Ottawa and even my school administration and colleagues about me and began appearing before them honestly, and everything to do with the fact that I didn’t pass my disclosures to the rest of the family through them.

It’s honor politics, sick and abusive.

Because now they’re the family with the kid who moved to Canada and turned trans. They went from the wealthy, upwardly mobile envy of their whole community, with a magnificent home and accomplished offspring to the parents of a queer who fled the country, and that tanked their social status. Everyone they talk to who saw the switch on my family-only Facebook profile or heard from someone who did knows this is happening, and they’re by turns posturing about how my parents should accept me and sniggering about how the high, mighty, perfect Gonzalezes have been laid low by my descent from cishet Americana.

Nearly their entire social circle—family, friends, business contacts—is an Euler diagram of bigots and slightly different bigots. And here I am, dragging it all to the center and out into the open.

Dad openly pretends I’m the son he told his contacts he had, because his whole business is built on word-of-mouth, community-reinforced friendships and cultural cohesion. His contacts might literally stop doing business with him if he tries to insist on a trans-accepting line with them.

Dad talks a big talk, but his world is very, very small, and he can’t—or, more accurately, won’t—risk it getting smaller.

I don’t envy that position. I understand why, laid before this nightmare scenario, some queer folks in communities like mine never come out to their families at all. I can understand and almost respect why he’d deceive his business partners about me while crowing about “honesty” in his relationship with me that was never actually there.

I just wish they’d show the slightest curiosity about trans issues.

I just wish their desperate triangulation between honor politics, bigotry, and me didn’t leave me so high and dry.

I just wish they’d see the mirror that my own experiences hold to theirs, as the circle of my Miami friends continues to dwindle as the transmisogynists weed themselves out.

I just wish that, at least when it’s just us around and there’s no relative or sack of money with a face to disappoint, that they’d let me feel like my transition isn’t just yet another bit of weirdness from me that they grimly tolerate in the name of having a Ph.D. on the family resume.

I just wish they’d say my name.

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Bigotriage

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