I did something for the first time ever this Father’s Day, I muted the words on Twitter. I don’t mean it was the first time I’d muted these particular words, it was the first time I’d muted anything at all.
This is all quite strange because it wasn’t about poignant or hard memories, it was the fact that he’s still very much alive and I had a difficult task I had to steel myself to do.
The term pater familias suits him well, the mini dictator behind the walls of the family home that exerts total control. Not vicious, not cruel, just expecting his word to be law and obeyed. Grow up with that and you learn the habit of deferral simply to keep the peace and avoid conflict.
There’s a formative incident from when I was about six that has rankled ever since. Something got broken and I was assumed to be the culprit, though I actually wasn’t. There was a whole afternoon of me denying it and being knocked around as a lying little bastard. At some point the only way out was to ‘fess’ up and receive due punishment for it. When I picture it now I see grainy film clips of Stalin’s show trials where the defendant becomes so tired of being harangued they’ll admit guilt just for it to end, whilst knowing the likely outcome will be a bullet in the head before the day is done.
Not a great lesson to learn at that age, that honesty and innocence have no relation to justice. Probably one of the foundational lessons in becoming a cynic.
To be fair, he’s a product of his own upbringing that I call the last of the Edwardian’s. An intense moral rigidity (when it suits) and sense of duty. I can’t think what it was like growing up in London through the War and listening to his own father who’s views on Germans was tempered through being shot, gassed and a prisoner in WWI.
And there we have it, a rigid view of the world from when all the maps showed the extent of the Empire in pink and the superiority of moral judgement on ‘lesser’ people was a given.
When I left home, or home left me (take your pick), I found I could visit my parents and put up with him for about 3 days before I could feel myself desperate to get out of the strait jacket I’d metaphorically encased myself in.
There would be diatribes on the ‘lesser’ peoples and their failings – basically, anyone who wasn’t like him or his friends. The odd thing there being that from various clubs and social groupings many of those friends were gay. But these were the right sort of gays. The sort who were exempt from prejudice because he knew them personally as ‘nice’ people.
I had a lot more contact with him after my mother died and I know he’s grateful for the phone calls and visits, Christmas especially, when I’ve gone down there and cooked a full Christmas meal. Like many who enjoyed cooking (much to the mother’s horror of him using every pan and dish he could find) he found that once it was necessary to cook for himself every day, it wasn’t such a big thrill.
Over the last few years his memory deterioration has become significantly noticeable, which means having listened over the years to an anecdote for the umpteenth time, a mis-timed trigger word will see it repeated because he can’t remember telling it only 30 minutes previously.
As tiresome as this is, the horrendous element to it is the way that a diatribe against lesser people can also now be repeated every 30 minutes. This last Christmas took me to breaking point because it all became too personal.
For years I let it all wash over me, ignoring the nagging in the back of my mind from a slumbering melody.
What was different this time ?
The difference was that melody was no longer slumbering, she had become the primary and was listening to the full force of bile aimed at ‘people like me’. I hasten to add that it wasn’t invective specifically at me, he had no idea that I’m not a “proper” man.
Readily available alcohol can only dull this so far until eventually the message that a whole range of people from homosexuals to transgendered should be excised from the human race at the earliest opportunity. Again, if you want to try to be fair to him, he says the same about anyone over the age of 70. With him being 82 I had to bite my tongue even harder over this one.
In past years I’ve come away at the end of all this and shrugged it off in the next day or so. This time, I couldn’t and I see now how deeply it has festered and I now see that it did indeed break me. The takeaway for melody was that my father sees me as undeserving of living and would happily fire up the euthanasia wagons.
To sum it up, I’ve ignored all contact with him since Christmas and this has created an internal crisis.
The path progression of melody is such that she is the primary and has not let go of that position since before Christmas. She’s not actually very good at dealing with the hard or awkward stuff and very definitely took the Christmas diatribes personally. It’s all very well her chucking things over her shoulder for “him” to deal with, but if she doesn’t allow “him” the time to do so we have a build up of pressure.
I’ve had no contact with those who only know and deal with “him” since Christmas. To external appearances you can tick all the boxes for symptoms of depression. Yet I know it’s really an internal mental realignment that’s ongoing, one where she hasn’t allowed him to operate. Anyone knowing and dealing with melody sees none of these symptoms.
In the week leading up to Father’s Day there was crippling, nauseous anxiety. I knew that I had to make contact and she really really didn’t want to. In the end the phone call was made. The price of the phone call was to agree to visit.
And here’s the other part of anxiety and (possible) depression. melody is not going to take a back seat when she’s there. She’s spent six months contemplating the ‘outing’ conversation and whether it’s worth it. I’m pretty sure that it will happen because it’s obviously toxically unhealthy mentally for melody to ignore it.
And here’s part two:
I’ve just got back from two nights and a day with my father. Not quite so much anxiety and stress this week since I appear to have made the decision of what I was going to do.
This was a conversation I’d planned never to have. To let him see out his time in ignorance, with my belief of so many years that I controlled the timing of melody’s ascendancy. So much for that, she’s created her own timing and need for recognition.
I’ve had this conversation in my head for years and it’s been going around and around continuously this last week. Would it be a nemesis, a shit or bust moment ?
How do you tackle the primary authority figure in your life ? How do you tell them that what they think is reality has been a facade for years ? How do you get them to discard (or question) their entrenched beliefs and prejudices ? How do you accept the possibility that the result has a reasonable probability of ending in hostility or rejection ?
Driving down there the internal debate became more intense. Do I want to do this ? Can I do this ? And still asking how I can do this ? We have a mental map of people in our heads as to how they will react to different things, it’s why we can have these virtual conversations in our head. What I was aware of was that this mental map could be rendered meaningless considering that the whole point of doing this would shatter his mental map of me.
It was only after we got back from dinner and settled down into our usual places with primed glasses that I made the decision to go ahead. Even then, finding the place to bring it up was proving elusive. It arrived as I felt rising bile and launched not into any prepared speech, instead it was full frontal blunt – probably to protect me (melody) from being too emotional.
“I have gender dysphoria.”
The response was surprising and telling:
“What’s that ?”
“It means I am transgendered.”
Having analysed this part of the conversation, I have realised and understood a few things. For the last 15 years of their working life, my parents were therapists. It was why I used the clinical term, to put the focus on rational discussion. It worked, but in a strange way. What I came to understand from this and later discussions was that their therapy training did not include the clinical side. They had enough training to know when to refer a client for clinical analysis and not to try to do it themselves.
So this opening gambit of mine was outside his training, let alone personal experience. It triggered the more professional response of wanting to learn more as opposed to the emotional prejudices I know he holds.
In getting over this topic introduction I knew I’d have to go brutal to get him to understand what he’d seen from me in the last 6 months that he was interpreting as depression. I’d really been dreading this bit. In essence, “now you know I’m transgendered and that the female persona is primary and getting stronger, can you see how at Christmas, continually being told that people like me should be exterminated was taken very personally ?”
Whilst I’ve tended to portray him here and in other posts as something of a horror, he is my father and does have a good side. It’s here that I have to give him credit. His reaction was “Oh shit”. Not about me being trans, but how his behaviour had badly affected a me he never knew was there (I know, I know, it’s a cop out to moderate offensive behaviour solely because you know it is offensive to a specific person.)
I was able to discuss and dispel some of the myths, at least to the extent he took that at face value. The sad bit was in countering the myth that gender dysphoria was a synonym for being gay, that there’s no relationship between the two. His relief was palpable.
It’s always been the case that I’ve understood his view being that any effeminate traits = homosexual = child molester. My suspicion being that he had some childhood experience along these lines. A second conversation the following day left some hints that it was more systematic than casual and who the family member was.
Yes, we had a further conversation the next day with him having had 24 hours to process. It was one he initiated. Definite progress.
I could write reams of detail and yet be unable to convey more depth to the general outcome that he’s superficially okay with what he’s just learned and will have to come to terms with.
He’ll never understand as it’s too far outside his frame of reference. Acceptance is not the right word, either. He’ll never see me in a dress and heels, he could never consider using she/her, though has had to accept that a number of people use them exclusively with me and have done for a very long time. What he will be able to cope with are any fresh feminine touches that melody develops as part of her daily appearance.
There was a point where I decided to reinforce the point about female image and showed him one picture.
He didn’t need to see any more pictures. I must admit this is one of my more feminine ones, but that was exactly the point being made. I am not a role, I don’t believe that I am a fantasy and I am not a fetish (yeah, got plenty of those elsewhere 😉).
Whilst he’ll never call me a female name – he never asked and given everything else it wasn’t important to force that on him. However, I did feel it important to make it difficult for him to entirely dismiss a visualisation of me as female. Otherwise it could be easy to dismiss the gender dysphoria conversations as a bad dream. I have been chuckling inside because he may well have blown a gasket if he’d considered questioning a few things and I’d had to handle information on asexuality and D/s. For now, it’s best to not offer unnecessary information.
Let him deal with it in his own time. It’s not a card I played with, but he’s undoubtedly lonely and I’m the only direct family there is. By itself, this should not be underestimated as a moderating factor.
This weekend has been emotionally exhausting. The outcome has been about the best result that might have been expected. He will never accept melody and doesn’t want to know who she is. What he can believe is that she is accepted and validated by other people and, therefore, he can not spurn her and to the extent possible for him must be supportive.
I can live with that.
There was one passage where he asked what I thought my mother would have made of this ? I know I’ve written on what it might have been like to have had her acceptance so many years ago. However, my rational mental map of her tells me that she would have rapidly pretended the conversation had never happened and adjusted her reality warping field accordingly. Sadly, my father concurred that this would have been her most likely reaction.
That, of course is water under the bridge and a topic for another day. What’s of most importance is that I had the ‘coming out of the closet’ conversation without a personally harmful outcome.
melody’s chutzpah is truly weird, she told him that she didn’t mind in the least if he told anyone else !!!
Written for the #sb4mh meme of “Fathers” – Week 23. Why not go check out the other posts by clicking on the button.