As a trans person people regularly talk about the loss of an unaccepting family when they come out and the grief this causes them. However no one talks about the loss of a family member and the true grief of death throughout this ordeal.
Yesterday morning my grandfather (or Papa as we would have known him by) sadly passed away.
This is a man who never said anything negative about my transition, and yet because of the family around him I unintentionally cut him out.
As some of you may know I have only been in contact with my mother for a Year and 5 months now, however at times our relationship can still be rocky. Her side of the family have always been, difficult, shall we say, in regards to any ‘worldly’ issues due their religious beliefs. This means that they view my life as a ‘lifestyle’ choice, sinful, and essentially do not respect my basic wishes in regards to pronouns and name change. This is obviously disrespectful to me, or at its basic level, transphobia.
To submerge myself around people who don’t even respect me to maintain my mental health, never mind actually believing that as a transman I am a man, would be damaging and for that reason I justified not going to see my Papa for many years. For the fear I would run into another family member and the grief/embarrassment I would be given.
Although this allows me to remember the good times with my grandfather now I am realising it also leaves me broken – that I didn’t have the courage simply to spend time with him and show him that I cared before it was too late.
My grandfather was a unique man – one who enjoyed westerns, eating too many fish and chips (probably why he had a bad heart for so many years!), being casually sectarian and racist (like every old person is in an excusable manner) and having a passion for anything with a motor (meaning trading in for the latest car even after his licence was removed!)
Essentially, he wasn’t a bad man, and a person who saw me grew up throughout my childhood and had a lot of love for me that I probably should have shown back. Thankfully, I made it to his bedside before he was gone, although he was unresponsive by this stage, I hope somehow within himself he knew I was there. That I was sorry I’d distanced myself for 5 years and that I didn’t mean to ‘forget’ about him, and I never did.
This Sunday will be his funeral, another event I am scared to attend, much like I was with his home for many years, only this time I know it’s my last chance. Despite the dead-naming, the awkward stares from family members who haven’t seen me for many years and the mental strain this may cause me – it’s not about me, it’s about him.
So Papa, this ones to you: I’m sorry I put my own issues before your needs, I didn’t think your time would be this soon – your health was declining sure, but this was an unexpected accident. I’m truly sorry I never had the chance to tell you about everything I’ve been getting up to but I’m sure you’d be proud how far I’ve came despite all that’s been going on. I hope you’re not in pain anymore, and I really hope it wasn’t as scary as I imagine it at the end. I love you and always have, rest in peace, you’re in a better place now.
To the reader reading this, I hope this gives you another insight on how basic family situations that may arise and be troublesome to most, are heightened due to being transgender. That this isn’t a choice and if we could have an easier life – believe me we would – but this a reality and sadly it’s life for us.
And if you’re reading this with your own issues meaning you’ve put off doing whatever it is you want to do – seeing friends, family, doing that expensive thing you really want to do, getting the job you really want, declining invitations because you’re ‘too tired’… whatever it is, do it.
Do it now because as the expression says you really do only live once – we only have one chance before it’s too late and we never know how soon that’s going to be.
That’s all the thought’s I can write down on this subject for now.
(In loving memory of David Hayes)