[Hitting the rewind button here, and going back to the week my dad died to tell another part of the story. Bear with me while I catch up with the present. ]
I had been dreading the phone call that would tell me my dad was dying. I was dreading it for all the expected reasons, but also for some reasons unique to the experience of a transgender individual in the middle of a transition. Getting that call meant I was going to have to address a difficult question, the answer to which I was not at all certain about.
To whit: when the call came, who was going to respond?
It just so happened that I reached the point in my transition where I was coming out to friends and family during the same week where my dad got his cancer diagnosis. Going public wasn’t something I scheduled; it just happened, like so many things have in the last year or so, at the moment where it felt like it needed to happen. And it happened, in part, because I was beginning to make the shift in my day-to-day life. Everyday I am more Alison and less Him, body and soul.
Yet because of the timing of things, I didn’t tell my parents that I was taking these next steps. I didn’t tell them that I had told everyone — aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws — or that I was beginning to slip more comfortably into my Self everyday. I mean, they had enough shit to deal with, right? I’d tell them later, after my dad got better and life was back to normal.
Only he didn’t get better, and life didn’t go back to normal. So I got the phone call, and I needed to make the decision. Who would I be when I went to say goodbye?
Those who aren’t transgender might have some trouble understanding the dilemma here. After all, I’m his son, right? And he’s dying! Put that shit aside, stop being selfish, and go be Him, fer chrissakes! Right?
Only those who would react like that really don’t get it. This isn’t a choice, and this isn’t a switch that can be flipped on or flipped off. I can’t just stop being who I am. I tried that route once already; it very nearly ruined me. I can’t go down that path again. Going down there without being myself would feel like a lie.
Not to mention that there were immediate practical considerations. To be honest, outside of my work clothes I don’t have a fully functioning men’s wardrobe anymore. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, and aside from my work clothes most of what’s left is all one or two sizes too large for me. T-shirts hang like fallen tents; jeans don’t stay up when I don’t wear a belt and balloon in unflattering bulges when I do. I simply didn’t have enough men’s clothes to pack even if I wanted to go that route.
This is not to say that my closet is full of blatantly gendered fare. It’s a lot of jeans (I prefer boot and flare cuts) and a lot of items for layering (tank tops, sweaters, and button-up shirts). That’s what I’m comfortable in and that’s what I feel I look good in. I spent most of the night prior to my flight putting various combinations of these things into and taking them out of my small suitcase. What ultimately ended up in there was a mélange of jeans, slacks, shirts, and sweaters, not all of them matching, along with a more formal outfit “just in case.”
In the end, the best answer to the question “Who’s going to answer the call?” was simply “Me.” I wasn’t going to stress over it. I couldn’t stress over it; in the coming days I was going to have far more important things to stress about.