I feel like I’m dwelling on my dad’s death too much. It’s clogged my thinking and my blogging for the past month, and while I need to tell some of what happened there I’m not really capable of doing it right now. That last post was a bit of a disaster, narrative-wise. Besides, there’s stuff I want to write about more recently. So this is my last post centered on my dad’s death. I’m just going to drop the narrative pretense and say what I want to say and get it done with.
Short version: The week my dad died was terrible, a tragedy that I will always hurt from. But for me personally and for my transition, it was also a really, really great week. And I feel like a terrible human being for writing that, but it’s true.
Part of transition is about worrying — about what people will think, about what they might say, about how they’ll act when they find out who you are. My transition has been no different. Part of transition is also about normalizing — making this something you are instead of something you do. My transition has been no different there, either. I’ve struggled with the worrying, and I’ve struggled with the normalizing.
But my dad’s death was just so much more important than any of that. It was distracting, and heart-wrenching, and clarifying, and devastating. An unanticipated consequence of it, though, was that it forced be to set aside the worry. I had more important things to fret over than what other people thought of me, and so I didn’t worry about what I was wearing, or how people would read me, or how I was acting. I just let myself be myself and haters be damned.
And you know what happens when you stop worrying about being trans? It just becomes something you are. It normalizes.
Over the week I was in Mississippi I saw family I hadn’t seen in years from all over the country. Some of them were aware of what I was going through from Facebook posts; others only found out about me that week. A few of the younger ones are, as far as I know, still in the dark about it all. But all of them, in on it or not, were there with me. They saw me, saw the changes, saw the wardrobe, saw the hair (which did get cut, by the way, in a small country salon by the wife of a retired preacher). And they all just rolled with it. They all just treated me normally. They didn’t go so far as to switch name or pronouns — I wasn’t going to demand it, not in that moment — so maybe it made it easier. But I wasn’t hiding it, wasn’t denying it, wasn’t worrying about it.
I tried to set up this whole thought a few posts ago by rambling on about the Tarot, probably as a way to assuage some of the guilt I was feeling in the wake of my dad’s death. But the point was simply to point out that sometimes endings can also be beginnings. And for me, my dad’ death was one of those moments. I came back from his funeral saddened, but also renewed. I began to ask myself the question: if I could endure this tragedy and still be my self, what was holding me back from being my self every single day?
Honestly, the weeks since I got back from Mississippi have been literally transformative for me. They have helped me become happier with myself; they have helped me become more comfortable around others; they have allowed me to let go of my fears and just be me. And while I have no doubt that I would have reached this stage eventually, there was something about the terrible tragedy of my dad’s death that pushed me forward.
My dad lived a rich, full life, and I loved him dearly. He was a generous man in life, and so I don’t think that he would begrudge me finding some good in the events surrounding his death. I’ve got to let the guilty feelings go. This is like his gift to me, and the worst thing I could do is squander it. So I haven’t.
As a final note: on the night my dad died, my mother asked me to do one thing in regards to my transition: she asked that, in some way, I keep my middle name. You see, my given middle name is actually my dad’s first name (a tradition I continued with my own son). She wanted me to keep it, in his memory.
The moment she said it, I knew that I couldn’t reject her request. I’ve toyed with middle names in the last year, even mentioned a few here, but none of them has really stuck. I just never felt motivated to choose one, and I even thought about not having one. But now, I have a middle name that matters. It’s Paula, in honor of my dad.