Sunday, February 2, 2014

Asking for what you need

A couple of weeks ago some sadder memories popped into my head.  I try not to ruminate on such things too frequently, but I thought sharing them might be valuable in the event some of you may be experiencing something akin to the happenings around here when DJ first came out.

Admittedly, despite the overly bright picture I fear I've presented throughout this blog, those first couple of months were somewhat dark.  What I remember most about the "dark" aspects was the loneliness.  Despite the fact that both sides of the family completely embraced DJ and accepted her, I recall our little family being alone, quite a bit.  Both Goodwrench and Romeo were living away, at school, so DJ, Bulldog and I were home, in our small, rural town, where we were uncertain as to what to expect from our inner circle of close friends and the circle outside of that, of friends, in general.  I remember, keenly, feeling frightened for DJ's safety, as well, which only heightened my sense of isolation.

At the time, I had family living up the street and a few miles away.  They supported DJ so what I'm about to say might seem ungrateful;  I don't mean it to be.  Those folks were integral in making DJ feel loved and accepted.  But what I recall is a long, hot, isolated summer with little to do and no one to do much of anything with.

Some of our friends and acquaintances knew about DJ's coming out, some did not. On July 4th of that year, some friends, who did not yet know, were having a July 4th party a mile from our home.  All of my family members attended.  We did not.  It was too soon and the hosts of the party did not know about DJ yet.  Bulldog, DJ and I spent that day doing absolutely nothing except hanging out.  And not one family member dropped by to see how we were, despite being one mile away.  That's two sisters, their spouses, my mother, and a cousin.  It stings each time I recall it.

We were supporting DJ but Bulldog and I needed support too.  Someone to remember that get togethers like that weren't possible yet for us-not yet.  I try to remember that people all tend to be in their own little bubbles and often don't think of (what might seem like, to us) the obvious needs of others.  What if I had just asked any one of them to drop in and visit for a few minutes?  Or maybe Bulldog and I should have been a bit more creative and taken DJ on a road trip to get out of town for a day or two.  Neither of those solutions occurred to me at the time.

So, I say this to families who are in a similar predicament:  this place of "flux" will not last forever BUT, and this  is a significant BUT, your predicament can be isolating at first.  Just four years ago, I could only find one or two resources for transgender people and none of them were within 50 miles of us.  That is likely less true today than it was even four years ago.  Search online for support.  And if you have even one family member or friend, ask for help.  Ask for a visit.  Tell them you're feeling a bit lonely for company as you try to re-introduce your child.  You're so busy being strong for your kid and kudos to you for that.  But you gotta refill the tank or you'll run out of gas.  Some days, you'll need support almost as much as your kid does.  Not because having a transgender kid is draining, in and of itself, but because, unfortunately, being "different" in this world can be draining.  And if your kid is no longer living at home but has just recently decided to transition, this is where you can help. What if your son has only told one or two friends of his decision to transition? Is he alone on a Friday night?  Is your daughter going to be spending a 3 day weekend with nothing to do? Ask your kid to come home and dote on him or her for the weekend.  We often want to give our grown kids "space", but maybe "space" is not what  your kid needs right now.  And if she does need space, she'll tell you, "No thanks."  As hard as it is for us to ask for help, it might be even harder for them, especially if they're feeling unnecessary guilt for "putting" their parents through "this" (their transition).

There are a fair number of blogs by folks who are going through situations such as this.  Use them. Write to the authors, make comments.  It's possible someone may answer.  That alone can make you feel less alone in the process.  Most importantly-do NOT think the isolation you may experience is a failing on your part or a failing on your child's part.  Most people just can't understand the magnitude of transition, despite how hard they try.  And they are often unsure of what to do to help.  It's no one's fault, but you may be able to remedy it simply by asking, "You want to swing by for just a few minutes?  We could use some company since our social life is kind of limited at the moment."  Sure wish I had done that.....