Sometimes I think one of the most difficult things about being transgender is the lack of continuity with the first 30 years of my life. It wasn't just my name and body that changed: everyone in my family responded to me differently, and mostly for the worse. My family was never perfect. Like everyone else, we had our ups and downs. We had drug addicts and a great uncle that while I only met him a couple of times, I understood that the children were never supposed to be alone in a room with him. I grew up in the deep south, and we had teen pregnancies, alcoholism, and my uncle, C.J. He was gay, but he knew he shouldn't be. He tried so hard no to be. He even became a priest to avoid being gay, because he knew he would never be accepted by our family. But it didn't work, he couldn't pray the gay away, and he left the priesthood before taking his final vows. I grew up hearing the things our family members, his own mother, said about him behind his back. I knew that the reaction to me transitioning would be even worse, and I was right. After my mother died, everyone remaining on her side of the family cut off contact with me. This hurt, but I had my own little family to care for, and I pushed it to the back of my mind for as long as I could, though I hated watching my children grow up and knowing they wouldn't have the large extended family I had grown up. Because for better or worse, they had been mine, and that gave me some sense of having a place in the world.
Despite us having a huge thing in common, being the rainbow sheep of the family, C.J. and I lost touch too. He struggled with an addiction to pain pills, and what I believe was undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I would get loving emails from him for a few years, then an angry tirade about a slight offense, news about me heard from another family member and he was so offended I hadn't told him first that he broke off contact with me. It wasn't even big news, and I hadn't told the family member; they'd heard it third hand from facebook. But that didn't matter. I didn't have time to worry about his mercurial temperment. I had a terminally ill child to take care of.
This sense of loss, and lack of continuity, was brought home so painfully when she died. None of my extended family on my mother's side came to her memorial service or even sent a card. When I ceased to exist to them as the girl they had known, my children did as well. I hated them all for that. Though there's an argument to be made that we were all better off not having judgemental, narrow-minded people like that around us, I hated that my children had been cut off form a family that included dozens of cousins all across the country. It never feels good to believe you've been judged and found unworthy, and that's how I felt.
The last chapter of this story ended on Christmas day, when I learned that C.J. died in November of pancreatic cancer. In November. No one called, emailed, or tagged me in a facebook post to inform me. They are in the wrong, so why does that make me feel so worthless? I want to be worthy of their love, and in their eyes I'm not. My baby sister has never been able to accept my transition, and while she stayed in birthday-and-christmas contact with my children when Cassie was alive, I have ceased to exist since my daughter's death. I feel so unmoored in this world. My story ended at age 30 with my transition, and then again at 41 with the death of my child. Everything since then feels like postscript, and I wish I could say that didn't hurt. But I can't. It does.