I learned something this week.
I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.
I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.
I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.
I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.
I learned that you think so little of me that you refuse to imagine that I make my own decisions and reach my own conclusions about myself, and blame my fiancée for everything about me that you dislike.
I learned that you think Ania standing up for me is a hideous breach of decorum and sign of disrespect, but you verbally abusing me for being who I am isn’t.
I learned that the only credit you’re prepared to give me for my own development as a person is to insinuate that I become things you dislike for the specific purpose of making you sad.
I learned that you will always, always try to make big, scary events in my life about you, about how they affect you, about how awkward they’ll be for you to explain to people whose opinions you’d dismiss in a heartbeat on any other issue, as though how my own life works for me is a bitter afterthought.
I learned that I’m not more important to you than your homophobia or your transphobia.
I learned that you think “we won’t actively destroy the education we’ve all worked hard to build, or get between you and your doctors, but we get to pretend that you’re not going through this” is a compromise I should graciously accept.
I learned that you think I can or should just “decide” to not be who I am because who I am apparently makes my family sad.
I learned that you’re not self-aware enough to recognize how much of why this revelation is hurting people other than you is because of how you are treating me right now.
I learned that, no matter what you do to me, you’ll never see my reactions to you as a sign that something you’re doing is wrong or hurtful, and instead bellow constantly that if I’m harmed by your words or actions that I’m wrong for being harmed.
I learned that you think me expecting you to try, to trust me when I tell you things about myself, to willingly learn about what it means to be the things I am because you want to know more about your daughter, is too great a burden.
I learned that, even more than I ever suspected, you don’t see me as an autonomous human being, but as a project and an extension of yourselves, to be scared into compliance with emotional blackmail and financial extortion for having the temerity to not turn out like you expected.
I learned that you don’t hear the terror and sadness and hurt and despair and silly, desperate hope in my voice when I beg and plead with you for over an hour, more emotional than you have ever heard me, to give me the smallest gesture that the person I am is someone you can acknowledge as part of your family, that you acknowledge me at all.
I learned that, when your own child is at the brink of tears, asking for nothing more than for you to recognize that what she’s going through is real, you will throw all of that back in her face.
I learned that you would rather pretend that the person you thought you knew before that fateful message died that day, than accept that she’s right here, too drained to even cry anymore over how she lost her parents, waiting for you to figure out that you had three children and still do, waiting for you to realize how much it hurts everyone around you for you to keep acting like you don’t have a 27-year-old daughter.
I learned that, for some godawful reason, you two rejecting me after I put all of that desperate emotion out for you to see hurts so much that I’ve been nauseated, shaking, breaking out in tears at the smallest disturbance, emotionally fried, and barely able to function at the most intense point in my degree, when being this broken is not an option.
I learned that, after all this, you’re probably still determined to imagine that whatever hurt you feel over the fact that your family looks a little different now, or that I was (RIGHTLY, you’ve made very, very clear to me) afraid to say anything to you until I could postpone it no longer, or that any grandchildren of yours who might someday call me Mom probably won’t be biologically related to me, is equivalent to what you’ve inflicted on me.
I learned that, if I’m ever beaten, assaulted, or raped like so many other transgender women, that I can’t turn to you for support, because you’ll blame me for my misfortune.
I learned that discovering that a gay man was in your family didn’t stop you from voting against equal rights for gay people, and learning that your own child is a transgender woman won’t make you stop voting for bigoted Republicans who want to make it illegal for women like me to use public bathrooms and legal to discriminate against us in jobs, housing, and hospitals.
I learned that I can’t share with you the tentative, joyful steps into womanhood that I’ve taken, secret from you, over the past year, or the steps I have yet to take, or the exultant smile I will bear when I first notice my breasts and hips taking their incipient feminine shape.
I learned that I’ll have to negotiate what it means to be a Cuban and Puerto Rican and American woman on my own, unmoored from my heritage because you unmoored me.
I learned that I won’t experience any joy in December without a tinge of sadness, because the closeness I looked forward to every year won’t be possible anymore.
I learned that I don’t feel safe anymore in the home where I grew from a child to an adolescent to an adult, because I remember how few qualms you have about breaking into your children’s rooms to search their closets, or hiding in their closets to brutalize them when they came out of the shower.
This is a photograph of me from this past summer, when my friend Miranda moved to Australia and left me with most of her wardrobe and plastic jewelry.
I want you to look into that woman’s eyes. I need you to see what she felt in that moment, the flash of excitement, the hint of the effusive grin she bore a moment later, the recognition of the value of her friend’s gift. I want you to look at her as she looks down at herself, and see the tingle of pure joy that overtook her a moment later, when for the first time in years she looked down at herself and liked what she saw.
This is a photograph of me a few weeks ago, wearing a top I bought at Sirens because it made me feel sexy and shorts and heels from among the many, many clothing donations I’ve received from friends who care about me.
If you can tell that woman that she’s wrong for being happy, then you’re no parents of mine.
When you learn that you’re better than you’ve been since I told you I’m a woman named Alyssa Alexandra Celestino Gonzalez, I’ll be here, desperately eager to know I have parents after all, waiting for the news that I will someday lounge poolside, feeling sunlit and beautiful, sharing stories from work with you as the smell of caja China pork fills the air and makes the neighbors jealous.
Until then, I can’t take you hurting me again the way you have every time I’ve talked to you for the past several weeks. I would not survive it, and then you’ll have that on your consciences.
The next time you hear from me before then, it will be me giving you a chance to prove you’re not the kind of monsters I read about constantly, who ruin their children’s futures by making their support contingent on them pretending to be something they’re not.
If you respond to this message with anything other than a boatload of apologies and a promise to do better by your daughter whose name is Alyssa Alexandra Celestino Gonzalez, I will make this entire exchange public and spread it as widely as I possibly can.
Make the next thing I learn be that I’m wrong about you and that you do indeed love me enough to love the person I actually am, and not the one you wish I was.