Guest columnist Mariel E. Addis: Waiting for the wound of coming out to heal

Published: 11/26/2021 2:46:14 PM
Modified: 11/26/2021 2:45:57 PM

Perhaps it is stating the obvious, but a family is an intricate device, with delicate elements that are easily damaged or broken.

Over the past few years, I have written many pieces for the Gazette, most tied to my male-to-female transition. I have mentioned numerous family members in my posts, careful to never specifically mention them by name, but for readers who know me and my family, it is not difficult to know who I am talking about. Still, there are likely far more readers who don’t know them and many that don’t even know me.

In my essays, despite what it may seem, I was not trying to put a spotlight on my family members, or even specifically on me, but mostly I wanted to provide a snapshot into the types of conflict and experiences that transgender people and their families face everyday.

Still, it is my story and it is the most personal, real-life, example that I have. Other families may have dealt with the same situation very differently. Coming out later in life for any member of the LGBTQ community gets complicated when a spouse, and perhaps children, are involved, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. However, coming out as trans is somewhat of a different animal. I was hoping that my family would be able to weather the storm, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Coming out is an emotional experience — realizing this inner truth that may have been denied or hidden for years. Still, reactions from family members can’t always be predicted. As mentioned, my nuclear family has yet to come to terms with my transition. When I think about my wife and kids, I have felt frustration, confusion, anger, and a good deal of loss and sadness. I am certain that each one of them has experienced all of the same feelings.

While I know that transitioning to female was absolutely right for me, the reaction of my family pains me immensely. Some readers may blame me, some may blame my family, but when I look at all the players involved in this situation, I don’t see any good guys or bad guys. I see everyone doing what they needed to cope with the situation. It is difficult judge individual actions taken by me or my family without being thrust into the situation. Mostly, to me, the story of my family’s reaction to my “coming out” and transitioning, feels like a tragedy, something worthy of an Arthur Miller play.

Other families have successfully weathered the storm of having a LGBTQ family member come out, and perhaps my family will ultimately be one of those families, too. However for now, even years after I came out, the wound it still open and it’s likely to remain that way for a while. Perhaps it will never heal because it is such an emotional subject. The biggest takeaway is: we are all good people, caring people, emotional people, who have volumes of lifetime experiences in common. The best analogy I can think of is the Dave Mason song from the mid 1970’s, “We Just Disagree.”

Now, if I had decided to go back to school to become a doctor, we might have struggled financially for a while, and been saddled with some hefty student loans, but instead, I decided to change my gender. The jump from a Mr. to Dr. is heck of a lot easier accept than the jump from Mr. to Ms. Despite the change in my gender, everyone is OK, no one actually died, for some, it is just the idea of who I was that may have died — I happen to disagree.

As humans, we wrap so much up around gender that sometimes we forget the soul of the person inside that shell. It’s my hope, that as humans, over time, we can learn to “see” the soul of others without all the messy gender baggage. That’s going to take some time.

Mariel E. Addis grew up in Florence, moved away for 16 years, and returned back in 2013.

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