Conversations with a Brick Wall
Or, "Listen here, Void..."
Content warning: Trans issues, conflict, emotional abuse including Abandonment, deadnaming, gaslighting, and isolation.
I had a conversation this morning with a brick wall, and I want to share it with you. It went something like this.
I’m sorry. That was never my intention.
Wow. There’s a lot going on in that statement, but it’s not helpful so we won’t go there now. I’m not going to side with the people who are isolating you, because I understand what that’s like and I would never. So here’s my advice: this turn of events is unfortunate for you, but it lies entirely within your power to right it.
Well, by not calling me that, first off. We’ve talked about that before.
Take on a persona? Like I’m an actor? Like I’m making this all up? Mom, I transitioned because I’m tired in my bones of acting. I’m 35, I should not feel this old.
And yes, I’m asking you to do a thing, but I’m not alone. Which, by the way, I ‘ve spent the last almost a decade thinking I am alone. Listen, you weren’t right about this in 2013, you weren’t right about this in 2016, and you’re not right about this now. In the last seven years, how has your position evolved? The only difference from my perspective is that our détente positions have grown a little closer. Which is nice, but you have to stop putting this in terms of power relations. I don’t give a shit about power, Mom, I just want my family.
These are all matters of perspective. From my view, I never changed. I just dropped the mask. And I’m sorry, I am so sorry, that I grew up thinking I couldn’t trust you with who I actually am. But if you honestly reflect on who you are and who you were, you could not blame me for hiding myself. If you want to call it a change of reality, if that’s what you need to do to get it through to yourself, I don’t care. But you need to acknowledge a change, i.e. accepting the end state as, for better or worse, valid.
Anyway, that’s the entire throughline of life: everything changes. Trying to say “You’re still [that name I hate]” to me is like me saying to you “You’re still that little girl who grew up too fast, still scrabbling for any scrap of control over your life you can find.”
IT’S NOT TRUE. It’s a part of the story, but it’s a very small part, and it no longer holds a lot of significance.
I understand why that’s scary to you. But you forcing me into that box would have destroyed me. I need you to understand that. And nearly has, twice now.
Here’s the bottom line: if you want me to acknowledge that I “changed my reality from A to B (which is, at best, shockingly simplistic), if that’s what it takes for you to accept the plain and simple reality that exists before you, fine. You call me Sophia and I’ll acknowledge that I changed.
Okay, so what you said you wanted is not actually what you wanted then.
The lack of self-reflection in that statement is astounding. Let me just go ahead and point out that right now, you’re winding up to accuse me of being the one who lacks self-awareness, which… no. Projection, plain and simple. She said, having opened up the opportunity to get a lecture on how little I know…
Do you think these conversations are easy for me? Don’t you think I want to tell you about the good things that happened in my life? Let me ask you this: what do you know about my ex-girlfriend, [exgf]? We dated for seven months, and I loved her. Do you think at no point in time I didn’t want to tell you everything? How about my work with the Poor People’s Campaign? Have you seen my speeches? Plural? What about my work with Common Defense? Have you seen any of my birddogging videos? You want to make this about power? Fine. You have every bit of it. I have played by your rules every single step of the way, in order to maintain what little relationship we have left. I’m the only one who’s trying! And, btw, I’ve compromised on my own rules! If you’ll recall, I said that every time you referred to me by my deadname, you would get an insight into my life that you would not appreciate knowing. How many times has that happened?
On the other side of this is a life where we can be close again. A life where you would be a guest of honor at my bat mitzvah, a life where you have a standing invitation to my table for Shabbat dinner, a life of shared holidays, a life where I get to know both my nephew and my niece, maybe someday you’ll all come to my wedding, and our family can be whole again. If you want things to go back to the way they were, you need to know that the past you long for is dead. It is never coming back. No matter what you withhold from me, no matter how long you forbid me from being in your sight, your idealized version of me is dead and gone.
That’s not actually true. I will grant you it’s rare, and dad is by far the worse offender, but you have, and I know this because I’m the one it actually affects.
And anyway, I have reached out to you before. It’s rare only because you made your decision that we were to lead separate lives. Between the fragility of your pride and of your faith, you couldn’t cope with the fact that I’m trans so you decided that we are going to live separate lives. That’s why I don’t reach out to you more often.
If your faith can’t cope with my existence, if your faith demands that you cast me out, then the structure of your faith is fragility itself.
Do you even know why?
G-d doesn’t make mistakes, mom. That much I’ll grant you. But why do you think life is so terrible for trans people? It’s because of people who believe the same things you do. It’s not some immutable condition of the universe that trans people get shit on, your people do this to us. Maybe trans people are G-d’s way of saying “love that isn’t unconditional isn’t love.” Maybe we’re an object lesson to people who believe the same as you, but either way, the way trans people are treated is entirely on you, not on G-d.
This isn’t some metaphysical conundrum, G-d creates trans people for the same reason he creates Jews: because.
I do [intent to continue our text relationship], but I will never apologize for standing up for myself, even to you. I’ve let you get away with wallowing in your bigotry for long enough. I’m still sorry that your family is treating you the way they are, that must be very hard (*pointed silence*) and I’m trying to reach out to you, I’m trying to help. But I will not help by enabling your bigotry at the cost of my own identity. I’m hoping the day comes sooner rather than later that you realize the choice is yours, and the choice is this: you can choose to have in me a live, happy, healthy daughter with whom you have a close relationship, or you can cling to your mistaken ideas about your faith and the tattered remains of the mask I made to hold everyone to account for everything they weren’t.
Mean? Mom? MEAN? I’m being mean?! What, like your family is being mean? Like everyone in the world is being mean to you and the only people who are being nice to you are your church friends who tell you you’re right for casting me out? What did they tell you, mom? That I’m choosing a life with a 40% lifetime suicide risk? Bet they ignored the part where it drops to 5% with parental support! I’m welcomed in your mother’s house, but not yours. But yeah, we’re all being mean to you.
I’m sorry this hurts you, really I am. But you are in a false conundrum and I’m trying to get you to see that for yourself. There is a clear solution and all you have to do is take it, and we will never feel like this again. All this pain is exactly because you choose this path. I’m on the path of my life, you have no right to dictate it to me, but I want you to be a part of it. Still, after all of this, after a decade of you only deigning to speak to me through text, I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP ON YOU. But you have to choose to be in my life.
I don’t like the way we are right now. I don’t like that I had to write you out of my will because I can’t trust you to honor my wishes, should the worst happen. I want to be able to say to my friends, “my parents are great,” but… That’s subjective, isn’t it? Yes, you do for me on holidays I no longer celebrate, but that’s not enough. I’ve tried to share all the most important things in my life with you, and all I hear is how much it hurts you.
And you gained a daughter, who is so happy. Even though her life is falling apart, she is so, so happy and wants to share it with you.
You gained a daughter who is honest with herself and others. A daughter who is brave, who is faithful, who is strong. I chose the Hebrew name Tzipporah because every time I hear it, I am reminded of the strength of that extraordinary woman, and challenged to live up to it. I chose the second name Eliana, which means “My G-d has answered me” because that’s the first thing I felt when I first stepped into the synagogue. Did you know that? Did you know I’ve actually been considering going to rabbinical school someday, and starting a congregation for people who are unwelcome in the congregations where they are?
Considering, anyway. Any b’nai mitzvah can lead services, so perhaps I don’t even need to go to Rabbinical school. Have a lay congregation…
I’m in a tricky spot right now, but everything is so damn beautiful in my life. And I owe all of that to you and Dad. I learned to endure, to strive, I learned from you that when hope is gone, spite will do in a pinch… I learned how to see the good in even the worst of times, and I learned how to believe.
I believe in you, I see the best in you, and I’m not giving up on you, despite it all. Because that’s what you’ve taught me.
You might have guessed, the brick wall was my mother, who did actually respond, but who does not approve of my gender transition and whose privacy I’m respecting. And, like, she’s not stopping me from transitioning, but she also makes life less pleasant with her absence and her performative victimization. I’m frustrated, but also sad. It’s hard being alone…
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, and maybe you relate to my struggles here, I see you. And you’re not alone.