When I saw Caitlyn Jenner’s reveal in the Vanity Fair pictures, I was stunned-in a good way. She’s here! She’s Caitlyn! She’s gorgeous! Well, maybe her looks are not what we should focus on. I mean, who is Caitlyn Jenner? It would be nice to know her, I mean really know her as a person. Seeing a person transition genders is one thing, but having it in your family is another. I have a transgender, female-to-male (F2M) sibling. I will not reveal his names, because he has chosen to exclude me from his life, but I wish I could without provoking ire. This is my experience with my sibling:
Some night in 2006…and THREE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING…we get a phone call. We’re not exactly ready to get up and answer it, so the answering machine picks it up. The message we get (Well, the gist anyway)…
“I’m not afraid of you anymore. I’m transgender, and have decided to live life as a man.”
I suspect he was drunk when he made the phone call. Why else would he wait until it was THREE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING our time to give us a phone call? Let’s give some background to it: We live in central-eastern Kentucky (Eastern Time), and he lives in California (Pacific Time). He would know full well it was THREE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING where we were when he called, unless there was something screwing with his knowledge. He’s smart – unless alcohol might have been involved. Nobody is smart when they’re drunk. My suspicions had been confirmed, though I never told anybody about them, and had them for quite some time. He had given his phone identity a masculine name. Why else would a very intelligent woman do that? His phone message also had a somewhat different, but still masculine, name.
Anyway, this opened up a world I had suspected for some time. My mother had seen signs beforehand as well, and began putting them together. You see, when he was still a she, she never placed too much interest in a doll unless it was either a boy, or it bore her name. Also, she never really had much interest in very girly things. Now, nobody I know is expected or encouraged to follow in a classical “feminine mystique” stereotype anymore, especially thanks to feminism and a growing awareness of genderfluidity, but she never really got into feminine things unless there was peer pressure involved, or someone showed a rival affection (for another day). Here is a classic example: My born-male brother had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I got mad that there was a girl made for the set, but he never got it. (I had to play along with a She-Ra doll I found in the alley near my house.) My little sister, however, had no problem taking on this Ninja Turtle, or that Ninja Turtle. She had no problem playing boys. We never thought anything of it until that night, though.
That night, some of our world changed, but the rest stayed the same. I mean, my new brother excluded us from his life, and told us that or sister was “dead.” But it is torture for a person who shared so much of your life to say that there is this new dimension to them, AND NOT INVITE YOU TO SEE IT! That is what offends me the most; the fact that he won’t let me love him as the brother he wanted me to see all along.
People think that Kris Jenner is being selfish for feeling left out of Bruce/Caitlyn’s life decisions. Far be it from me to pity, but within transgender families, there is a sort of grieving period for the former person’s goals and potential. Nobody told us to expect It, but my mother felt the grieving more than I did. I seemed to go through the grieving period rather mildly, and during my time of suspicion, to get ready for something coming around the corner. Perhaps I was getting ready for it faster than she did, but everybody has their own timetable in this experience.
In all of this, here is what I would say to my F2M brother:
I love you. I will always love you. I also respect your decisions. Please, let me get to know this new you, so I can judge for myself if I want you in my life, but I probably will.