Family

Finding My Laughing Place

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“Transgender Flag” by Torbakhopper under license CC BY-ND 2.0

I did something a little out of the ordinary this week. I went to see a hypnotherapist. Yes, really I did.

It relates to an ongoing dilemma that I have. Ever since my youngest child began the transition from female to male, I have found it really difficult to get the pronoun right. I have been supportive (or at least as supportive as I could be while simultaneously finding out what transitioning was) and I have adjusted, more-or-less, at each stage of the process.

The first big adjustment was the name change, and that was surprisingly easy. I thought it would be more difficult than it was. Now I only use the former name occasionally, and only then in the context of making a reference to a historical event.

I also adjusted to my child having top surgery, and I drove him home from the hospital as cautiously as I could.  We stopped on the way home to get groceries, and I helped by carrying them up to his apartment.  I probably should have helped put them in the cupboards, but I was parked in a no parking zone, and so I hurried away.  Yes, I’m supportive and helpful, but not perfect. It was only as I was driving home that I wondered if he’d be able to reach all the kitchen shelves.

It has been about three years now since he first discussed gender transition with me, and since then I have tried to consistently use the masculine pronoun. Unfortunately, I am only successful about half of the time. The rest of the time I correct myself and sometimes I apologize.  This is driving me a little nuts. Why can’t I get this right?

It occurred to me recently that it’s a bad habit, a bit like smoking, and that I should be able to quit. I found it really difficult to quit smoking, though, and I realized that I needed help. The same is true with this pronoun thing, but there is no pronoun chewing gum. So, I wondered if the same hypnotherapists who sometimes help smokers quit could also help me to stop using the wrong pronoun.

I found a hypnotherapist who had good online reviews, and sent him an email asking if he could help me. We set up an appointment and I went to see him for the first time this week.

I left home in good time for the appointment, but then I thought that Google was sending me in the wrong direction. I should know better than to second-guess the world’s most trusted map reader, but there it is. Twice I pulled over to check the map.  The second time I pulled in front of a convenience store, and as I was leaving someone backed out of a parking spot right into me. Instead of honking my horn, I yelled at her, which was about as useless as the warning label on a pack of cigarettes. So, her car hit mine.

We both got out to inspect the damage with her saying “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you!” and me saying “You didn’t use your mirror!”  As it turned out, there was no damage; just a bit of paint from her vehicle on mine. I told her there was nothing to worry about and she gave me a hug then went on to tell me that this was the last day before she had to move house and she had a million things on her mind. I told her to breathe, and to use her mirror. All of this caused me to be late for my appointment.

I had a little bit of bother trying to find the therapist’s office because I had written down the wrong number, but I eventually showed up in the right place about ten minutes late. When I opened the door, I heard bells ringing. I thought this was an odd thing to happen in a psychologist’s office, but I suppose that having little bells attached to the door is cheaper than paying a receptionist.

The counselor/psychologist/hypnotherapist turned out to be a very nice man who was very gracious about my being late, and lost, and having had a little parking lot collision. He asked me if my neck was OK. I suspect I came across as a bit ditsy, when in fact I am normally quite level-headed. I wonder if this will permanently affect our relationship, but there’s not much I can do about it now.

The hour-long session was mostly taken up with him asking questions about my immediate family, my extended family, what my marriage was like, and so on. Some of his questions were simply getting some context, but others were more penetrating. One in particular has stuck with me. He asked “Have you grieved the loss of your daughter?”

I was a little taken aback by this because we aren’t talking about a death. My child is the same character, with the same personality, skills, and humor as he always was. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the gender, and as big an issue as that is, that is all.

So, now I am left with this question rattling around in my head and wondering about the implications of whatever answer I might give. Can one grieve the loss of a person’s former identity? If so, I suppose the transition I went through when I retired from my job was a kind of grieving.  Similarly, when I emigrated from the UK to Canada the homesickness I felt for a while was a kind of grieving. All of which has got me wondering about grief and the various forms it takes and if there is another word we could use when we aren’t talking about a death.

My session with the counselor ended with a ten-minute meditative period which was a gentle introduction to hypnosis. He said he would help me find my laughing place, and he did.  I told him I liked the idea of having a laughing place and he smiled and said “Yes. I thought you would.”

I will be seeing him again in a few weeks and I’ll be interested in finding out what happens next. Whatever it is, I hope it includes my laughing place.

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4 replies »

  1. this is such a huge topic with a wide range of the unknown and unknowable in play.

    thank you for sharing your experience. and thank you for digging into such a big topic with so few answers/role models, etc.
    this is history in action.

    and the idea of grieving for a child is so miraculous.
    i wondered that immediately when i started to read your article.
    i thought, “i wonder how much grief this mother has gone through!?”

    it may seem unnatural at first, but i wish my parents had grieved for me when i came out to them as a young person. instead, they’ve spent three decades not knowing that if they’d grieved for the straight child they lost, they might have had some room to welcome the gay child that they had created.

    my mother refuses to grieve for her loss.
    and her refusal to grieve has stranded her in time — she is lost in a dream that she would have a little boy and a little girl
    that never happened. she got three boys and her inability to get over that circumstance has led to incalculable sadness.

    from where i’m standing, transborn folks are such a rare and precious gift.
    our society doesn’t know what to do yet about this notion, but the more support and freedom our hearts can muster, the more discovery we can grasp.

    to have a war inside your body that is so great is unfathomable for most people. only the most powerful transpeople have the courage to come forward. there are so many people who are wrestling with minor forms of this same spirit. gender displacement can account for a whole lot of “body hating” disorders that plague humans all over the world.

    when i think about my own situation and how ugly and hard and lonely and abandoning it was to be “gay”, i times that horror by ten to understand how a transperson feels.

    ANYTHING we can do to NOT hurt them and NOT make them feel negativity about the displacement of their spirit is worth at least considering or trying.

    i’m not a parent, so i don’t know what that feels like or what the “responsibility” issues are like when you feel as if you’ve participated in the creation of something. but i do know from life that all manner of anomalies occur. and when parents turn away from their own creations, the world is a lot more judgmental. family is family.

    you are a brave person for standing up and expressing yourself!!!

    keep being brave!!!! it helps everyone.

  2. Thank you so much, torbakhopper, for this very personal response. Your experience has not been a happy one, and I am sorry for that. I hope you and your mother manage to maintain a relationship, however awkward it may be, because without that there will be no understanding.

    I express myself through this blog as a way for me to try to resolve all sorts of issues that I have with all kinds of life experiences. I find it helps just to put things into words, and I do that much better in writing than I do in person. It also helps that this is a social forum and I am able to get feedback, and that is usually reassuring or challenging. Either way, it helps to figure things out.

    My family is very important to me, and I try to stay connected with family members both near and far. We don’t always agree on things, and I don’t always understand why people make the choices they do, but I always try to accept them just as they are. Sometimes that means giving my own head a shake and reminding myself that I can’t possibly know what it is like to be them.

    Thank you for your kind words and for allowing me to use your photograph through Creative Commons. That is most generous of you.

  3. This was a very inspirational post for those with transgender children as well as those with special needs. Parents of special needs children are also often told they need to grieve the child they’d anticipated before they can truly accept the child have.

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