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.