14 years ago, I wrote a letter to my mother. She had been dead for ten years at that time. I had been transitioning from male to female for a year. I wrote the following letter, also available at Transcendence.
I've not spoken to you since a year before you died. It's been such a long time and so much has happened. Maybe you know what has been going on, but perhaps you do not. I don't know what things are like after you die. You might not even know how you died...it was so sudden. You had a brain hemorrhage. And I was 2000 miles away. It seemed like much farther because there was a great distance between us for so long...so many years.
I'm sure you didn't understand everything. There were times I didn't understand what was going on. I guess that's why I am writing this letter...to try to explain. It's not going to be easy for me. It's going to be damn hard, as a matter of fact. Through it all though, I want you to know that I love you very much and always have.
I have never heard of a good way to approach this subject with family members. You might know what I am going to say already, since I tried to tell you once a long, long time ago. Then I was an 11-year-old child, and my explanation probably seemed like babbling to you. Maybe you think you "straightened everything out" when we talked. All that really happened was that I died a little inside. I have been mostly unhappy ever since, until last year.
I guess I am trying to sneak up on telling you and maybe you have no idea what I am talking about. I am transsexual, Mom. My name is now Robyn Elaine Serven. I'm changing my sex. I have been for over a year. You "little boy" doesn't exist anymore. He never did, really. Your "little boy" was a little girl.
You didn't cause this, Mom, at least not with anything you had control over. It probably happened before I was born. No one knows how or why it happens. But I know that it is not your fault. You were a good mother for the most part. You just didn't know.
Right now you are probably thinking of all the things I did that proved I was a little boy, your little boy. But you were never good at figuring out my feelings, Mom. You know that. You used to say it all the time. I didn't show my emotions, except when I was hurt or frightened, when I would cry. I could smile through anguish, or frown when happy. And when I cried, I would feel like I was letting someone down, because someone would say I wasn't supposed to. And I cried a lot, Mom. More than you knew. Or maybe you did. Up in my room, all alone...crying. How I longed for you to be with me at those times. But that would mean telling you why I was crying. I always had to have a reason for everything, didn't I? And telling you would mean losing your ...that's what I thought. So I went and cried alone. If Jack was home, that meant going for a walk. How many times I must have taken walks to somewhere I could cry away from everyone. I wanted to come to you, Mommy. I wanted you to make it better...to make the hurting stop.
The one time we talked about it wasn't the right time. You were upset before you even came home...angry at Dad for something. I heard him slam the door to your bedroom. And where was I...hiding in my bed, hoping you didn't catch me in your dress. That was the only time I wore anything of yours, Mom...the only time. So you were angry at Dad and I was crying and shaking with fear...I wanted to shout: "Please, Mommy...Please understand and help me!" I was only 11. How could I tell you how much I hurt, how much I hated being a boy? I never ever felt like one of them. I thought that meant I was a girl. Maybe I was neither. Maybe I still am.
I know what you said, and that you said it because you wanted me to not be hurt. But it wasn't the right thing, Mommy!! It wasn't what I needed to hear...I was desperately in need of your love and understanding right then. I wanted a hug from you so much. But...it didn't happen. And some of me died...or started dying. And I never felt I could confide in you anymore. I never did...and I wanted to so many times. Every time I wanted to, I died a little more.
I thought getting away from home would make it easier. That's why I went to Penn. It wasn't easier, Mommy. I know how disappointed you were that I flunked out. What you didn't know is that I almost committed suicide. And I couldn't talk to you still. I ached for you then.
You never asked how come I "ran away" from home soon afterwards. I guess you figured it was because of the draft. I wasn't running away from you, Mom...I was running towards something...searching for acceptance...searching for someone who understood. I didn't really find anyone. There wasn't anyone for me. I was so alone. I wanted to come home, but by then Dad was impossible to live with and besides, you still probably wouldn't have understood. At least that's what I thought. Maybe I didn't give you enough credit. Maybe if I had just talked to you once after that one time, you would have seen the hurt, how much pain I felt.
Maybe...if only...but life didn't go like that, did it? So we stayed apart. The next thing you knew you had a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. I wanted so badly to be Jen's mother...not her father. And I STILL couldn't talk to you, dammit! Nothing but small talk...nothing that needed to be said.
This is so hard talking to you, Mom. Here I am 45 years old and I STILL can't talk to my mother. I wish I could be friends with you, like you, Peggy and Joan were friends with Grandma. I loved Grandma so much...I think she understood about me, looking back on everything. She always gave me the type of gifts I wanted and she refused to spell "Bobby" that way...always "Bobbie." She died, Mom, in 1986 of Alzheimer's. That was a year after Peggy died, of complications from the encephalitis she had had. Joan and I are good friends now. I am sure that will make you happy. It gives me hope that you would have accepted me, too, in time. Then again, you always thought Joan was the strange one...the beatnik < smile >. She told me she always thought I was a strange child. And she said when she got the letter from me, from Robyn Serven, so she didn't know it was from me yet, she knew what it was about as soon as she saw the envelope.
Jen is the best daughter I could hope for, but she lives far from here in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her friend Julie Cox. I am so proud that she has grown up to be such a loving young woman. I just wish we could visit with each other more often. Her support through the first three months of my transition is largely responsible for me surviving it, just knowing that someone still loved me.
Becky deserted me, which didn't seem to surprise anyone in the family. I guess the lack of love between us was apparent. She was a "user," Mom. It took me 23 years to admit that she was just using me. And when I needed her most, she took a hike.
You'd never believe it, Mom, but I have so many friends now...hundreds of them around the country and around the world. And they actually like me and respect me and like to hear my opinions about things. I know you never thought that would happen...not to the "son" who spent several years in high school locked up in "his" room. But it's true!! I don't understand it myself sometimes.
My life is better in so many ways. Friends, students who appreciate me for being their teacher....i've even started writing poetry and people like it! Go figure! Most of all I have found Love. Capital "L" Love, Mom. I finally learned to Love myself and when I did, I found Love for someone else and Love from her in return. I know you would become fast friends with April. She is intelligent, wise, witty, charming, tender, loving, caring, beautiful...the list of adjectives goes on and on. She'd fit in our family, too...she's a large woman <smile>. Not like any of those skinny girls Jack used to marry before he married Viv. I know you would love her and she would love you. I wish you could meet...but again, maybe you did yesterday...she said she felt your presence. She and I are planning on spending eternity with each other, so maybe someday we will all be together. I would like that very much.
I know I caused you pain, Mom. My own pain was too much to keep it from spilling on others. I wish things didn't happen the way they did but they did. Nothing will change them...not even wishful thinking. I want to be your friend, Mom, and your daughter. But now it's too late. And I miss you terribly.
I love you. I always have...in spite of everything.
Postscript: My relationship with April lasted for one year, but did not survive my surgery.