Trigger warning: rape, incest, abuse, discussion of mental health and suicide.
What I am most afraid of is introducing the other person who matters the most in my narrative. She has almost been written out of my family’s history, even though she gave birth to four beautiful children who have grown up into wonderful adults. There are many reasons why I think my family has neglected her memory and ignored her influence for so long. One is that she suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness, and as I know from having a mental illness myself, mental illness is misunderstood and looked down upon as a weakness in my family. She suffered from tumultuous emotional mood swings and unresolved abuse issues with her own parents that I know very little about because no one will tell me. Also, she died by committing suicide, and suicide is by far one of those things I wish people wouldn’t condemn. If you aren’t doing what you can to help people you know who are suicidal have a better life, I'm not sure you have any right to condemn their choice to take their own life. That being said, my Mom was roundly condemned by my family for committing suicide, and I alone feel that she had every right to.
This is where my story goes into some pretty disturbing details. There are very few words to accurately describe what I experienced, and what she experienced. I want to preface this by saying that I understand the rage and anger some people may feel at what happened to me, and that at this point, it may be hard to keep reading. Mine is not a rape story that elicits in me the kind of indignant outrage you as the reader may be feeling. You may tell me I should be feeling rage and seething anger at my Mother. You may not understand why I want to keep capitalizing the title Mother/Mom. I feel the need to tell you why.
My Mom was a supportive and kind friend to all who knew her. She always was welcoming and interested in our many trials and tribulations as children and teenagers. She got to know our friends as human beings first. Many of my friends remarked years later that she was the first adult they knew who took them seriously as people and didn’t talk down to them as "kiddies". That’s a quality of hers that I try to emulate whenever I interact with children.
But, later on as adults, me and my siblings understood what our parents approach to parenting was. I was born in 1972, my younger brother in 1974. My Mom wanted a girl, and though I was assigned a boy at birth, she did get her wish to have her first child be a girl. But she wouldn’t live to see her wish be fulfilled by my transition.
Over time, my Dad has excused the mistakes he and my Mom made raising me and my younger brother as “practice parenting” for my sister and youngest brother, who were born in 1979 and 1981. That’s fair enough, and on the surface, I accept that. But my scars go pretty deep, and I don’t think I will ever be believed for what I am about to say. At the time, my Mom was raising four children, being a housewife, battling a mental illness, and coping with her own traumatic personal memories of her own upbringing. So you can probably see where my sympathy for her comes from. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to say all rapists are monsters who belong in hell, but not only do I not feel that way, it’s actually a trigger for me to hear it being said, without the person saying it qualifying it to some degree.
So, because the exact time is still unclear to me, I do not know if I was 11 or 12, or if my Mom was 30 or 31. My Dad was always working extra hours to keep us afloat financially, and none of the four of us were old enough to work at part-time jobs yet. The stress in our family was unbearable. Our Mom would often suffer from crying fits and breakdowns. I learned to repress my burgeoning sexuality and even my real gender identity, which I quietly filed away as “hopeless”, in the sense that I never saw myself in a real relationship with someone in the “going out” sense.
My sister and youngest brother were the children she felt she needed to make up for the mistakes she and my Dad made in bringing up me and my younger brother. There wasn’t a lot we could do about it, and the two of us felt like we were being cut loose emotionally, though we were only 9 and 11 at the time.
That would work for my younger brother, who was more emotionally stable than me and better able to handle himself socially both in school and out of school. But I still needed my Mommy. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me physically, why it felt so wrong for me to have the body I did, why my throbbing penis made me feel the way it did, and why I didn’t fit into what our sex-ed class was teaching us about boys and girls. All of that would have to wait because she was too busy fawning over my sister and youngest brother.
There comes a point in this narrative where I have to say my Mom started to develop an unhealthy obsession with both my and my younger brother’s friends. She was the cool Mom on the block who could play board games and talk with us and not be repulsive, as in “eww Mom!?”, but there were other times where, as much as I enjoyed watching my friends getting owned by my Mom in a wrestling match, I was scared that what I was watching wasn’t right. These memories I’ve mentioned have been repeated to me by my friends over the years as we’ve talked now and then.
I have always been a natural writer for as long as I can remember, and it comes as naturally to me as breathing. I didn’t learn to read as much as I picked up books from my parents’ bookshelf and started to read them unassisted. There is no explanation for this; my sister started reading the same way and neither of us really care to have this gift explained to us. I started writing as an expression of my sexual and gender identity as early as 11 or 12. I moved from simple stories to erotica without stopping for a breath. I felt inadequate, underdeveloped, wrongly developed, clueless about what was happening to me, but I could always find clarity and joy in writing about my fantasies. This was greatly helped by the fact that I was hoarding my Mom’s women’s magazines under my bed so I could look at the fashion, read the feminist articles, smell the perfume samples, and immerse myself in women’s culture.
But, as can be expected in many of these kinds of situations, my Mom caught me masturbating. The irony was, she sometimes didn’t know I was doing it, because of the non-handjob style I used. I used my hips as I lay face down on a soft or semi-hard surface like a mattress, a towel or the carpet. Before I learned to maturely space out my masturbation moments, I was masturbating wherever and whenever I could. I rarely used visual aids except the visual cue of one of those fashion magazines so I could put myself in the right frame of mind as a girl. I was always dreaming and imagining about what was occurring in my written work as sexual fuel for my imagination.
My Mom started reading my amateur erotica. My long ordeal of dysphoria, which will get even worse as this story goes along, became evident if it wasn’t already. She knew I understood the female perspective of things. I haven’t said anything specific, but please don’t be mad at me for not condemning her as you would. My memory of our experiences and relationship together is just beginning to thaw in my mind. I still don’t know, or can’t remember, exactly what happened. My therapy for this has revealed my Dad may have been involved, but there is no way to know for sure.
This is where the narrative partially stops for a time-out. I have to explain where my life went to in the time between then and now.
I am different, there is no doubt about that. Many theories have been explained to me about what that “different” is. The answer is that I am transgender, assigned male at birth but really a girl. I don’t think anyone would argue against that now. For years, that fundamental part of me was invisible and silent, known only to someone if you looked under my bed or mattress.
I am still afraid to let anyone near me emotionally, and this mistrust of people’s intentions and motives, even when I am not threatened, started in my twelfth year. I describe it as having the defensiveness of a wounded animal. My bipolar, if it is indeed bipolar, didn’t come until later. My confrontations with my parents about how they treated me went way beyond teenage angst. I can remember learning how to be emotionally and verbally abusive from these arguments. There was something my younger brother and I, the “practice” children, had gone through that the “successful” children hadn’t. There were times I knew, looking back, I was a bratty little shit, but mostly, I was trying to get my parents to admit something they weren’t willing to admit. Over time, they made wonderful gestures to try to make it up to me, but I can never get those years of my life back, and what I want more than anything now is to be accepted for who I am.