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From: Why I told Mom

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We know I'm a woman. Very few other people know that; I first came out to myself, then my wife of 39 years and my daughter. After them, I explained to my older grandchildren that "sometimes a boy's brain gets born in a girl's body, sometimes a girl's brain get's born in a boy's body. That's what happened to me." Those events were all many, many months ago. Most recently I came out to my mother and to our closest family friend, something I'd been certain I'd not do.

Another thing I've always known about myself that society does not understand and cannot accept is that I'm an empath. Get this straight, I'm nothing like Troi or other empathic characters in television, film or fiction. Instead, I feel when other people I already know are upset about something, when something is unsettled. I also believe I know when to help them through those difficulties and to whom I can reveal my ability. I know that current medical and mental health science have identified "mirror neurons" which are "circuits" or centers of activity that fire when we see or sense others' emotions and allow us to understand what is going on in another person's brain and body by producing similar feelings in our own brain and body. They're how we homo sapiens evolved to live in close social groups and get along with each other.

Mirror neurons require close proximity. My mother and I live 750 miles away from each other. As you will see, mirror neurons cannot explain fully what happened to us.

I've been estranged from my mother, for the most part, for the past 25 years. I'd completely given up on her ever considering my feelings. I was certain relating with her would be more painful than not relating. She sent Xmas cards, somethimes a birthday card (almost all belated) but never called and only forwarded e-mail propaganda that she approved of but that I didn't. I couldn't understand how the woman who'd been a staunch supporter of the civil rights movement had become such a social conservative although she'd raised me to be a liberal if not a progressive.

I was sure that if I came out she would be hurt and/or reject me. I was sure that it was better to avoid hurting her and to avoid her hurting me.

One evening while I was at home in SC, I felt extremely agitated for no discernible reason. I'd been sitting quietly in my living room, reading probably, but the whole body and mind were in a strange emotional state. I pushed it aside and later went to bed. When I got up the next morning, I felt something completely unexpected, that I had to come out to Mom. I argued with myself that entire day but the agitation kept mounting. When I told my wife what I was feeling, she responded, "But you always said you would never do that!"

That was it, though. I had no idea why but I knew I had to call Mom and find out if something was going on. It turned out there was. I called the evening of the second day. Throughout the preceding day and all of that day, Mom had become increasingly frustrated at failing to compose a letter she wanted to mail to me asking why we were estranged and if we could please reconcile. That statement cannot convey the emotional plea expressed as she told me this over the phone. She really was desparate that we set things right no matter who felt wronged.

(whisper) Wow. That she wanted that, that she wanted it enough to risk reaching out, that she wanted it so desperately and was so emotional over her inability to communicate that adequately ... Wow. That 750 miles and so many decades apart she could still affect me that way ... Wow.

That night, I did nearly all the talking. I told her I'd never been her son, I'd been her daughter. I told her what psychiatry would have done to me if I'd come out as a child in the 50's and 60's (they knew, then, that I couldn't possibly be GID or depressed because I was a child. They'd have institutionalized me, misdiagnosed and mistreated me. If I'd ever gotten out, I'd have had no hope of happy, IMO) I let her off the hook by saying she hadn't known so she hadn't been able to help. This took an hour or two and was emotionally draining, as I'm sure you can understand.

The next night, things still didn't seem settled. I called again. This time, I related the school years, the bullying, that the classmates completely ostracized me from their society. Another hour or two, also draining.

The third day, I felt concerned that she was taking on the guilt, even though I'd said she wasn't at fault, that she'd done her best. I'm sure she wouldn't have believed me if I said it again. I felt she needed her own support network. That's why I called Judy, the closest family friend I mentioned earlier. Judy had been better than a second mother to me when I was a child. She'd been Mom's friend from her first arrival in a distant city with no friend or family there. I told Judy I was concerned Mom was beating herself up and why she might be. I checked with Judy about how her feelings might have changed. She said they hadn't.

So, my mother finally has the daughter she's always wanted. I still have my mothers. Although she hasn't contacted me and I've been advised my to not contact her until she's "processed" this news, I won't ask for much more.

Good luck to all you others who've yet to come out.

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