25 ліпеня 2017

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»

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Изображение: Photo from personal archive
© Photo from personal archive
For parents, news about their child being homosexual or transgender often comes as a surprise. While the children have probably already been thinking for a couple of years about how to bring the news to the parents, the latter face the necessity to come up with a reaction within five minutes saying “It’s alright, you’re still our son/daughter”. Sometimes it’s much easier said than done.

Maryja, 62

I remember my childhood: we didn’t know anything at all [about homosexuality. — ed.]. It was only as an adolescent that I learned something little by little because I read some books or came accidentally across something here or there. But it was like: that exists, fine. Only when it touched me personally did I start taking an active stance on this every time! At some point someone at work made a negative comment about a gay pride being planned on the Shevchenko Boulevard: “Hey, look! Can you imagine! Why on earth do they need that?!” I heard what they said and answered: “There must be a reason if they’re doing it!” And I noticed myself how strong and loud my voice was. They all went silent immediately.

I was the first one who Kolia came out to. I told his brothers right away. Saša said: «I could have guessed». Paša: «Mom, what’s the problem?» I didn’t tell his father. I think, everyone talks to the mom first. I held this in for some time and made sense of it. And then I started. I told my sister, and my nephew. My sister is an experienced teacher in a small town. Her reaction was: “So what?”. That was it. The question was closed, thank God.

I even opened up to my friends, but little by little. At first only to those whom I considered the closest, and later even to more distant ones. I did it so they wouldn’t nag at him with questions like: “Kolia, do you have a girlfriend? Do you? Do you?” Kolia says: “Mom, I am tired of that!” I say: “Okay, they’ll stop”. And that’s it. Everyone has become as good as gold at my will. I’ve become very calm too as I stopped hiding this. What is there to hide?
They say a mother’s heart feels everything. Mine didn’t! I didn’t have the slightest idea. I no longer believe those who say that. I would have long helped him open up, had I sensed anything. But I hadn’t. He told me when he was about twenty years old already but he had long become aware of that himself! And he was worried about it, he was nervous, and he found the strength to talk to me about it.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

He just came right out and said it: “Mom, I am gay”. Of course, that was unexpected. But he was looking at me like that… And I said: “Kolia, it’s okay. You are my son. You have been, you are and you will be”.

I just accepted it right away, no questions asked. I didn’t even have a desire to rummage somewhere, to look it up. Just a month ago I learnt that I am diabetic. I only looked up what I should and shouldn’t eat. Somehow I don’t want to go into the details of how and why. Life still goes on, I think. I have just amended my diet and that’s it. Well, I have also bought a glucometer. It was the same with Kolia too. I thought: why would I get into this, go into details, look for reasons? I don’t care. It is what it is. The important thing is that I have Kolia. That’s all.
«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»I mean, I read books. Let’s take Murdock, for example, this line appears somewhere in every novel of hers just as another normal part of life. I’ve gotten used to it. People-people-people-people… Everyone lives a life. Only some have something different in this or that sense. I have realised it, and that’s it.

There were worries, but of a different kind — it was fear for him. I know the society we live in. Don’t even get me started on the way our country is. On the other hand, now I’ve got something to live for: not exactly to protect him, but something like that… Should anything happen, I’ll be there. Yes, I am worried about him. Because I can see how even reasonable people can treat gays. I’m not even talking about the insane ones who are many. I would probably do that for any of my sons… It’s just something very maternal, an animal instinct. Although sometimes I wonder if they need me or not.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

Nina, 55

Somehow I didn’t think about it at all and had no idea. She had always played with dolls. And I’d imagine, I still do, that she’d be a caring mother because she would always run around with her “Danik”. She had no other toys, just her “little son Danilka”. As a student she went to work to England with a guy. I even thought there was something between them.

When she told me, I realised that there had been clues every now and then… I don’t remember it so well now… Maybe she’d made hints but I didn’t want to believe, I didn’t accept it, I thought she was joking or she would grow out of it.

The word “lesbian” sounds strange to us. We didn’t know words like this before… Maybe I didn’t because I’m so uneducated, maybe someone knew more.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

“I like girls,” that’s what she said. At first it was hard for me to believe but I was glad she had told me, that meant she trusted me. And since she’d trusted me enough to tell me, I could do something to make her feel better. But what could I do?
At first, I blamed myself. I thought I had done something wrong. I thought that if we had gone to a sexologist, it could have been cured. Or maybe it was because I had never talked to her about it? And then I thought: my mom hadn’t spoken about it with me either. Everyone somehow assumed children had to learn from their parents’ example. They would always say: however you try to raise them, they will end up being just like you.

What’s also important is that my husband supported me. My daughter told everything to me, and I told him. He immediately supported me and said: “Don’t be sad and don’t cry, people like this have been around for a long time. Well, we can’t change it. But you know she’s a good girl”. After a while I realised that nothing had changed much. I just wanted for it not to be hard on her. To me she was still the best. All that mattered was that she’s happy and healthy. When I think about it now, I don’t see what can be bad about it.

I no longer blame myself. Only sometimes when she’s sad or when she’s having girl trouble, then I think: poor thing, she suffers so much. It is my fault that I gave birth to a girl like this? But anyone can feel bad, it doesn’t matter who you’re with.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

To be honest, I haven’t read anything much or tried to find out [about homosexuality. — ed.]. I think there is no need for that because people are different. Why read about them and compare? There are good and bad ones among everyone. I mean, I don’t need to think of her as bad. I just trust my daughter.

I just wanted for it not to be hard on her, I mean, I know how people treat it.
For example, I haven’t still told anyone. Not because I’m afraid that they’ll know, but… Should I tell my old parents? It would take long to explain it to them. Do we need it? It’s a side of life that shouldn’t concern anyone.

Well, people do ask, for example, if she’s got married. “No, she hasn’t”. They don’t ask why. If she hasn’t then she hasn’t.

I just want her to find herself… a girlfriend so that they understand one another. So they’d have children, that’s the thing. On Livejournal I read about a couple, girls as well. They’ve given birth to a daughter. I read their page and I’m very jealous. Their parents are friends with each other too, they play chess and checkers, post pictures. You can see they are smart, educated people. What matters is that there is harmony in the family. It is of no one’s concern who lives with whom.

I don’t feel bad or burdened because I have a daughter like that. That is why I don’t feel like talking with someone and proving something to them like a psychologist. I don’t know what would help here. Parents should see their children and understand them.

Valiancina, 58

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

Kahlil Gibran.

It is with those lines that Valiancina starts talking about how she came to accept her son:

A wonderful poem that helps when it’s hard. It came to me “before” and helped a lot. Because it seems to us that we have control and get what we want… For example, I wanted a girl very much. I prayed to have a girl. You know the outcome: I had one. But then it turned out the way it was meant to be.

I knew nearly nothing about transsexuality apart from bits and pieces of vulgar, dirty, nonsensical information. Now, after I’ve read about it, I realise that I could have foreseen it. But I thought, what of it?… Who could guess? You know, no one can ever guess, even if they see it right in front of them. You always want to push it away, as though it couldn’t happen at all, especially not to you.
I realised that my child had no one to rely on except for me. Generally speaking, who needs us at all in this life, apart from the closest ones: our mother, our father, our husband or wife?

I would howl like a wolf. I would scream and wail, trying to talk my child round. I tried to explain that there were different types of skeletons, that men and women had different chromosomes. That there were men’s and women’s sports, different weightlifting standards for men and for women. I would say that a woman’s purpose was to give birth, that in the end she would still want to have a child, that that was normal. But nothing came through. So it was my turn to try and understand.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

It helps when you’re looking in the same direction and aim towards the same goal. But if there is a quarrel in the family, then a person feels like no one needs them at all, so they try to fight on their own. I realised that my child had nobody but me to count on in that situation. I had to explain it to my husband myself.
That was actually funny. At the time we were renovating our apartment. And I mean, I had to explain it in a way that wouldn’t make him feel bad. So I said our child was going to have a sex change… [The Belarusian and Russian word пол means “sex” and “floor”. — Translator’s note.] Well, it’s a good idea, he says. We’ve changed our floor, so we’ll change the one in that apartment too.

Of course, it was very hard. The human brain is not a hard drive that you can unplug, clean out, format and put back in. I have memories of giving birth, of the first time my child walked… Whatever they say, boys and girls are treated very differently. You give more warmth and kindness to a daughter, you forgive more, close your eyes on things… At least I had it that way. And I cannot erase those memories. Certainly, I am trying to realign them. Sometimes I can manage to do it, other times not. But I can’t say it’s easy.

It seems to me that this acceptance process will take the rest of my life. I have accepted it but if you have been using one pronoun for over 20 years and now you have to switch to another… You try to control yourself, but sometimes you let it slip.

I didn’t even hesitate as to whether to tell others. How can you hide it? Maybe because they are educated people, my friends have accepted Miša well. They understand some things, not everything, but they feel for him and at least there is no aggression. I just explained it all to them. Now there is also much information coming from the television. Of course, it is not always positive, but that’s for everyone to filter. One of our neighbours is eighty years old… Or my aunt is seventy, and she has accepted Miša well.
That’s everyone’s own personal business: what to do and how to do it. Who to live with, how to live and what to be.

«Would Have Long Helped Him Open Up, Had I Sensed Anything»
Photo from personal archive

I don’t know where to find other parents with children who are going or have gone through similar things, but I would like to talk to someone. Their children have chosen this way, and I would want them to be supportive and helpful. On the other hand, there are also many who push their children away. They have it hard as it is, and when even their parents reject them… Many parents are very closeminded. They are afraid that someone will find out. But so what if they do?

I’d like to create a volunteer society to help parents who have children like that. Or maybe a web site with information. Because if you don’t know anything, it seems like you’re totally alone. But then it turns out that there are quite many of us. Although sometimes, when a question arises, somehow I end up alone again. Back when I needed it most, there was no one around who could help and support me.

The MakeOut team has Miša’s mom’s contact details. If you want to reach out, you can write an e-mail to [email protected].

Taćciana, 44

I was born to an average Soviet family, successful by all dimensions of the Soviet reality: a father, a mother, a brother. Of course, in that family nobody loved anybody, but that’s a whole different issue. I was married twice, once officially. After two months of living in marriage I ran away at night because my husband became jealous, started making scenes and so on. The second one was a de facto marriage, and then the story was different: the man died in a car accident, and the child we had been expecting was stillborn.

At that point my only appeal to God was that I would stop the private life if only I could have a baby. And that was exactly what happened. Over ten years I had no personal relationships. My family, my child, my job… It was a very favourable period and thanks to it I realised what it was that I needed in life.

For two years now I’ve been living with a woman. My mother still doesn’t accept this, and our arguments get heated. She can’t wait for it to end… I don’t rule out that possibility but it doesn’t ever depend on the person. My mother has always thought that it was “that woman’s fault”, that she came into my life and she was to blame. She can’t understand that it was my choice. Whether it is that woman or someone else, whoever it is, it will be my own choice. It will never have anything to do with my mother’s opinion. She still can’t realise that.

The weird thing is that my partner’s parents know about it and, not to jinx it, take it easy. We see each other and it is very nice when her mom passes some food she’s made or something… There is a huge contrast between my mom and hers: to accept me right away, to take care of me… That’s incredibly nice. They come from the same generation, but their attitudes are so different. Where is this line after which this humanness starts? You can never tell.

Of course, there are those who are strictly against the choice I’ve made. There are people who’ve stopped saying hello. I accept it that people may not understand. That’s their right. But if it turns into aggression, that’s no longer their right. When they don’t understand, they have the right not to: they have a different upbringing, have lived their lives differently, maybe they have had it put in their heads as children that it’s terrible or immoral…
Because right now I, too, find myself in the situation that I can’t completely understand: it’s about my child. I can’t say that I accept everything easily. I just try very hard to restrain myself and not be like my mother. He is now seeing doctors to undergo sex reassignment, he’s going to take hormones.

I can’t say I’m happy about it but I have learnt from the bitter experience of others’ interference when I had been considered crazy for a long time. I understand that I can’t act in the same way. I am trying to understand, although, of course, it is hard for me… After nineteen years of using feminine forms, saying “my daughter”, and then suddenly switch to masculine in six months and not make slips is still hard. So now it happens every now and then and depends on my emotional condition. I need time because it is not easy to break all these patterns inside.

I am worried about the future: how will my baby find a job, how will he graduate? What about the passport? How does it work? People have very ambiguous reactions. There is nothing about my orientation in my passport, I can apply anywhere, I can hide it or not, but here… how do you hide it? That’s what I worry about all the time. Probably the most important thing to a mother is for her child to be alive and well. When you’re in the ambulance looking at your child losing consciousness, you think: my God, do whatever you want, just stay alive, please. That’s what matters.
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