The call was waiting for me when I walked into the house: my brother. He was going to be in town this weekend, and wondered if we could get together for lunch…and talk. I need to say at this point, that we haven’t seen each other in about five years. The last time we spoke on the phone was almost exactly six months ago, when he called in response to my coming-out letter telling him I was about to start my RLE. Call me this evening, the message suggested, so I did.
It was agreed; we would meet at a local restaurant for lunch…and talk: the two of us, alone together, him meeting his older brother for the first time, now that she was his older sister. “Wonderful!” I thought. “A real heart to heart.” Just the thought made me smile.
The reality, however, (maybe I should have known), would prove disappointing. Okay…I probably should have known, but I came home feeling disappointed, all the same. Our meeting had such potential for being so much more, and it didn’t happen.
He didn’t recognize me at first, from across the street. His first reaction, looking me up and down, was, “Whoa. That’s change!” (I was wearing white jeans and a white crocheted top over a red sleeveless shell. Oh, and my red sandals.) Yes, I suppose it was, considering what he would have remembered. We went into the restaurant. He already had a booth. We sat down, exchanged pleasantries, and for all intents and purposes, that was about it. He wanted to tell me that I was “family,” and as far as he was concerned, we were raised to believe that family came first; he’d tried to raise his own kids that way, and they were raising their children the same way, too, so naturally he accepted me, no matter what. Gratifying, I suppose, but it sounded (to my ears) more like something meant to impress me with the quality of his character than heartfelt compassion or understanding. I’m probably being unfair. I’m sure he did mean what he said, and he did intend to express his support for me, but as I say, to my ears, the words sounded just a little hollow: a set-piece intended to impress, rather than real thoughts coming from the heart.
I did try, at first, to tell him a bit about what my experience of being trans is like, but there were no questions asked, nor was any curiosity expressed. The conversation quickly steered itself to other topics: his work, how things were around home, how his children and grandchildren were doing at work and at school, the best way to cook prawns or barbecue salmon. All surface topics…safe ones. Mostly he talked, prompted with the occasional question. I listened.
How easily we slip into our gender roles! He was treating me like a woman. I suppose at some level, I should have been glad of that. After all, it meant he had accepted my”femaleness,” if there is such a word. But his being male, and my being female meant that he had things to say worth listening to, and I, relatively speaking, did not. Genetic women will know well how that feels…how devalued their knowledge, their opinions, and their experiences are when confronted with the male ego. This is relatively new for me, but I can tell you, the novelty of being “treated like a woman” like this gets old really, really quickly…maybe about five minutes? It doesn’t take long for the pattern to establish itself. I am reminded (emphatically) just how conversations with my female friends actually are conversations, not monologues. And best of all, when we talk, we talk about everything. Today, we talked about almost nothing. Driving downtown, I felt so wonderful, so hopeful. I thought we really had a chance to rebuild some important connections between us, but it didn’t happen. Yes, we will try again. Of course we will. But today, I am disappointed. It almost seemed as if he didn’t want to…or maybe didn’t know how. Until we succeed, I am saddened at the thought that maybe I am the only one of us who understands just how precious those connections can be.
Still, we have made contact again. And some connection has been made. Perhaps not what I have wished for, but it’s a start, and I am grateful to the universe for that.