I’ve been out as a trans man for about three years. I came out to all of my extended family, with the exception of my grandfather. This was because he’s increasingly doesn’t have a great grasp of what’s happening around him, and my parents thought it would be too hard to explain it to him. I was of the opinion that it probably could have been explained to him at the time, but my family were overwhelmed by the stress of my transition and I decided not to push it.
So for the last few years, I’ve basically dealt with this situation by avoiding him. I have no idea who he thinks I am. Once, before I was out to my extended family, he loudly asked ‘Who’s that boy?’ So I don’t think he recognizes me as Former Granddaughter. This was a fairly awkward situation because he had no idea who I was or why I was at every family event. His condition has deteriorated enough since then that he frequently doesn’t recognize other members of the family, so it sticks out less that he doesn’t know who I am.
He’s now in the hospital and it doesn’t look good. I’m worried that my dad might ask me to visit him. I don’t know what would happen if I turned up at his maybe-deathbed. I really don’t want to be misgendered or referred to by my birth name, but it seems selfish to not visit a maybe-dying man for that reason. I also don’t want to have to try and explain all this to him when he is likely not going to be in a state of mind to take it in. I’m worried that my dad, who I’m very close to, will think I’m selfish for not wanting to go. I just know that being called BirthName is absolutely not an option, and I just don’t want to enter into the painful and confusing arena of trying to explain now, having avoided the subject for going on three years.
Am I being selfish? Should I suck it up and go? If so, how do I handle this situation, given that pretending to be his granddaughter is not an option? And if not, how do I explain this to my dad?
Only In The UK Would We Think This Was A Tenable Solution
Hi Only In The UK,
Your parents made a serious mistake in advising you three years ago. If your grandpa “couldn’t understand” your gender then, when did they think he would be able to? Were they just hoping he’d die off? The correct answer to his asking “Who’s that boy?” at family events was and is “That’s your grandson, [Name]” to which he 90% would have said “Oh, ok” and 10 % would have said “Who?” in which case just repeat, that’s “[Name], your grandson.” Someone in the family could have taken him aside and updated him that “[Deadname] goes by [Name] now.”
You can’t go back in time and change it, just know, it was never about your grandfather. If he was too confused to understand, he was too confused to really care or make a stink.
If you want to visit your grandfather in the hospital, it’s okay to go without your Dad or even without telling your Dad. You just say “Hi Grandpa, good to see you, it’s [Name].” Hold his hand, say hello, spend some time with him. If he’s lucid, you can ask him to tell you stories about how he grew up or anything he wants to talk about. If he’s not lucid, just sitting with him and being there will be enough. He’ll sense kindness and love to the extent that he can, and maybe it will help you to spend that little time with him. You don’t have to explain anything or keep mediating your relationship with him through your parents. They made the wrong decision back then and they don’t really get a say now.
If you don’t want to visit him, and your Dad pressures you to, you can say “Dad, I’m confused. You’ve wanted me to avoid Grandpa since I transitioned because you were afraid it would be ‘too confusing,’ but now you want me to visit? To be clear, I won’t pretend to be his granddaughter or use my former name, so let me know if you still want me to come with you.”
And if your dad brings out the old, tired excuses you could say “Dad, you’ve been making those excuses for three years, because you wanted to somehow ‘spare’ Grandpa from knowing about me, but what happened is that your fear and worry prevented us from having a relationship anymore. You’re losing your Dad, and I am so very very sorry, but he was lost to me a long time ago. I love you and I want to support you, but if I come to say goodbye now, I need to do it as myself.”
Or (much more likely all around) you could go with a less emotionally charged script of “I’m so sorry to hear Grandpa is ill, please give him my love” and not visit or open up the topic again and your Dad will likely understand why. It sounds like your Grandpa won’t really notice your absence either way. There are other ways to show caring – sending cards/flowers/fruit is a thing for a reason. If your Dad or other family accuse you of being selfish for not visiting, just know, you’re not being selfish for not wanting to wear a fucking disguise in order to visit a dying relative, and their thinking cannot make it so.
How painful and awful and ultimately pointless all this prejudice is. You and your grandfather have both been robbed of something. Your identity is not something that people need protected from, and you aren’t selfish for not wanting to expose yourself to painful renegotiations around this.
I am sorry for all the losses here.