I was actually lucky, in a way, when I transitioned. Things had gone South so badly with my family that I had stopped speaking to them years before. I had not managed to ever reconcile well with my father, who’s physical violence was the reason I ended up as a homeless teen. My mother’s complete support for that violence, and emotionally abusive outbursts and manipulations were breathtaking towards the end.
So the only family I had to deal with for transition was my spouse. He (Still using male pronouns for now.) had wonderful parents that never blinked when I transitioned. His siblings accepted it, but I think having his parents lead the way was a part of that.
A lot has happened since those days. Both his parents have passed away, and his siblings have behaved in an absolutely deplorable manner. His sister stole pain meds, tried to steal my truck I’d given to his parents, and was every nightmare a heroin using junky could be. His brother was strung out on meth, and gave away or sold a huge portion of my mother-in-laws belongings when she was in the hospital, before we even knew she was dying.
My spouses sister actively reached out to emotionally abuse my spouse via text for the year after they passed, trying to play some blame game alternating with requests for money. With my in-laws gone, the pipeline of money we gave to them, which she actively sought to get was gone, and she was trying to remove the middle man from that equation. It was bad enough that my spouse mostly. . . . mostly. . . . doesn’t talk to her anymore.
However my brother in law? He texts and calls regularly through jail, treatment, homelessness. He is pretty actively on meth and drinking. Nothing is his fault, by his estimation, and he seems to have no ability to really think through cause and effect.
My spouse is desperate for his family, and I understand that an awful lot. What I also understand is this is probably a desperation for a family that he can’t have. His siblings will never be the people they should be. They will never really be decent people. They will always disappoint him. That Normal Rockwell painting in his head of what a brother or sister should be, is not something they can give him.
I know this because I have painfully been there. I have gone back again and again in my life to my mother, only to realize she would do the same painful things. She wasn’t capable of change, and as much as I desperately wanted my mother to love and support me, that wasn’t in the cards. When she said she never wanted to talk to me again when I requested we try some family therapy, it was a breaking point and I left to never look back.
With my spouses transition, he wants to tell his brother. His brother was an absolute shit about me coming out. I came out to the people I felt were safe, and since my brother in law’s and I are not close and he lives in another town, he didn’t make the top of my list. he sent me a crappy angry whine fest over facebook about how dare I tell “those people” before him. He was family, was he not?
The thing is, I’d claim my in-laws as family until the day I died. My brother and sister in law? Not so much. They have never once behaved as family to my spouse, let alone me. My brother in law only calls, I am sure, because he is incredibly good at keeping lines of communication open. He has never talked to me except when I was in my spouses presence. That’s why he didn’t make the top of my list. We didn’t have a relationship at all, let alone a close one.
My brother in law reminds me of the book I, Gypsy which I read about a man’s childhood experience traveling with the Romani people in Europe. There was a passage where each man he knew kept his contacts a secret, so if they rolled into town they could meet up, have drinks, and cultivate that relationship. You never gave your contacts to anyone else, because you didn’t want them to become burnt out. You had to cultivate a careful give and take. It was about having contacts you could use to get what you needed. (Caveat, that book is questionable these days on accuracy, but the passage was a good one for this kind of thing.)
That’s what I think of my brother in law. He may, under his meth and alcohol induced cloud really love my spouse. But his addictions have made him a narcissistic nightmare whose only real concerns about what he needs.
This is a long winded way to get to the point that when we went to our home town, and my spouse had made a breakfast meeting at a restaurant to come out to my brother in law, I was shocked.
First, I had no idea. My spouse is on HRT, getting laser hair removal for his face, and growing out his hair. He’s even lost 40 points on his 6’2″ frame. Yet, he’s not come out to anyone. I had not idea he’d chose the one person that has been constantly disappointing him as his first.
I didn’t even know this was the plan until the morning we were leaving, and I kind of blew an overprotective gasket for a few minutes. It seems to me, if my spouse wants to stay in the closet, this is the wrong person to trust.
The issue was moot, though, as we sat at breakfast and his brother in law stood us up, and never bothered to respond to calls or texts.
I didn’t really feel relief, because I know that really sucked for my husband. It was yet another clue that my brother in law didn’t think my spouse was worth even that much.
I really wish my spouse could have the family he deserves, and I don’t know what’s harder to watch. The hope he has when he tries with them, or when it get’s extinguished when they fail.