I learned an important lesson this past week and I wanted to share it.
**You will never be good enough for certain people, so you might as well stop worrying about them.**
The particular person in question for me this week is my mother. I’ve blogged about her before a bit, but I’ll dive a little further into our relationship. I was her third child, and her first not born with a Y chromosome (ie: I was her baby girl until I realized I wasn’t. #enby). She had been wanting a girl, and even after my baby sister came along, I was always her favorite. In high school, my sports success gave her something to boast about to her friends after my two brothers, whose main claims to fame in high school were partying and be taciturn (they’ve done just fine for themselves; one is an officer in the army and has a beautiful wife and two kids, and the other works for Google). I’ve always been a people pleaser, so growing up I loved to help her around the house and earn her praise and approval. We went through our turbulent years as every mother and child does, but ultimately I was closer to her than any of my other siblings, and knew how to placate her whenever the rest of my family riled her up.
As I began college, her health took a turn for the worse. Ultimately, she developed nodes on her liver and by the end of 2016, her doctors recommended a life-saving transplant. As anyone who has been on the organ recipient list knows, a good organ is never around when you need one, and it feels wrong to pray for someone else’s misfortune to come along and save your loved one. Luckily, I was a match for her and would be turning 21 (the minimum age for a live donor in Singapore, where she had the surgery done) just in time to act as a donor for her. Long story short, the surgery was a success and now, 4+ years later, she is doing well.
A few weeks ago, I officially came out on social media as being non-binary. I had long been out as pansexual and an incurable tomboy, but when I moved to Atlanta I realized that was not quite right either. My posts and new name were met with widespread support, or at a minimum, indifference and pre-emptive apologies for future slip-ups. The only exception was my mother.
She was irate. Starting with comments on my post firmly establishing that my birth name was my only true name and that she had so carefully chosen it out for me, our exchanges through private messages quickly went downhill. I told her I would give her time to get used to this, but I am who I am and I wasn’t going to hide it or water it down for anyone. I was told I was disrespecting and rejecting her and that she would always love her daughter, but that she would not accept this new person I insisted on choosing to be. The glaring implication was that if I was no longer her daughter, I was dead to her.
I am finally starting to live my truth out loud. I feel more confident, like I can do anything. I care less what others think about me, but this one hurts. For years, I tried to keep the peace between my mother and the rest of my family. She comes from a different culture, and I always tried to remind my siblings she did her best with what she had and implored them to tolerate her as they could. I was driven unconditional love I thought families were supposed to have to go under the knife and try to help save her life, when everyone else didn’t even want to get tested for compatibility (I say this not in judgement of them, but to reinforce the special relationship I thought my mom and I had). I have always gotten good grades, and conducted myself in a way I hope most parents would be proud of. Changing my name and coming out has not changed me from the person I have always been.
Mom, I’ve always been this person. In elementary school, some of my close friends actually called me by a different gender-neutral name for about a year, just for fun and because it felt right. To have you treat me like I have died hurts me beyond words. This journey has not been easy for me either, and I would have loved for your help on it. I thought I had more than earned your support at this point, but clearly I was wrong.
Love and support is not something that can be earned, or kept through any course of action. Those who love and support you will do it unconditionally, because they love YOU. They love every part of you, and understand that even parts they see as flaws are part of the mosaic that makes up who you are. They don’t love you based on the mold or expectation they have created for you.
I have no obligation to my mother to wait around for her to accept me for who I am. I have friends and family who cheer me on as I live my life, as I cheer for them as they live theirs. We cannot live our lives based on the approval of others, and I have decided to stop looking for it. I will live unapologetically me.
Stay safe out there, my struggling and shining Tribers