Saturday, December 22, 2012

Simple Gifts

I received the greatest gift this year, and it's not even Christmas yet.  While the gesture was small, for me it was a momentous sign of acceptance and love.  Each year, for as long as I can remember, my parents sent out an annual Christmas card.  It’s always a photograph, and early on it was the entire family, at other times it could be various members of the family, or a special event from the year.   There are some classic photos from the early 70’s that capture, with great humor, the wonderful diversity within our family of nine.  The clothing and hair alone would be perfect specimens for a time capsule. 
But I think it was the expressions on our faces paired with our unique body language that are the most precious to me.  The holiday photos captured our personality at a magical moment in time, regardless if we were happy, distracted, acting older, smug, or terribly sad. 

It is heartbreaking, but emblematic of trans people, myself included, putting off dealing with their gender identity and transitioning, for the fear of losing family and friends.  And while the outcome is painfully true for many, it isn’t always the case.  There are a lifetime of reasons and excuses why I wasn’t ready to take those frightening first steps toward embracing my true identity until a few years ago.  The idea was like walking out onto a frozen pond to cross to the other side, without knowing how thick the ice was.  Over time I became exhausted from the life I was living and running away from my true identity.  In the process I was hurting myself and the people I loved.  Fortunately, with the encouragement and support from a few cherished friends, I started my journey.  

A few weeks ago, just days after receiving some upsetting medical news, my parents’ Christmas card arrived in the mail.  I was slightly apprehensive about opening it, and it sat on the kitchen table for a few days.  After several more cards arrived, I decided to open the envelope that was neatly addressed in my mom’s handwriting.  I felt like Charlie from Willy Wonka as I ripped open the paper covering and noticed something wonderful inside. Before my eyes, and for everyone who received the card to see, was a picture of my family from our summer trip to Vermont, with me included, kneeling in the front row.  Enclosed with the photo was the typical letter from my dad, highlighting the year’s family events and identifying everyone in the photo.  And while I wasn’t the star of the year in review, I was mentioned as Gia, formally Geoffrey.  I know it might sound cliché, but there are times when the little things in life make all the difference in the world, that’s especially true these days.