I have been in my hometown for a couple of days with my two boys, as there was work to be done and Mary Jo is doing horse events this weekend. This is the first time I’ve visited since everyone learned that I’m transsexual and since becoming Joyce full-time. In the days leading up to this trip, I felt somewhat anxious, but not terribly so.

Joyce arrives in her hometown for the very first time
The drives from Bedford Falls takes about 3 hours, and I was in a desperate need for a bathroom when I arrived at my office in Empire Falls. The boys ran into the office to play as soon as I got the door unlocked, and just as I was dropping off my stuff to head to the toilet, my banker stopped me in the hall and said it was good to see me — Debra Burns is a veteran banker and I have always liked her, and I was quite happy to see she had gone out of her way to stop and chat, making very solid eye contact and a broad smile that spoke volumes. Welcome home, indeed.

Uncle Jack and sister Liz arrive to discuss family business
As Debra left to go over to her office, my sister and uncle showed up — I shook hands, made eye contact and smiled, then said that I absolutely had to dash out. I was worried that Uncle Jack would take offense since I had learned from Liz that he had worried about meeting Joyce for the first time, but when you have to pee, you simply have to pee. Turns out there was nothing to worry about, as the 2-hour discussion was easy and fruitful, and I never felt any sense of tension around “the Joyce issue.” I suspect that having business to transact really makes a difference — you can’t get too freaked out by transgender people if you want to work a deal, can you? The downside of conducting business is that we never set aside any time for talking about “the Joyce issue.” For now, however, I am happy and satisfied.

We are joined by Aunt DeeAnne at the Abstract office
We had to be at Empire Falls Title Company at 2:00, so we ceased our business discussion at 1:45 and split up to rendezvous at the title company on time. When the boys and I walked in, Jack and DeeAnne Law were already there, as was Liz, so we entered and said hello. DeeAnne may have been thinking about the house deal intensely and thus had no energy for me, but I suspect she was worried about meeting me and was having trouble making eye contact or conversing. It’s all right, of course, as no one’s head exploded and we were able to sign all our documents without a hitch.

Liz treated me and Lane and Ezra to a steak dinner to celebrate this milestone of settling the very last asset in our mother’s estate, then we parted ways and bought supplies for our ranch house at the grocery store. Didn’t run into anyone I knew.

We visit Liz and Gerald at their ranch
Later in the evening, we drove over to Liz’s house to see her grandson Rye and to say hi to her husband Gerald. He didn’t bat an eye and we joked about “you look different.” “hmmmm, is it losing 10 pounds?” “no, I think it’s something different.” And so on — it was a very nice, comfortable visit to end a very long day.

The boys and I go for a misty walk
This morning, the boys and I got up early, ate bacon, eggs, and biscuits, and then went for a nice long walk down to the creek. There were low, scudding clouds that created mist that hung on the bluffs and all the prairie birds were chirping. We saw a deer and picked wildflowers. We talked about Joyce, about coming back later in the summer, about how beautiful the plains can be, about how concepts of beauty and nature seem to depend on where you’re brought up, and about whether we would see any rattle snakes (we didn’t). It was a wonderful time together.

We visit Liz before lunch
The boys wanted to play with little Rye, their cousin, so we went back over to Liz’s place after our walk. While they were playing, Liz brought out all this unused Lancôme makeup, some beautiful handbags, and some unused jewelry, handing it to me and asking me what I thought about it. Not only was Liz’s sense of what would look good on me excellent, but the whole interaction felt so warm and so easy that I was nearly overwhelmed. I don’t recall ever having that sort of connection with Liz, and I found it wonderful. She gave me a necklace and matching bracelet that really completed my black-and-white striped shirt and black shorts, and she also gave me a sparkling black handbag that looks fabulous. I know it’s frou-frou and I know I’m attaching perhaps more significance to these things than necessary, but it’s a first for me and I felt like I belonged and that Liz was simply accepting her sister Joyce without dwelling on brother George at all. I’m making up for lost time and all I know is that I like this kind of interaction with my sister. I don’t know if it’s something she had to brace herself for, but our interaction seemed awfully genuine, and I’m grateful to have family like her.

Lunch and shopping in town
A trip to the bookstore, video game store, and restaurant proved uneventful.

Final visit to Gerald’s, Liz’s, and Rye’s place
After a mighty hailstorm passed overhead and Lane and Ezra tempted the fates by running out into the falling hail, we went over to the Rhapsody household one last time. The boys played with Rye and I watched the last few holes of the US open (third round) with Gerald. Liz and I talked some more, inspected her kitchen remodeling project, and generally bonded. A cool breeze was blowing from the south and as we sat outside we could see distant lighting in the thunderheads off to the east in the deepening dusk. I don’t believe I have ever felt closer to my sister, and I don’t know whether it’s because I’m finally being honest with myself, because the gender dynamic is different, or simply because we have learned to share more as we have aged. Whatever the reason, this was one of the best parts of the visit, which ended with long hugs all around.


We drive back to Bedford Falls tomorrow, but we’ll be back in late July, when I propose to hold a small party for friends of mine who are attending the Bedford Falls High School 30th reunion. I have decided not to go to the official reunion events so as not to make waves, but if any of my old friends want to see me, I’ll have barbecue and beer at my place as an alternative or a precursor to the official reunion activities. After my welcome these past two days, I’m feeling more and more at ease about the prospects of reestablishing my connections in my hometown.

All of the following emails arrived within two days of each other. These emails, along with wonderful phone conversations with my sister, suggest to me that my fears of being outcast from my family were unfounded. This is a huge relief. I’m not so naive that I confuse this initial wave of support with the lack of any concern or problem — I fully expect to have all kinds of discussions and difficulties and negotiations in the future. But this foundation of family and love is going to make those discussions worth pursuing because the family connections are worth pursuing a hundred-fold.

From sister Liz Rhapsody

Dear George, Good morning, I am up already since Gerald left at five to go to Nebraska to get ready to work calves tomorrow. I want you to be all right with every ounce of my self George, and I have been praying for you and your family for such a long time. I feel so much better having spoken to you and I agree with you that everything will be ok. Your health and family are the most important things you need to concentrate on. I hope everything goes well with your paper today. I know it will. You are blessed Georgio, with an awesome family, multiple talents, mind boggling intellect, and one great little sister! Ha. Just threw that last one in for a grin.

I wouldn’t trade you for love or money [as daddy used to say] and I’m so relieved to be communicating with you. I felt pretty lost. I’m doing my best to understand what has been going on with you and I realize that you’ve been hurting for so long and that breaks my heart. I will always be here for you too. So, vise-versa on whenever and wherever. Ok?

I love you always and will talk to you soon, Liz

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George, I have something to confess to you. I told Aunt Phoebe about a week ago. I’m sorry, I just needed to talk to somebody and I didn’t have Mama. I’ve come to rely quite heavily on Phoebe as a surrogate mother figure for myself and I find a lot of comfort in speaking with her in many different matters. Please forgive me for telling her. She called this morning and said she got your letter and if they weren’t leaving for the beach she would write back today but she will write you soon. She and William love you very much and know everything will be ok. again, I’m sorry and I love you.
Liz

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Here is Uncle Patrick’s address- xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. He said he loves you very much and is sorry you have suffered for so long. He said never have any reservations- ever- about calling him . He will always support you and be here for you. We truly have an awesome family and they all will always be here for both of us. Love, Liz

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From Liz’s daughter, Lynn

Hello Uncle George!

I haven’t talked with you in a while! How are things going today? I hope well. Things are going pretty good with me, I’m just trying to find a job! You would think that it wouldn’t be as hard in Empire Falls, but I have been having zero luck! I guess I just have to keep looking though!

Well, I just want you to know that no matter what decisions you make in life I will always love you, and the person that you are. I have a very open mind about the whole situation, It did strike me as very odd at first, but the more I have been thinking about it and studying on it, I have felt more comfortable about it. I would NEVER EVER dis-own you. There is nothing that you could ever do for me to be ashamed of you in any way. I will always, always be very proud of you no matter what. I’m just sorry about all the pain that you have experienced with this, I couldn’t even imagine. I just want to stress on how much I love you! I have always thought that you were an amazing individual. Just please know that I love you with all of my heart and would never stop loving you. Family has always been a very important part of my life, and I know how important it is to have your families support, so know that you have mine. Also know that you can talk to me about anything at all. I love you very much. I hope to hear back soon! Have a blessed rest of the day!

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Aunt Phoebe Peacock, my father’s sister

Dear George,

Liz told me she had confessed that she talked to me soon after she heard from you about your upcoming plans. I have had time to absorb the news. Then I got your thoughtful and articulate letter. No, I didn’t faint or get angry. I could only think about the pain you must have been feeling all these years and knew that we all must love you as before…when I say that, I don’t know how I will react when I see you because this is a huge matter to get my mind around. I think you are very brave to set out on this journey. Just give me a little time to adjust when I see you for the first time.

Having said all that I must tell you that I think you have chosen more pain for yourself, but you are obviously strong and certain of the path you must walk. You can do this! Bedford Falls and Empire Falls are places that I think are fraught with pain for you…not so much Bedford Falls, but Empire Falls in particular. The people who love you will support and love you no matter what, but my experience there with men in particular is that their manhood is often tenuous and easily threatened. I have long thought that my own father drank more than he should have because he was at heart a gentle person who could not and would not compete with the macho image of men in his own environment in a place he loved with all his heart. Your own father had a deep soft side that he rarely showed, and the genetic weakness for alcohol simply reared its ugly head in him. He was generous to a fault and would have done anything for you. He was, as was my father, simply who he was, and you are simply who you are. Those are hard pills to swallow as young people and young adults and even as mature folks, but we live with who and what we are.

Returning to men in the area, I fear that the reaction to your change when you go to Empire Falls will threaten the men and as a result will frighten the women. None will understand and many will be aloof and relations will be strained. Eventually all will be well, but I think you need to be prepared for strain and pain at first. As I have gone back through the years I find that I only see and care about a very few people there because they are the ones with whom I have maintained contact. I think you were prudent to resign from the partnership for these reasons, but there is absolutely no reason why you cannot give your able advice to your Uncle Jack about the family business matters if he is amenable to that.

I am concerned about your children and about Mary Jo, but apparently you have talked all this through. The children’s peers may be terribly cruel and I hope the therapy will strengthen them for things we cannot know about. I know how much you love them, and I feel sure you will do everything you can to help them to understand and to deal with the changes in their lives as well as in you own.

Story telling is important, and I know you are aware that the family has told its story for generations by yarn spinning and humor. We keep our family intact by telling stories. Don’t forget the importance of this as you move into a different mode of life. Your children need to know and care about the history of the family and how we have stood by each other through thick and thin. We will continue to do this.

Know that we love you and will support you in any way we can. William joins me in wishing you well. I am aware that faith has not played a big part in your life, but a church community is a wonderful source of support and love. The love of God is so extravagant that nothing can ever separate us from it and we are filled with it at every turn of life, both the happy, the tragic, and the unknown. You and your immediate family have been and will continue to be in our prayers. Do keep in touch.

Lots of love,

Aunt Phoebe

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Uncle Jack Law, my mother’s brother

Dear George,

As you would expect, I’m shocked and dismayed at your revelation of your suffering with GID and your plans for the future. I’ve pulled up some information on the internet and at least am in the beginning stages of trying to learn about GID.

George, I can only hope and pray for the best outcome for you with your inner conflicts. Your decision not only will impact you, but also family, friends, business associates, students, and others, not just today but for a very long time. I’m sure you have agonized over the long lasting impact it will have on your family. Hopefully, they will be able to endure the negative aspects of this, now and in the future, and be able to nurture a love and understanding that will be stronger than the foreseen negativism.

You and I had a wonderful relationship when we were younger. Remember all the things we did, from guitar playing to skiing and everything between. I guess I thought of you as being my own, after all, you have the Butcher’s Album. Even now, we still have a certain closeness that most uncles and nephews don’t have. I’m thankful for that.

The past few days have been very confusing and strange to me. I suppose that not understanding GID has made me fearful and pessimistic, which is what I gravitate to in most situations. As I read your letter, I could only imagine the worst possible outcome for everyone involved. I didn’t concentrate or focus on your turmoil, pain, and fear, which you have been struggling with for years. I’m sorry. I could only focus on the worst scenarios.

Thank you for trying your best to let us know of your very difficult struggles. Even though I’ll probably never be able to fully understand what you have been going through, I’m able to, now, know that you have been in extreme pain, conflict, and turmoil for a long time.

I truly believe that God has a plan for each one of us. I also believe that He loves us, even though, sometimes, it is hard to see. Liz shared with me that Allyson Robinson suggested that you are blessed not cursed. That is a wonderful way of looking at it. Your purpose in life might be to use your many gifts and talents to teach and help others in whatever situations they are facing.

I want you to know that I love you and am very proud of you. I’ll be here for you and support you in your upcoming struggles. Never doubt that you are a very important part our family. Don’t ever think that we don’t care about you. We do!! We want the very best for you and your family. You reached out to us for support and understanding, now we are reaching out to you for support and understanding.

I love you,

Uncle Jack

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See also
Blood is Thicker than Water, part 1
Blood is Thicker than Water, part 2
Is Blood Thicker than Water?

An email from my sister, 12 days after mailing her a paper letter, and not having talked with her on the phone at all during this nervous time:

Dear George, I am not sure what to say. Im not ready to talk to you about this yet. All I do know is I love you, as I have loved you all my life. i will talk to you soon. Love, Liz

I am thrilled at this tentative step. I know it’s hard and it hurts me to imagine the struggle Liz is having with this. Her email is filled with everything: fear, confusion, promise, affirmation of love. She and I have been through a lot, especially these past years, and I continue to hope that this little spark she sent me will continue until we’ve got a fire burning.

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