I don’t hate you, anymore. I don’t spend my nights imagining what my life would be like if only you died, and I no longer fantasize about having a family, let alone having a family healed of the rifts created by your convictions and schemes. I no longer believe you are purposefully torturing me, or that you secretly knew what was happening when I was 15 and I started dressing in leather skirts and eschewing sleeves.
I don’t believe you were capable of understanding that when you stroked my hair without permission and called me a girl, I wasn’t angry that you assaulted my masculinity, I was panicking and getting ready to fight in case you actually saw me, and I no longer believe that was a running joke in the family, but when we sit around a table and people talk over and around and ignore me, it doesn’t seem like you’re hard of hearing. It seems like I went from being the amusement to total invisibility.
When I was fifteen and you forbade me from makeup at home and dressing where people in the community would see, did you understand the fear you helped exacerbate? Did you know you would make me hide and forget the moment until I tried to die and didn’t even know it? We beat ourselves repeatedly to try to damage our brain out of believing in the truth instead of seeking medication, but it was never a matter of an antidepressant, our medical noncompliance was a survival mechanism, and we felt ourselves die a little with every skin cell that got callused and brittle.
For years I feared my voice would never drop and people would keep treating me like I was still seventeen, never knowing what a gift I was squandering. Now, I struggle with vocal exercises every day to return to what happened before testosterone finally started taking its toll on me, at thirty.
When you used to grab me and hold me in place while yelling, you said you were trying to show me something, and even though that action first happened when we were digging post holes, it had ripple effects through my soul that made me freeze and lose control when another person held me still and gave me instructions. After him, I can’t have my own slave pin me with her weight or dig in too hard on my hips when she is worshiping the site of my future lips.
I return to the scene of your crimes every time I close my eyes, so when I get messages asking when I will be at another gathering, with their implied lament about how long it has been since I went north to the place where I wanted to die every day, I can’t help but feel like my life is being invaded. How often do you want me home? Are your memories so dim you don’t see me every day?
I don’t understand the time you hit me so hard I went dark and then called me a baby for crying and accused me of being on the ground because I was exaggerating, but I do know it was right after you made me think you killed my other parent by hanging him in effigy. I eventually came back to you when I first tried transitioning, but I am gone again because you insist on mourning me.
I forgave you for blaming your poor choices on your children while touting their existence and your commitment to ending abortion as proof you are a good person. I know for a fact you hit the children you were babysitting until we had a phone call where I had to get vaguely threatening, and I suspect you still do it and hide it from me because you were taught to visibly obey those you read as masculine.
For years, I heard you tell me there were things I could not understand because I was not a woman, and I tried to respect your pain and my own blame for attempting to hide, but you only used that excuse to try to make it okay for your trauma to influence your beliefs in ways that were harmful to other women. Gently, I tried to lead you to it. Defensively, you saw me as still controlling without seeing your daughter had come to you with love and commitment.
There are dark things in your hidden comparments, and I tried not to judge you because I also knew them, and I had been driven to extremity by the things they taught me when I was still in formation. I know the secrets you claim I could not know, and unlike you, they have driven me to extremes to reclaim my body. I say this not in judgment, but to assert a final truth.
It wasn’t just the time with a stranger, or the time with a friend, it was people in the family, and it was you. The transgression you visited on me during divorce proceedings and the accusations leveled against my other parent, together, warrant your never hearing from me again. Pretending I couldn’t know the things that some men and older children did, even when you thought I was a man, was a terrible burden, because even if I had not transitioned, even if Athena had not fractured, even if Michael had not been trained to give in, they still would have happened.
Your lessons when we were young stuck so well, the hand over hand instruction and the discipline for so much as breathing when you were talking, it made me easy for everyone. And for most of my life, I didn’t have to remember them, I just had dark dreams that made me fear choking my lovers or the excitement I would get when having to totally care for and manage them. I control my own nightmares when I fuck now instead of having orgasms.
Last but not least, when I reached crisis, you kept explaining to me why you were all right to keep voting for human misery, to oppress people like me, to prevent others from helping me modify my body. To make prisons more deadly, and to keep the death penalty, just because your thirst for blood and comfort was larger than me. It’s why I accept that for years, you couldn’t see.
It’s why forgiveness doesn’t mean I can come back to you, too. I am done being angry. I am done hating. And I am done pretending that it will be possible for me to see you anyplace but the past that keeps happening, because you still live in the place where life was refused to me, and in a year you have made no effort to find me and see me in a place where that stops happening.
Maybe someday, when there is no familiar face to greet, there will be a very tall woman darkening your windows, seeking to peep into a life she has no right to view. Maybe then, you will see me. Maybe then I will see you.