Changing traditions

Posted on 05 Dec 2014 at 7:30am

Much gets left behind when you transition, so treasure the things and people that go along for the journey

I don’t think I’m alone in my love of the familiar. There is comfort in that, a predictability that doesn’t exist in this unpredictable world. Maybe that’s why we tend to be creatures of habit — getting up at the same time, taking the same route to work, eating at the same few restaurants.

My love of the familiar is strongest around the holidays, with all of the traditions that have been passed down through the years.

Leslie McMurrayGrowing up, it just wasn’t Christmas until my dad hung those tacky Christmas stars from the ceiling with string and thumbtacks. When I was little, my dad would pick me up so I could touch them gently, causing them to sway.

I lived in the same house in Southern California until I was grown and moved out on my own. I kept some of those traditions with me and started a few new ones along the way with my own children. The stars ended up with my brother after my parents passed.

Things are different now. I’ve had to let go of so many things — familiar things, traditions and even people. This has been perhaps one of the more emotionally difficult parts of gender transition.

This will be my third Christmas since I came out. Each one has been special and each one very different.

I will never forget the Christmas of 2012; my first Christmas since coming out to my family and friends as a transgender woman. I was in the midst of a divorce (things were spiraling downward, even though I didn’t know it for sure at the time) and emotionally drained. My oldest daughter invited me to Atlanta to spend Christmas with them.

I packed my car with enough clothes and shoes for a month (even though I was only staying four days), loaded Christmas presents for their family and then tried to sleep. I was excited but also scared. My daughter and son-in-law had never seen me as anyone other than “Dad.” How would they react?

After a 12-hour drive to Atlanta, that question was answered when I knocked on the door and was greeted by my 3-year-old granddaughter with “Grandma Leslie!!” and a great big hug.

Let that sink in. She had never met or seen me as “Grandma Leslie.” This came not from her, but from my daughter. That told me all I needed to know. I was accepted, even in my awkwardness.

That means more to me than I can ever explain. My tears told the story.

Still, the traditions from before were left behind. I was with her family now. Her husband has a huge extended family, and they have their own way of doing Christmas. So I blended in.

I had a great time, but it was all new. I felt loved, but also like a curiosity, especially to the older members of my son-in-law’s family. They just didn’t quite know what to say to me.

The following year, I spent Christmas with my other daughter in Phoenix. She lives with her boyfriend in a pretty house that she loves to decorate for the holidays — lights outside to rival the Griswolds and really cute and tasteful decorations inside.

She really went all out. Hanging by the chimney with care were the Christmas stockings.

I’d had my Christmas stocking since childhood. It was green with white trim and had candy canes glued to it. It had my birth name on it and I’d had it longer than my memory can recall.

But no longer.

When I looked at the stockings lovingly hung under the mantle, there was a new one there among the others. It was pink with white trim, with a green Christmas tree and a glitter snowflake. “LESLIE” was written in glitter along the top.

Once again, I felt the blessings of love and acceptance from my daughters, even as they struggled with their own sense of loss, change and new traditions.

This year will be different once again. I am staying home this Christmas.

I now share a townhouse with my girlfriend, who I love very much. We are doing Christmas together for the first time. Recently, the thought occurred to me that if we go get a tree, I have no ornaments to put on it. Most all of the Christmas stuff went to my ex-wife. I’m OK with that.

Still, there were ornaments that were accumulated over decades, some from childhood.

Gender transition is hard. I’ve said that before. Going into it, there is no possible way you can foresee all you will have to encounter.
The best advice I can offer is this: Be prepared to lose everything. Then celebrate the things you don’t lose and treat them as the most valuable gifts you have ever received.

Treasure the things and people that are familiar that you are able to bring along for your journey. Start new traditions and build from there. Remember the past, but be ready to let it go; there is so much that you just can’t take with you.

As for the people who stand by you through this journey — these people love you for you. Isn’t that the most precious gift of all?

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2014

 

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