On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, I severed all ties with my mother.
The time for this moment to happen was approaching, peeking around the corner as if waiting for the opportunity for either one or the other to cut the invisible piece of string. Since coming out to her in October 2017, Mom’s resentment towards my trans masculine identity revealed itself a few times: while I was recording a live video, she greeted me with my old name in the comments. When I deleted it, she continued via Messenger, vowing to never accept what I am doing because she gave birth to a baby girl. Afterwards, the Woman’s Week memes popped into my inbox occasionally, along with “I love you much.”
I often employed the high levels of tolerance thirty minute of meditation awarded me, ignoring her obvious dismissal of my gender identity. In fact, I expected nothing different from her when she responded to my coming out with the words: “I don’t feel too well…with your brother being locked up, my plate is already full.” But even after that, the hopeful, naïve aspect of me extended Mom the benefit of the doubt by thinking that she would at least see the benefits of me living my truth. By recognizing how much happier I’ve become, by seeing it when I’d come back to Springfield after a years’ long hiatus.
But what occurred on September 18 was the unfortunate truth she had no intention of changing her mind.
I remember my spirit being grayed that night by the fact that I had failed to raise the funds required for my top surgery, realizing that my GoFundMe campaign was no match for the ones organized by those with high social capital. This was only compounded by my gender dysphoria and the fact that I grew tired of fighting with my insurance company. So I announced on my Facebook page that I was ending my fundraiser, thanked those who contributed, and that refunds would be distributed as soon as possible.
Soon after the announcement was posted, the Messenger notification bell caught my attention. I looked down on my phone and saw my mother’s profile picture, her smile stretched as she waited for my response. After I tapped on the bubble holding her picture, I was led to a private message featuring “God loves you” type memes shaded with carnation pink hearts and ribbons. Above them was the message:
“I look at you and I am very proud of you! After so many battles faced some lost, defeated others, I believe you are a Warrior. You are standing there and with great strength, no one will bring you down! HAPPY WOMAN’S WEEK! Send this to a woman you admire!”
The moment my gaze stopped on those words, the wall I built to shield myself from her non-verbal jabs crumbled onto the kitchen table. Between my dysphoria and the failed fundraiser, my tolerance for yet another chain message from Mom dissipated—especially since I was aware that she read my status about me distributing refunds.
An exasperated groan rumbled out of me while I squeezed my eyes shut. “Are you serious, Mom?” I bellowed at no one as I buried my face in my hands, feeling warm tears trickle from tired, closed eyes.
My housemate Tobi, who is informed of my mother’s toxicity, bee lined into the kitchen from the living room and wrapped his arms around me. “Just block her messages and walk away from the phone,” he advised softly. “Just put the phone down and walk away.”
I followed Tobi’s instructions and spent the rest of the night listening to ASMR tying and watching My Haunted House on YouTube just to temper my nerves.
The next day, I sent my mother a message regarding my wishes to not speak to her. For the first couple of days, I experienced chest pains and depression from the very thought of being “motherless.” But it was not long before the depression transformed itself into a resentment that I couldn’t wrap my head around. After meditating on the reaction, I now understood why.
It was wasn’t her decision to not accept my transition that bothered me (if anything, I expected Mom to read every post regarding my transness with a combination of embarrassment and silent condescension). What crawled under my skin was the continual disrespect towards me now despite how she treated me when I was living as a “female” child. More than by my aunt Joyce, more than by the bullies in my grandmother’s neighborhood and the school playground, the bulk of the torment inflicted upon me was initiated by my own mother. This was the same woman who was supposed to raise my spirits, to uphold me and always tell me that I was more to her than the universe that stretched above our heads. Instead I was forced to compete with the Christian God, the men, and the church—the three entities that caught my mother’s attention the same way a fisherman would a trout.
This is also the same mother that literally threatened to cut my eyes out when I threw her a cold stare after she called me stupid. Who compared me to a White bitch because I wanted the room I shared with my brother Sherman to myself for only a moment. Who accused me of being inflicted with “Beatle sins” because I preferred the Fab Four over Shirley Caesar. Who slapped me in the face and said that I loved the Devil when, by that time, I stopped believing in anything other than what was before my own eyes. It is because of my mother that I rarely trust older Black women—Christian ones in particular.
Yet after everything she has done, Mom has the audacity to not relinquish her efforts to exterminate my spirit.
In fact, I now recognize that my mom doesn’t just take issue with my trans identity but my entire existence in general. I’ve always had a suspicion that she never liked me, that she secretly blamed me for having to place her dreams on the shelf. I remember her yelling at me about “having to do laundry everyday” and how she “could’ve gone to Brazil” if it weren’t for me. I just stood there, feeling powerless and not even knowing where Brazil was, but figured it was far from Springfield.
And even as an adult, I don’t understand. Aside from the fact that I never asked to be here, I fail to comprehend why she can’t recognize that I am not her antagonist, but the complete opposite. More than ever I desire for my mother to succeed in life, to see her Inner Light and enjoy her own existence. To embrace her own identity without diminishing those of her children. When my mother isn’t possessed with the desire to control, her somber, yet observational humor released from me a laughter that often ricocheted off the walls. When we did have conversations on the phone, I recognized the pain in her voice when she spoke about her lack of resources, the hurt when Joe doesn’t wish to see her when she visits him at the County jail. Even through her humor I heard the loneliness dripping from her tongue. During those vulnerable moments, she was the mother I’ve always desired to raise me. At one point, our relationship was mended to where I forgave her for the trauma caused and her support was apparent.
But after I transitioned, it was as if the bridge we constructed was torched by her own disapproval of me and she reverted back to emotional manipulation. She resorted to sliding Christian subliminal messages and false female admiration memes into my DMs. Or conspiracy theories about deaths in the family that never occurred to generate conversation with children who chose to love her from a far. Even as I write these words, I realize that the mother I imagined myself being raised by doesn’t exist and the one who raised me only taught me what I’m not willing to tolerate. So to maintain my own inner peace, I chose to cut the thin string that held us together and walk away from the illusion of having a supportive mother.