I haven’t seen my family on Christmas for four years, they wouldn’t recognize me anymore. Christmas is a big deal on my father’s side of the family. While my parents raised me in a Jewish home, my father converted to Judaism, so his said of the family is Christian and they sure do go all out for Christmas. My Aunt completely transforms her house into a Christmas wonderland, there are two full size trees, one in the living room and one downstairs in the den, both lavishly decorated. The pile of gifts around the tree in the den usually extends outward four or more feet and often towers so high that it obscures the tree itself. We would all gather, usually twenty or so members of the family, and there were all manner of snacks and pies and food. Over two dozen nutcrackers lined the shelves, and every surface in the living room has miniature villages, or extraordinarily crafted wooden Santas. It was a lot, truly, I cannot begin to understand the energy and dedication my Aunt has to create such a scene of beautiful Christmas abundance. The consumerism of the extensive gifts is a tad overwhelming, but at the same time appreciated, especially by the children. And despite being the goth sheep of the family, too shy to socialize much, never quite fitting in, my Aunt always seemed to get me something that was just perfect.
I stopped going down for Christmas when I started transitioning. I wasn’t ready for being misgendered and deadnamed. I didn’t know if they would make an effort, but even if they did I knew accidents happen. I was a fragile baby trans and I couldn’t handle it. Honestly, just having to handle my parents slipping up was too much, how do you tell someone who loves you and is trying, that their accidental word slip-ups make you want to die? Actually, I’m pretty loud about advocating for myself with them, so I’m sure I probably told them just that, and to get with the program and stop fucking up. I am not loud and outspoken with my father’s family, I’m more the grungy mouse in the corner type, and I knew I wasn’t ready to be my own advocate with them if I needed to. I honestly wasn’t sure how they would react to finding out their oddball niece was actually their nephew. I’d like to think they weren’t surprised, but I don’t have any idea how they felt, or how they reacted when my parents (with my permission) told them.
That first year was a bad year for many other reasons, but what I do remember is that my Aunt still sent me a gift. She was always perfect at choosing things for me that fit her pretty feminine aesthetic tastes, but also captured my edgy goth style. My favorite for years was a suede and knit sweater with four giant buckles down the front to close it. It reminded me a bit of a straight jacket and was definitely punk chic. I dreaded opening her gift. I knew I never quite fit in and my family barely knew me, but the way she had always managed to find something that I would really love and appreciate had made me feel like she saw me and I was accepted. I also knew how most of my trans siblings had been treated by their Christian families, I knew my chances of being welcomed in as my self and having my identity respected were pretty damn low. I hoped my family was different, but doesn’t everyone? I opened the gift, knowing that in all likelyhood it would be some beautiful feminine scarf or lovely tight fighting top, something all together perfect for someone who wasn’t me anymore. I was filled with dread as I unwrapped the package of what felt like it was surely some kind of clothing, hesitating like I was waiting for a slap in the face. It was a wonderfully thick and warm red plaid flannel men’s button up work shirt. I almost cried, with how grateful and loved I felt.
My Uncle always sends me a card on my birthday. The first few years after I began transitioning, he just began addressing it to R. It meant a lot that he didn’t use my deadname, but I wondered if discomfort with who I was, was preventing him from using my actual name. My first initial hadn’t changed, so maybe it was a way to appease his comfort levels while also respecting mine in a way. Or maybe he just didn’t remember what I had changed my name to, just because he had always been my favorite Uncle didn’t mean that I was important to him in the same way. This year my card was addressed to Rhaegar. That meant more then any other message written in it. When I opened it, I knew that, while I already had plans for this years Christmas, next year I would try and return home.
I’m a different person now, I don’t know if they’ll recognize me. I’m missing a few pounds from my chest, my voice has dropped a couple octaves, and I have a scraggly patchy beard these days. My hair is actually longer then it ever was for years. Finally being assumed to be a man by strangers in public all the time regardless of hairstyle allowed me to grow it out, because it was no longer an enemy that would get me misgendered at a longer length. I have a confidence that comes of being comfortable in my own skin. I still have the same garbage fire goth aesthetic, but I no longer am that grungy mouse in the corner. I’m the sort of person that strikes up conversations with complete strangers with ease. They may not know me anymore, although back then I wondered if they ever did. But I am starting to believe that whether they really know me well or not, they are willing to love me regardless and they will see me for who I am.