So here’s the thing:
You can’t spell “Thanksgiving Blast” without “LGBT!”
Well, you can, but then it’d just be “hanksivin as” which makes no freaking sense, you weirdo.
Let me tell you a little story, kids.
Back in the bad old days, before I came out and began transition, Thanksgiving was a fun time for me, but as with most other special occasions, a shadow lay across my heart.
This year, however, the shadow was lifted, and you know why?
Of course not. Otherwise, why would I need to tell you? Honestly.
Anyway, the reason was that I attended my first TransOhio Thanksgiving dinner. Inside the Center on High, I met some amazing people from all walks of life, and had a lot of laughs, conversation, and green bean casserole. For the first time, I could be myself, without fear of judgement or recrimination (well, without fear of judgement or recrimination for being transgendered. My personality remains a valid reason to hurl both). It was one of the best times of my young (cough, cough) life.
Of course, this was also the first Thanksgiving I didn’t share with my family. Due to a lack of extra vacation, I wasn’t with them when they loaded up the Giant Van of Babysitting and schlepped deep into Kentucky to meet my Mother’s extended family for a rip-roarin’ turkey-fest.
And I DID miss them, of course. I missed Ma’s ridiculously delicious lemon meringue pie and stuffing (separately, not together). I missed Dad declaring that his eyes were clearly too big for his tummy (even as he finished half a pumpkin pie). I especially missed the cacophonous maelstrom of chatter and laughs that springs up whenever Ma and her sisters get together. And I missed being part of the mess that, for better or worse, is my pack of kin. I missed knowing that I’d have enough turkey left over to make flautas for the next week and a half.
What I didn’t miss was hearing the wrong name, or the intentional disregard for who I am, or the judgement for something that I know to be necessary for my happiness.
I definitely didn’t miss having to endure the silent opprobrium that is somehow a thousand times worse than the angry recriminations that characterized the early days of my transition.
It was nice to be surrounded by people who understood my struggle. It was even better to be taken at face value, free of the baggage of my complicated past. And it was amazing to finally, truly, let my guard down.
But then again, that same baggage is what enables my family to truly know me in ways no one else ever will. And it’s what makes it necessary for me to find a way to get the feeling I had in that community center hall even when I’m sitting down to dinner in my parents’ dining room; like so many other things, the holidays are (for me) about stitching together the bifurcated fabric of my life.
Will I ever find a way to truly relax as Claire in my parents’ home? Will I be able to stop that anticipatory wince that accompanies the wrong pronouns and name? Can I find a way to keep giving my parents infinite slack as they try to follow me down this path? Will I have the strength to make my own traditions if my parents cannot find a way to accept me as I am? Can I really have my lemon meringue pie and eat it too?
Who the hell knows? These are questions every person asks themselves (well, the first two are probably specific to me and other transwomen named Claire, now that I think about it).
My experience at a new Thanksgiving table was invaluable; it taught me that there are other possibilities in this life; that there are people who really do understand what I’m going through and share my struggle; that there is, as my friend Laura says, the family you’re born with and the family you gather along the way.
But I also have a seat reserved for me at the Jackson Family table, and it’s one I’m not giving up without a fight. There’s a lot of bitterness to address, yes, but as the year draws to a close and I take a step back to gain some perspective, I can’t help but think about how much sweetness there is, too.
And, after all, that pie’s not going to eat itself.