A Letter For My Niece, Whom I’ve Not Been Allowed to Meet
I hope I spelled your name correctly. We have, of course, never met. You probably don’t even know I exist; and, as for me, the knowledge of your birth came only through chance circumstances of random information on FaceBook. (A curious place–the curation of faces and the arbitration of relationships, in type as well as in counterpoise.) I could have drafted this letter in a thousand different variations of incompleteness. But, electing as always for a fearlessness that now has become more natural (one of the gifts of transition), this simple logic of saying spontaneously based on a resolution to dare — I have no other philosophy.
You must be — what — one and a half years old by now? I’ve no personal count, really. I’m not entirely sure of your birthday. No one told me. Nothing. Awareness of your conception came to me through a chance appearance on my newsfeed, when you were still in gestation, of your mum clicking ‘likes’ to do with pregnancy. A Christmas passed by, another in which I was not invited home. Spring arose, in violet registers of your new shoes, summer — and by another picture found online I knew you’d been born sometime in June. You will grow up, not knowing me, and I think of you in so many ways — growing up, gaining ground, right now — you, spurring to stay steady on a tricycle, defying gravity.
Verbose, prone to editorialize, dependent on sutures … The truth is — as you know — I’ve not had the chance to hold you, my niece — my precious first niece. I am certain you will never be aware of how, today, I offer you this wee letter, that somehow the words will find you on their accord; as you will not be told that of me, your aunt who wants to watch you flourish under your own glow.
You do not know I am in this world, that I am of your family — because I’m a transgender woman. Family rejection met me for this one fact. My anger is wholly understandable, I hope you will know. The crumbs I was offered seemed coated in poison, and so I wondered why they offered it at all.
However, the lancet of blame has no thrill for me, and I will state nothing in acrimony against your loving parents — and I do know they love you, even if they do not love me. I’ve spoken to neither of my brothers in three years, both of whom have avoided seeing the actuality of who I am. I’ve not been home for Christmas in the same number of spans. I tried though. My happiness spoke out to them as a disregarded testimony. Hidden. Unheeded. I suppose a presumptive hologram in the past tense remains their vision of who I should be. But this problem is theirs — neither yours nor mine. I do not blame you that I roam, newly bodied, unknown forever regardless of how invisibly my smile beacons to you in invitation.
But you have the right, as maturity and experience shapes, to understand that I exist — that there are women like me in the world — and that you should never be afraid of me, whatever ignorance is imposed upon you. Discrimination and rejection can be as hard as limestone, and as mean as flint; but even limestone is reshaped and then warmed by the flow of water and the blaze of the sun.
Mental prejudices, faulty education — these things will only lead to a blank pain of incomprehension. It is time to begin transformation – though it may take centuries before we can truly see any difference.
And so I write, full of memory and conscience, to you … If I may share a few bits of my own self, of what gender transition has meant to me — as your aunt who never was– as an absent Godmother who murmurs your name on rosary bead clicks when I pray for you … my niece whose fingernails I’ve never traced —
Our identities must always be determined by irredeemable pasts and irrepressible futures. Life is hard. We aim for a nineteenth century patience, and prepare to display a twenty-second century innovativeness. Most of all, we must try. I disagree with your man on that one–that there is no ‘try’. Honestly, Katie? What I’ve recognized as a trans woman is that all I have is the trying, and trying again.
Because a ponderous stasis is the worst. I can personally assure you of that. Instead, you have this enduring potential: to be stretched out like a starry veil across aeons and forms and voices, signaling to the riders in the sky, and reaching down to open the floodgates of the human heart. And if the light you find has only a small touch of brightness, trust that you can claim that flash, unreservedly, as your own.
As a child of an interracial/international couple, you will undoubtedly face challenges that I cannot imagine nor assume to understand. But, I have tasted my disdain because, like you may find one day, we’re both in minorities that have been ungraciously evaluated as incomplete, halved, and met with shuttered derision. It is not your fault. And what choice but to rise above, somehow? As Lévinas showed me, “I will say this quite plainly, what truly human is -and don’t be afraid of this word- love. And I mean it even with everything that burdens love . . .”
So far away from you, divided by impertinence and space, this was my unreceived Christmas present to you — this prayer I now offer you — the single most precious lesson that the solitary warfare with my own skeleton has revealed to me:
Be bold. Be a tidal force of energy. Those who would deride you for being of mixed ancestry? For being a woman? For whatever stark indiscretions committed against your right to be exactly who you are? Their prejudices will wound badly, yes. Yet your aura will prevail: by being a concentrated power of faith in yourself.
For this power will never leave you, unless you abandon your own poignance. And, possessed of such a personalized creed — No one will be able to shut the door on you, or on what you can do.
The doors will explode, my dear, and fall in little fragments at your feet.
Maybe one day what I really need to say will be spoken over a hug and hot tea. Maybe. I close by adding, perhaps with temerity, that Hamlet was incorrect on one thing (3.1.142-144). So I offer my revision, what I learned as a transsexual woman — The world will give you a face, but you must make yourself another. This has been my morality, my peace, my capacity to survive. May the same self-sustaining light take on that individual glow your cheeks will demonstrate as your own face ardently emerges.
But know this. Whatever expression your visage adapts. I will never judge you.
Perhaps I’ve said too little, or obliged myself too much. Censure can take on the justification of editing. So whatever remains to be exchanged may one day be said to not some errant digital rendition, but in an encounters of livid eyes — if some day we meet. If we are allowed to meet.
I love you, even if I’ve not met you. I exist, even if the fearful and shameful refuse to tell you that I am here, typing this, just for you.
May you get to know me, a woman to another woman, one day.
Your loving Aunt,
[24.07.14] I wrote a followup to this post for my natal birthday.