Dani was rudely awoken by a barrage of short tunes from her phone. Ughh...who is texting me this early? She looked at her clock to see that it was only six in the morning. Much earlier than she had gotten up in months, maybe years. Reluctantly, she sat up and reached for her bedside stand to grab her still-beeping phone.
It read: “Daniel, those boxes we were keeping for you are taking up too much space. Please come get them today, or they will be disposed of. Love, Mom.”
Dani rolled her eyes and sighed. Cold as ever. Thanks, Mom. As the realization of what she would have to do set in, she fell back onto her pillow. Why did I leave that stuff there so long? Are they going to notice any changes? She had not seen her parents since starting hormones, and was partially hoping she never would again. But, she knew that wouldn’t be possible. And besides, she didn’t want to abandon her younger brothers, either.
She didn’t have to work that day, so she sent a quick response to her mom to let her know she would stop by around noon.
Dani knew that trying to go back to sleep would be futile, and instead dragged herself out of bed to get ready for her trip. Okay, now what can I wear that says “I’m NOT secretly taking estrogen without telling anyone?” Jeans and a hoodie, right.
The highway was clearer than usual as Dani cruised on it towards her old house. Her parents’ house. The place she called home for her whole life, but now dreaded returning to. Oh who am I kidding, the house isn’t the problem. It’s the two monsters that live in it. Dani started to think about that day, again.
Her dad had just told her to wait on the couch, and she obeyed. Eventually, her parents both came down the stairs and sat beside her; Mom on the left, Dad on the right. While waiting for them, Dani had thought about how she should handle everything, and knew it was smartest to not say anything too bold, and to just let them talk themselves into feeling comfortable. She steeled herself and prepared to endure them for as long as she needed.
Her mother began, “Danny, you know that we want what’s best for you.” She tried to put her hand on Dani’s.
“Yeah. I know.” Dani said as she pulled her hand away. Her mother sighed.
Then it was her father’s turn to speak, “We agreed that you would re-enroll after a year off from university, but you haven’t even made an attempt to sign up for classes. And now you’ve missed another semester. You have to start making some strides, sooner or later.” He finished with an exasperated laugh.
The part about this that Dani hated the most was that she knew her father was right. She wanted nothing more than to get on with her life, but it would have to be her life, not some life as a character she played for everyone’s sake.
“I’m...saving money.” Dani said. She had used her coffee shop job as an effective excuse in the past.
“But that job is a dead end, sweetie,” her mother said. “And what are you even saving for? We’re fine paying your tuition, we’ve told you that.”
“It’s just...I can’t...I don’t,” Dani stammered, realizing she didn’t have an easy way to end this conversation.
“Daniel, come on, now.” Her father said. He was never able to handle when she got even the slightest bit emotional. “Even if college isn’t for you, there are other routes.”
Dani was almost hopeful, but quickly remembered what he meant. “I don’t want to become a pastor, either, Dad.”
Her mother sighed. “Well, maybe if you started coming to church again, you would have an easier time finding-”
“No!” Dani yelled. “I’m never going to that church again.”
Dani’s fights with her parents had always been over two things. School, or church. While her parents both cared about each topic, her dad was usually more focused on her education, while it was her mom who would try and preach to her.
Her mother was shocked at her reaction. “Daniel!” There was a shift in her eyes. Dani would normally classify her mother as ‘sweet, caring, and quiet’ any time when religion wasn’t involved. But as if a switch flipped, her mother would immediately turn into one of the coldest people she had ever met if her church was slandered. “What has gotten into you? You used to love going!”
“Yeah, Mom, when I was little. But it changed. I changed. They only talk about politics, now. And they preach hatred towards LGBT people!” Dani really didn’t have anything against religion in general, or even her family’s particular faith, but this church’s management taught nothing but anger.
Unfortunately for Dani, she had cemented her fate with that remark. Her mother never missed a chance to argue about her church, and this was no different. She piped up, “And? What, are you a socialist, now?”
“No, Mom, but-” Dani started, before her mother interrupted, again.
“And why are you so concerned with how they treat the ‘LGBTs’ anyway?” She used excessive air quotes around “LGBTs,” which would have caused Dani to roll her eyes if she wasn’t already fuming. Her mom continued her rant. “What, did you make some gay friends at school?”
Dani was digging her nails into the couch in an attempt to ease the rage she wanted to unleash toward her mom. “Mom! Listen! No, I don’t have any ‘gay friends,’ but it’s still not right to-”
Apparently, there was no stopping her mother, as she interrupted yet again. “Well if you don’t know anyone, then why does it matter? They live in sin, it’s their choice. You don’t have to worry about-” This time, Dani interrupted.
“I’m transgender, Mom! Me!” All of the anger she felt towards her mother’s bigotry released itself in a burst of truth. Dani had finally said what she had struggled with for years, and it felt incredible...for a moment. Then, she remembered who she was with.
Dani was exiting the highway when she first noticed the tears rolling down her face. Great, she thought. Just what I need right before I see them.
The memory of what happened after she came out was hazier than the rest. All she was sure of was that she had never heard them yell that much, and it ended with her being given thirty days to find a new place to live.
Her eyes had about dried when she pulled into the driveway. There was only one other car, which she recognized as her father’s. At least Mom isn’t here to try anything. It was a cruel twist for her to actually prefer seeing her father. Obviously her father was still completely unsupportive, but they had always disagreed, and her being trans seemed no different. Her mother was the one who had gone from generally pleasant to entirely distant after the fight.
Dani stepped up to the door, took a deep breath, and knocked. Within seconds, the door opened, and she stared her father in the eyes. She couldn’t tell if he noticed anything different about her, but his eyes were scanning her either way.
Neither said anything for a moment, but, soon enough, her father gestured for her to enter. “Your things are over here,” he said.
Dani nodded and entered. She walked to the two boxes that rested in the corner of the entryway, taking in the familiar scent of the place she grew up. This isn’t the time to get emotional, girl. Get a grip! The boxes were easy to stack on top of each other, and before she realized it, she was at the door with them. She looked back to see her father sitting on the sofa, watching the television.
“Bye, Dad.” She said. He lifted his hand in some type of half-hearted wave, and didn’t say a word. Dani left.
As she loaded the boxes into her car, she thought to herself, that went well. No fighting. No yelling.
She was about to get back on the highway when she lost her composure. Tears began to flow out of her eyes, faster than they had in over a decade. She pulled over.
It’s like I wasn’t even his child. Dani wiped her eyes with her shirt collar as she searched for some tissues. He hasn’t seen me in months, and he didn’t even want a hug. God, not even a handshake! Unable to find any tissues, she just sank into her seat. What is wrong with me? How did it get like this?