Silent in the Mourning: My Brother’s Transition.
Even though I knew when, where and how it was going to happen, I was not prepared for the death of my brother. We were told, weeks before, about the doctor, the hospital, the surgery, the outcome, and the exact time of death. The days of waiting wore me down into a deep, dark clinical depression. There was no one to comfort me or acknowledge my grief.
My family suffered the same loss, but we couldn’t talk. My friends thought it was cool in that gender bender kind of politic. There was no paradigm for this death, or suicide, or transformation of a man into a woman, the “transition.”
On the day of my brother’s surgical death, I had intense dreams of living in a place where the only acceptable way to grieve was to sleep. Every time I tried to cry, to yell out, or to howl the pain, I was told quite violently that we didn’t cry for this death. Our mourning culture for this death does not include a funeral, flowers, grave markers, or processions. It is a silent grief, cut off from all human understanding.
Each time I woke up from sleep that day, I had a voice inside of me telling me to go back to sleep; that was the proper thing to do, and so I slept for 18 hours straight. This went on for weeks, and I missed days and days of work. I had tumbled into a depression that I could not understand. There was no death, they told me. Only transformation. Presto, another sister!
Not true! My brother was dead and never coming back to us. I didn’t have a hint of his intentions growing up because he never showed interest in girls or girlie things. He hated girls. Still, he is my brother and that will never change.
My identity was changed for me, behind my back without my authorization or consent. The death of brothers and sisters is hard to get over, because so much of who we are, is locked into the other person. Hard-wired. We are the future and the past, rolled into one present moment together. There is the promise that we will grow old together and bring the past along for comfort.
When I heard about Chas Bono’s mother, Cher, having a difficult time with her daughter’s transition, I said, “Hell yes, don’t anyone tell Cher not to grieve or that she is some kind of transphobic!” She is a mother like any other who has lost the child she birthed, and as a result, she is mourning. The political should be left for equal access issues, not personal relationships. It is a terrible loss to a family.
Have I grieved? Not really. I know I will bury my brother’s remains in the family plot, even though I refer to her with her female name, use the correct pronouns, and have accepted that she will not hurt anyone by being a woman. We never did sister-type activities with each other, like I did with my birth sister. It has been over 35 years since she had the surgery, but in my identity, she will always be my big brother.