An important thing to know about my mom is that she is, as she will readily inform you given the chance, a very private person. We have a pretty good relationship and I generally find it easy to have conversations with her, but I still don’t know that much about her, in a lot of ways. Some of this is just in comparison with my dad; he loves to tell stories about silly things he did or people he dated when he was younger, and many of those stories are ones I’ve heard several times. Stories from my mom about her past are precious things I don’t hear often. I don’t know that much about what she was like when she was younger. And that’s ok! I tend to share a lot about myself with people I’m close to, but I realize not everyone is like that. It doesn’t make me feel less close to her; while she’s not as open with me as I am with her or as I might like her to be, she certainly isn’t closed-off and I respect her different comfort level in regards to personal information she shares.
Mom works in music education; for the past fifteen years has done some substitute band directing in the county but has focused on private lessons at home and in schools. She started the in-school lesson program at my high school my senior year and still teaches there, which means she’s still in contact with my high school band director and other people who knew me over ten years ago when I was a student.
When I was visiting my parents over Thanksgiving, she mentioned that she still hasn’t told any of these people that my name or pronouns have changed, because she “just doesn’t want to get into it.” So several years after the fact (I came out to my folks in the summer of 2005), she’s still having conversations with colleagues where they ask how [birthname] is doing and Mom just says “she’s fine!”
On one level it seems ridiculous that my mom’s been interacting with colleagues for years and hasn’t told them about this huge change in my life, even if they specifically ask her about me. I am really uncomfortable with people even knowing my birth name, and of course while I can’t make her forget it I’m not happy that she might still be actively using it (I was using my current name as a nickname in high school, so I can at least hope she might be using that instead some of the time). She’s really the only person in my life who does slip up on my pronouns from time to time (but not my name, at least!), and after she told me this I wondered if it’s because she still talks about me using female pronouns and my old name, so they’re still fresh in her mind when she talks to me. It doesn’t hurt as much now as it used to, but I can’t pretend it feels good to hear her make that mistake after several years. It does still sting a little.
But I can’t manage to be as indignant about it as I’d expect to. I think it ties into her sense of privacy; it might feel like something that’s too big or personal to discuss even with friendly colleagues, and I want to respect that. It is often weird to come out on behalf of someone else. I sometimes have a hard time with it and I have a lot more practice than she does. I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and maybe I’m a little upset? But while the situation is uncomfortable to think about, I realize it doesn’t impact my life that much; the pronoun problem isn’t great, but I can only assume that will continue to get better with time.
I don’t think her pronoun mistakes are a conscious snub or a sign of any problem she has with me; while things were strained for a while after I came out to her (a trainwreck of an experience that should probably be its own blog post at some point), it’s been years since I had any sense that my transition was upsetting to her. I’ve had her introduce me as her son many times with no hesitation or apparent discomfort. I really do think it’s mostly due to the fact that she hasn’t made the switch to using the right language for me all the time.
In an ideal world I’d like to have her using my current name and pronouns in all areas of her daily life, but I’m not ready to ask her to do so at this point. I know it’s something she’d be unlikely to be comfortable with and I don’t want to press the issue. It would matter more if I had any chance of seeing these people again, but if I did I could just come out to them myself. It’s just one of those ways in which Families Are Weird, I guess; I don’t think I’d put up with this behavior from a friend, but somehow when it comes from my mom I’m less likely to do anything about it.
[Edit: For context, when I came out to my parents I did tell them they were welcome to out me to people I might not have a reason/opportunity to come out to, such as their friends and co-workers, to make this sort of situation less awkward. My dad pretty much instantly told his co-workers, especially ones who had met me, because he’s Mr. Talky, but it’s possible that Mom only told some of her relatives who I’m not particularly close to. But that blanket permission is in place and has been for years, so there’s no doubt on her point that it isn’t her place to out me to anyone else. I prefer to do so myself when possible for several reasons, but when I can’t she knows she’s welcome to. I guess I just never updated that status from “welcome” to “encouraged.”]