Those of you who speak to groups or do workshops know that there are certain questions you can almost count on. This is one of the more inevitable:
"How did you pick your name?"
I don't really want to answer. So, I tell my audience that Amy just seemed to fit naturally - no hidden sentimental or mystical meaning. Many transwomen are apt to choose names that have some "deep" significance, or they choose the name they think is the prettiest. Witness the over-abundance of Jennifers out there (can't swing a dead cat without hitting a trans-Jen, Jena, Jennifer, Jenny). Please, all you Jennifers out there, take no offense. Some of my best friends are Jennifer.
My father died in 1989, but he would have liked Amy. Mom was, well... Mom was "miffed." There was that unfortunate moment when she tried very hard to make this all about her, right down to the "After all I've put up with from you over the years, now this."
That was the day I came out to Mom. I told her my new name and that I had filed the legal documents and already had a court date. She was sitting across my dining room table from me, smoldering through the uncomfortable silence, looking at me in that tone of voice only a mother can use.
Finally, she spat: "Well, you look just like a woman," silence. "If you had been a girl, I would have named you Rebecca." Then she sat blinking as if she expected me to say something. Maybe something like "Oh, sorry, I don't know what I was thinking, I'll re-file the court papers first thing in the morning."
If Mom felt forsaken somehow; she was wrong. If anything, quite the opposite was true. Something I quietly hoped for was a relationship with her that would not have all the co-dependent baggage we'd been lugging around all these years. I was hoping my mother and I would be able to be in close proximity without her attempting to push my multiple buttons and me overreacting like a malfunctioning vending machine.
Mom's thing was to turn every circumstance into a crisis, which only she was able to solve. I wanted to have a real relationship with Mother, and, to an extent, that is what began to transpire. A new relationship did begin to grow. First, however, I had to reject the deep-seated crisis-based model and firmly remove my decisions from any form of debate. I was not rejecting Bill (me), Mom, Dad, my spouse Cindy, or anything about my life prior to transition. My vision was not in favor of a completely new existence, which didn't include them. Rather, I was looking toward a new, authentic life that would finally allow the disconnect I felt with all of them to close. Allowing my true identity to surface and transition are the solution to what had been a life long crisis.
I simply would not live in the struggle any longer.
Alright, I need to come clean. Amy as a name actually has deep significance. There is a story to the choice of Amy as my name. I suppose I simply haven't wanted to tell it yet.
While it is true that the name - like many other things, post-transition - just seemed to fit, there is a deeper connection: Amy Holmes. Amy Holmes was the woman, girl really, I was living with when I hit bottom for the first time. She knew about the clothes I kept supposedly hidden and seemed OK with it. But, still....
My plunge into self-loathing, alcoholism, and drug addiction was reaching a new depth. Supremely ill-equipped to deal with the inner conflict I experienced nearly every waking and sometimes even sleeping moment, I felt trapped.
Amy found me that night, already unconscious.
Rage within me rapidly breached my fragile emotional defenses as she told me she just couldn't. She just could no longer deal with the drinking and the depression and the clothes - could no longer deal with me. No pleading, no threat, no promise would convince her to stay. There was no hesitation as she closed the door behind her and no pause to reconsider as she tramped down the stairs. I don't remember exactly, but I think I put my fist through one of the fish tanks and cut my hand badly. The blood seemed like a good idea. I do remember clearly, sitting on the bed and calmly drawing vertical slits up both arms with a knife. Amy said she wasn't coming back. To this day, I don't know why she did. God wasn't through with me, I suppose. Still, I was pissed when I woke up in the hospital, bandaged. They told me I was nearly bled-out when she found me and tied tourniquets on my arms.
I never saw her again.
My mother, Phyllis, passed away suddenly just over two years ago. She was eighty-one.
By the time of her passing, she had become an advocate for the transgender community, regularly attending PFLAG and TransCend meetings. She introduced Cindy and me as her daughter and my partner. I knew that we were on our way to deep and lasting friendship when she began to criticize my clothes.