March 10, 2008

Family Matters

My boyfriend's parents don't approve of me.

In of itself, this is not a problem. My relationship with him is not dependent on his family liking me; he still loves me and is still going to be with me regardless of what they think.

Even personally, it doesn't really bother me. After all, they're not important parts of my life. They are important parts of his, yes, so of course there is some overlap there. But when it comes down to it, the world could continue moving perfectly fine without me ever interacting with them again.

And let's face it, the times when we've all been in the same room have been awkward to say the least. I feel out of place and judged, and they probably feel rather awkward about having to deal with this freak of nature in their space.

My boyfriend's family is very normal, white middle class. Their core values revolve around their careers, they have opinions on privacy and sexuality that are basically the exact opposite of mine, and emotions are not valued at all but rather seem to be viewed as something of a distraction to overcome. Sure, happiness is good and falling in love is probably a good idea if you want to have a family someday, but that's about the extent of it.

Now I'd like to make it very clear that I don't think that these people are "wrong" at all in how they live their lives. They have faults just like any of us, but how they're living seems to be working for them really well. So with that in mind, please don't think that I disapprove of Lee's family - they're good people who are living life the way they want to, and that's pretty much my whole value system right there being utilized.

Now, to the point.

They disapprove of me.

They disapprove of me because I am fat, because I am disabled, because I am transgendered.

They firmly believe that their son could do so much better than me.

They also don't like that we have been together so long; they are of the opinion that Lee should not be settling down and should instead be "having fun" without too much commitment.

But what it essentially boils down to, in my opinion, is they have ideas about what makes a person worthwhile, and those ideas come from the society that they function in. I doubt they have ever much questioned society; I wonder if they've ever researched how or why it was "discovered" that being fat leads to poor health? I susect they haven't; I suspect it's simply "common knowledge" that they have been fed by the world.

In the white, middle-class world, you are defined by how useful you are to society. And how useful to are to society depends on:

* What kind of work you do.
* How much work you do.
* How fertile you are.
* How attractive you are.
* How much money you earn.

As someone who does not work, my value has immediately dropped simply from that. What little I do when I can - my art, my workshops, etc - are "hobbies" in the eyes of Lee's family. Art is almost certainly not a "real job", even if I was working fulltime on my art, it still wouldn't count. And my workshops, well, they're all about SEX and that's just a naughty topic. Normal people don't attend workshops about sex. They do it with the lights out, heterosexually, maybe they'll do one kind of vaguely kinky thing once in a while to spice things up.

Because I do not work, because I am disabled, I am on a pension. This means I am poor. Again, my value has dropped.

Then we get to attractiveness. Their idea of attractiveness is very clearly based in wat is "normally" attractive in society. And what is normally attractive in society? Is basically the opposite of me.

I am fat; fat people are not attractive by societal standard. I am transgendered and that is breaking one of the most important laws about attractiveness in society - men should be (and look like) men and women should be (and look like) women. I am breaking all the rules. I am not attractive by their standards.

I admit this part confuses me. I don't give a twit about looks myself so I can't say it would bother me if my son was dating someone "ugly". But then again I suppose it's one of those things you only understand if you have it yourself.

There is also a slight sexuality issue. Lee's mother has had some trouble accepting his bisexuality and had quite a difficult time dealing with the guy before me. I not only break the rules on this one I'm confusing as well - her son is in a gay relationship with someone she sees as a women. I gotta admit, that would be pretty confusing.

It's not that Lee's family don't try to understand my transgenderedism. They just don't get it. It's very clear through my interacting with them that they see me as a woman. Which of course is worse - dating an ugly man, well, he's dating a man and he's gay and that's all scary and rule-breaking. But dating an ugly woman? It's the end of the world!

Everything about me that makes me who I am; all my rule-breaking, all the reasons WHY Lee loves me, are the exact reasons why his family has trouble approving of me. It's clear that they want him to find some attractive, intelligent (by which of course I mean university educated), able-bodied person (probably a woman) to settle down with. To settle down with a fat tranny cripple who dropped out of school when he was 14 is to settle for something that's just not good enough.

Of course in the end, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that Lee loves me. But it sure makes events where I'm expected to be with and around his family very stressful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eh, you've really clarified something that stinks about "normal" middle class values, where everyone is able to afford to be perfectly pleasant and liberal, except when it comes to the prospect of being asked to embrace as family someone who is outside a certain mould. Then certain humans are shown even if not told, that they are considered to be worth less as people. There's a hierarchy alright. Ugh. *have some fortification from me* Like you said, your values are: well if people are happy and living life the way they want, that should be enough, shouldn't it!

Oh yeah, and the "intelligent" thing meaning educated... I've come a lot more aware of that classist bias, really grew up with that bias. Sure, you can spot someone's intelligence by them demonstrating it passing a uni course with honours, although they might be clueless boneheads, so this "intelligence" is useless and worthless in the real world. Intelligence is about being questioning and aware and insightful and thoughtful, in my books; under this rubric, stupid people are everywhere. I'm sure if you did ever decide to do the academic thing, (with your body's kind consent), you'd do brilliantly. :)