Though WW-II had been over for almost 20 years when I was born, I grew up in a family where the war was still very much a daily reality.
Where other children might have been afraid of monsters, I feared a German soldier might be hiding under my bed. I’d lie awake at night, listening for footsteps outside: A German soldier coming to get me and take me to one of the concentration camps.
Airplanes where frightening as they might just drop a bomb or fall out of the sky – and I could never decide which of the two would be worse.
My mother and grandmother would tell us their war stories. Real stories of how my uncle would infiltrate the German troups, how he got caught and had his vertebrae crushed with the butt of a rifle, how he escaped and made it back home. Stories of my great uncle being subjected to Spanish water torture, and coming back home a mental wreck.
Looking back I can see that growing up like this – twenty years after the war had ended – was pretty screwed up, but back then I thought this was all perfectly normal. It was my normal.
Sadly, WW-II was not the only war that was going on in my family. Physical and emotional violence were a very real part of my everyday life. My mother always had a rather volatile temper and, unfortunately, nothing has changed there yet, so to this day I still find myself tiptoeing around her. Always vigilant, trying not to set her off. And still it’s not enough.
I like to see myself as a kind and caring person, who always looks to see the best in people. With my mother, I’m constantly second-guessing myself. Why is it so hard to just trust her? Why is it so hard to for me to believe that she’s really trying to accept me as her son?
When my older sister accidentally calls me by my old name, I am 100% convinced that it’s just an honest mistake on her part, and I accept her apologies gladly.
However, when my mother calls me by my deadname, which she does a lot, I find it increasingly difficult to see that as a mistake. In fact, I fear she is not even trying anymore. She did for a while. She did call me Liam a couple of times, so she has to have been trying then. But not anymore, I don’t think so.
She made up a new nickname for me. One she never used before, and she has no trouble using that nickname all the time. My classmates used to call me that back when I was a child, and I hated it. I hate it as much today as I hated it back then. It’s the name of one of the stupidest TV-characters I’ve ever seen, so thank you very much for calling me a half-wit.
When my mother calls me by my old name – and misgenders me, which she still does 100% of the time – she never apologises. Never. Even when I tell her (quite calmly), “it’s Liam,” she will just look annoyed and say, “I know.” And that’s the best case scenario, because there’s every chance she’ll explode into one of her infamous bouts of anger.
She also seems to take a perverse kind of pleasure in reminding me and all those present of the “woman” I used to be. And it doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest that she’s hurting me. In fact, judging by the edge to her voice and the glint in her eyes when she makes those spiteful remarks, I cannot but think she’s tearing me apart on purpose. That she’s angry and wants to hurt me.
Even – or maybe especially – when she tells me “we love you the way you are,” I feel bamboozled. Her actions seem to contradict her words, and the words themselves… why the emphasis on the way you are? If she wants to convince me of her good intentions, she has to do better than that. Now, if she wants to trick herself into believing her own lies, that’s a whole different story of course.
She may well think she truly loves me, but I don’t see it. I see someone trying to hold on to a fantasy. The person I think she really loves, is the person she wants me to be. Her daughter, not her son. So now I am her poor misguided daughter who thinks she’s a man, when really she’s a woman. And of course this daughter has to somehow come to her senses and learn to accept herself for who she is.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s any way she’ll ever really see me for the man that I am, let alone love and accept me. We just don’t seem to live in the same world.
There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones