It is week two of having my spouse's nephew up staying with us during his summer vacation. He is having the time of his life as we do all the things with him that his parents never extend the effort to do. We've taken him on ever more challenging bikerides of 20+ miles and hikes up and into the alpine tundra zones of the high peaks in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. He's shared time and an ability to speak and communicate with us as his peer and as his mentor when need and opportunity present. He's enjoyed us as friends and as family. He's enjoyed spending time with me as his uncle and... his aunt.
It speaks volumes when he is able to clearly evoke in his own words that it doesn't matter if I am presenting as a male, wearing hiking pants and covered in mud on a trail in the forest or donning a pretty blouse, skirt and heels and made up to the nines. To him, I am the same person and the same persona. He has told us countless times how his mom and dad don't care to be involved in his life but rather spend their energy is strictly enforcing regime and rule upon him. There is no praise to be gained from them from doing good and only retribution when something is not done right or well enough to their own expectations. His own dreams languish in the negative sentiments expressed by them whenever he presents something he wants to be involved in but which they could care less.
He sees that his own father's morals falters in plain view of the family and relatives around him. A commander in the navy, who wants his own son to excel, but provides little time for him as a peer and not knowing how to relate to him - but rather only to order him as a subjugate when he is around. He knows too that his father has had affairs in the past, has had many a woman in his naval adventures, whose computer history bears testament and evidence of a journey through an explicit world of visual and online sexual fulfillment. And I can see how knowing this of him has and is affecting him. He often watches from his place in the congregation while his father preaches portions of the Sunday mass at church. He sees the dichotomy and he knows. He sees his own mother, who battles the love she has for her husband with the truth behind the veneer. She battles the torment daily and languishes in the false hope of deliverance which bottles of pills can only hope to deliver as her weight and blood pressure continue to rise into zones which scare us all.
The saddest part about all of this is the fact that the father would be the first one to denounce me as a freak and a deviant. He has no conception of gender variance and would relate it to a sexual one. I would be a person who would turn his son gay or trans or whatever. But in reality, what we have seen, is that his son is, through us, becoming more sure of who he is and is finding the strength and support to move ahead in his own sense of life and of self that he was not finding in his home.
Through relating my own story in growing up and realizing that I am different and that it is OK to be different, he is learning to accept that it is OK for him to not feel he has to conform to the expectations and objectives which his parents and more-so his father, is attempting to box him into. He is learning that we are all unique and special as individuals and that this is something to be celebrated and nurtured, not stifled and repressed.
A famous quotation from the 1960's British Television Series entitled "The Prisoner", provided an allegorical representation to being "boxed" in life. The most famous of these quotes being retold here:
I've often said, of myself, that I don't have GID (Gender Identity Dysphoria), but rather that the world has SAD (Societal Acceptance Disorder). Realizing that we all have differences and a special uniqueness and accepting that within others would go a long way towards realizing our full potentials as individuals and within society. I am seeing that my nephew is learning this and taking this with him on his own journeys in life. What better gift can one give than to share that wisdom with someone at an early age. If only I had figured this out 40+ years ago, things might have been a lot different and not filled with the years of anxiety and distress I had to endure. I think he, at least, is seeing this and accepting it all earlier than did I and it will, I believe, make a huge difference in his life going forward.