I left her. I never corrected her when she called me her daughter; I rarely corrected her when she called me the wrong name. She would buy me tight V-neck shirts and I would smile. Neither of us would or could admit that I grew up to be someone who was not her daughter.
But in the end, the pain of being in my body surpassed my fear of changing my relationship with my mother, and I scheduled a consultation and then a surgery date to have a gender-confirming bilateral mastectomy. In March, when the surgery center called me to schedule the procedure, I immediately called my mother.
“I have my surgery date!”
“That is far away.”
“It’s only a few months.”
‘You’ll have to buy a lot of stuff. Surgery is a big deal, honey. I don’t think you’re ready.”
I sometimes wonder if she felt that my surgery was a criticism of her and her body, a rejection of her genes. One time, on the phone, she cried that she’d had a perfect child and couldn’t understand why I would screw that up. When I was little, my mother, a painter, took me to the art museum, and whenever we saw a painting of a woman with a baby, my mother said, “That’s you and me.”
A few weeks after I called her with my surgery date, she texted me an article about X-gender markings on passports for non-binary people, with the accompanying text: “Transgender travel.”
“Omg, cool!” I texted back.
“I know,” she wrote, “it’s worrisome if you don’t look like the gender in your passport. I have short hair, wear jeans, sometimes no makeup. In a Mexican restaurant, a waiter called me ‘sir’.”