I am becoming what she wanted me to be: myself.
August 6, 2019 10:32 AM   Subscribe

RF Jurjevics: My Mother, Myself: To My Mom, Who Wrote For Allure About Parenting Me in 1991. In 1991, when she was 47 years old and I just seven, my mother, Laurie Colwin, published an article for Allure Magazine titled “My Daughter, My Self.” In it, she wrote of parenthood, of her attempts to raise an independent and free-thinking little girl in a world of Barbie dolls and television — both banned from our household — and the other gendered pressures of modern life in the 1990s. Just a year later, however, nearly everything in my world would change: I would be eight, and my mother would be gone, dead from a sudden aortic aneurysm two months after I started the third grade. Gone, too, would be most traces of the daughter, as I emerged into the summer of ’92 a husky, short-haired boy named Felix.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (23 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aw, RF, I'm sure your mom would be unbelievably proud of you.
posted by praemunire at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2019 [10 favorites]


In Home Cooking and More Home Cooking it’s very obvious that Colwin loved food not just for its own sake but because it allowed her to nourish the people she loved and show them care. So much of those books is her own happy memories of childhood and what it was like to feel comforted by things like gingerbread and chestnut stuffing. You can feel in each word how much she loves her family. I’m sure all she would want would be to see RF happy.
posted by sallybrown at 11:14 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


This makes me so happy. What a way to grow up, what a love and care and respect I feel from both sides of the parental relationship (the dad, too!).

And the nameless wrong of both sides of the binary despite the parts that fit! And how doing what feels right takes you further away from what you were in a good but weird way. I feel that. I'm glad to read this.
posted by gaybobbie at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


RF's story really resonates with me and my own experiences in many ways. Love this.
posted by capricorn at 11:50 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


Lots of feelings. Oof.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:00 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


RF is as much a treasure as their mother was.

A 2018 interview with RF Jurjevics in IBTimes UK: "Being able to exist as myself at home was a godsend. My gender was mine to figure out and explore. I've walked through life a girl, a boy, and now a non-binary person. Had I not been given the freedom to do that, I'm not sure where I'd be."

RF in
Good in 2016 about how they learned to cook: "In this story, I’m about 10 years old, and it has been (gently) suggested to me that it might be time I learned to use the stove. ... I (apparently) gave my father quite a look over my big, plastic glasses and said 'Dad,' (here’s where Dad gives his voice for young me an admonishing tone and then chuckles) 'I don’t do fire.' "

A 2015 interview with RF for the blog Chocolate & Zucchini: "My mother was (an) ... opinionated person, and she seemed to like having an opinionated kid – even when we clashed over, say, what was and was not appropriate for my school lunch."

RF in The San Diego Reader in 2005 about how the Beatles helped them weather their seventh-grade year: "The kids in my class, by and large, thought I was nuts and I was desperately lonely. My heart unabashedly on my sleeve for all the world to see, I was doomed. Consumed with fear, dread, self-loathing, I turned to the only people I could: John, George, Paul, and Ringo."
posted by virago at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2019 [10 favorites]




The best. I hope my kids find their way to a similar strong sense of self, so they can pursue what makes them feel whole.
posted by davejay at 12:53 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Happy All the Time is one of my two favorite books. My mom gave it to me to read when I was a teenager and I still love it.

Now my relationship with my mom, who I love very much, is falling apart because of how she's handling the fact that I'm trans. Perhaps I will re-read my favorite book and think about Laurie Colwin letting her kid be themselves.

All of this is making me cry but I probably needed that so thank you.
posted by an octopus IRL at 12:59 PM on August 6, 2019 [20 favorites]


Powerful essay; thanks for posting it. Reading it made me want to read RF’s mother’s essay, which a cursory search did not find online. I did, however, find this obituary for RF’s mother, and I agree that she would indeed be proud of RF.
posted by TedW at 1:02 PM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is a litle heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It's sad their mother isn't around to see them now, but given what is known about their mother, you they would have only ever gotten loving support from mom. I bet mom would have raised some hell to make the school use Felix.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:01 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


Just a year later, however, nearly everything in my world would change: I would be eight, and my other would be gone, dead from a sudden aortic aneurysm two months after I started the third grade.

Wow, is that a hell of a Freudian slip?
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:12 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


How strange that this is the first fpp I see after finally joining metafilter (a few minutes ago, after 10+ years of lurking)...

Being nonbinary as a kid was like hearing a set of instructions in two different languages, neither of which I speak fluently, and being expected to assemble a person.

fellow enbies: do we just, like, ALL wear Buddy Holly frames, or?
posted by captain afab at 4:05 PM on August 6, 2019 [21 favorites]


I mean I own a pair but I wear my black brow lines more...
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:20 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


Welcome, captain afab!

Hurdy gurdy girl, thanks for the post. Very sweet and sad essay.
posted by salvia at 9:06 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh maaaaaaaaaaaan this hit me in the fucking heart. I was raised like this. So much like this. I call it my "Free to Be You and Me" childhood. Sometimes I actually wonder if it's one of the reasons it took me so long to realize I wasn't a cis woman, because I was not raised with a confining view of womanhood.

Like captain afab (how wonderful that you're here!!) I was both fascinated and baffled by gender roles and norms once I got into the "real world." One of my favorite games was trying to get strangers to think I was a boy, because I could not figure out how people knew the difference between boys and girls. My mom always played along, and I'm grateful for that.

Weirdly, when I think about coming out, I worry about letting my feminist mom down. I know she loves me and is proud of me, but at least a little part of that is pride at raising a strong, powerful woman. She and all her best friends, who are my aunties, have so much pride in and hope for the girls they raised into woman. I feel partly like I'm letting them down.

I know this is silly but I can't let go of the idea. Why can't I just be a woman who flouts gender norms, like I have appeared to be for my entire life? And the simple answer is just: you can't be something you aren't. But reading this piece helped me see more clearly how my mom( and dad) helped create the conditions that allowed me to be more fully myself, which has already made me happier and stronger. So thank you, captain afab!

fellow enbies: do we just, like, ALL wear Buddy Holly frames, or?

I mean, I can't speak for every single enby but I sure as hell do.

posted by the sockening at 9:33 PM on August 6, 2019 [12 favorites]


Also:

I remember noting that wrongness as a little kid when I saw a picture that had been taken of me and a close friend. We were both seven and wearing matching dresses, no-nonsense striped jersey ones. I’d felt so good posing for the photo, but was utterly lost looking at it. I looked from the face of my friend to my own. She looked great, just like herself. But something was off with me, where it wasn’t with her. This became a running theme.

This is so recognizable. So so so recognizable. Pictures never looked right. I thought I just wasn't photogenic, because it was almost impossible for me to take a photo of myself I didn't hate. I had the same problem with clothes: I'd buy beautiful femme clothing that I loved on the rack, that matched my personal aesthetic, that had good, "flattering" lines - and it would just look inexplicably wrong on me. It wasn't body dysmorphia because I knew what I looked like - it was just that what I looked like was wrong.

It wasn't till I cut my hair short-short and started wearing "masculine" clothes that I started liking pictures of myself. Because now I see myself.

(And because of my upbringing, I struggle with the gendered implications of this, that I so strongly associate some clothes and haircuts with femaleness and some others so strongly with maleness. But damn if I don't look fly with a fade.)
posted by the sockening at 10:03 PM on August 6, 2019 [12 favorites]


fellow enbies: do we just, like, ALL wear Buddy Holly frames, or?

I wear Elton Johns, personally.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:45 AM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


Weirdly, when I think about coming out, I worry about letting my feminist mom down. I know she loves me and is proud of me, but at least a little part of that is pride at raising a strong, powerful woman. She and all her best friends, who are my aunties, have so much pride in and hope for the girls they raised into woman. I feel partly like I'm letting them down.

And yes, god this. I received conflicting messages about capability and gender from my mother, but a few months before I came out, a few years after my first child and when I was still leaning almost reactively hard into performing femininity (not even traditional femininity! but still! femininity!), she gave me a book of poetry called "I Am Becoming the Woman I've Always Wanted" and I couldn't quite figure out why it upset me so, so much. How it made me feel invisible.

I would like to agree that RF's mom would embrace them with open arms but I think it's one of the difficult things about being on the trans spectrum and also having a dead parent. You just really never know. Gender hits people in a way few other things do--in a way even sexuality sometimes doesn't. Feminist women, especially those who have struggled with gender and worked it out in a way that had them concluding that they were really just a different sort of women, sometimes read this stuff as a fundamental rejection of a framework that has liberated them. As a fundamental rejection of themselves. I think this goes double for mothers and daughters.

(Mine assaulted me less than a month after I came out, and we no longer speak, so it's clearly a different situation. But I'll never know if my father--who taught me to love Godzilla and gave me rock hunting tools and played video games with me--would have embraced my trans self, because he died when I was 8.)

I go to my trans support group and see how even younger liberal parents sometimes struggle with accepting their trans kids. Many of them eventually come around and I have hope that, moving forward, parents will be more universally accepting. But.

My hippie, counterculture mother, who was often very feminist and who let me love toy cars and dolls as a kid couldn't wrap her brain around why I didn't want to wear bras or carry a purse in my adolescence. Why I stopped shaving my armpits. That kind of thing. Those little invisible lines that you know are there.

A big yes, though, on the picture thing. It's very clear to me in photos throughout my 35 years when I was feeling myself and when I was performing my gender for the sake of and at the coercion of others. A stark difference. There are some pictures I feel dysphoric just looking at. Ugh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 AM on August 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


Gender hits people in a way few other things do--in a way even sexuality sometimes doesn't. Feminist women, especially those who have struggled with gender and worked it out in a way that had them concluding that they were really just a different sort of women, sometimes read this stuff as a fundamental rejection of a framework that has liberated them. As a fundamental rejection of themselves.

Yeah. I'm not proud to admit this, but before I came out to myself, I used to feel this way a bit when it came to AFB trans and non-binary people. I knew it was wrong, and a reflection of my own gender stuff, but the feeling was there! And for me it was definitely a reflection of just fundamentally not feeling OK as a woman, but I think a lot of women who are genuinely cis feel this way as well.
posted by the sockening at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2019


Yeah. I'm not proud to admit this, but before I came out to myself, I used to feel this way a bit when it came to AFB trans and non-binary people. I knew it was wrong, and a reflection of my own gender stuff, but the feeling was there! And for me it was definitely a reflection of just fundamentally not feeling OK as a woman, but I think a lot of women who are genuinely cis feel this way as well.

Same. It even played out in real time on metafilter, with my arguing that kids shouldn't be allowed to transition because if they are, well then, I wouldn't be the wonderful "woman" I thought I was. A very very generous trans mefite explained to little egg me why that was so problematic, which started me on a whole long path of Stuff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:56 AM on August 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


The piece was wonderful, thank you.

Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly down because gender, I look for the trans threads on the blue and go through all the comments from the (surprisingly large) trans* community we have here and it makes my heart fuzzy. So I guess I wanted to say I love y'all <3

& omg yes about the glasses
posted by alon at 5:51 AM on August 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


Thank you all for the kind welcome :) glad to be here.

I have always thought of myself as entirely unphototagraphable until recently. My everything looked wrong. Now that I've visually started to transition, I can see a photo of myself and just feel...neutral. Like, yeah, that's me, all right.

So I was able to break away from the gut-wrenching sensation of failing to appear female, and it was like seeing myself for the first time.

Before this year I didn't really "get" the utility in changing my appearance or pronouns. Still can't really explain how significant a decision it was. I still get misgendered a hundred times a day and probably always will. But now, at least I look like me to ME.

In conclusion, gender is a land of contrast.
posted by captain afab at 4:18 PM on August 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


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