After Rejection From Family, Gender Non-Binary Person Learns To Live For Themselves. “I Am Ecstatic That I Am Me.”

by Parker Haines

My name is Parker Haines and I’m from Chicago, Illinois.

When I was 22, I was sitting in a Friday’s restaurant with my mother. And I had just recently moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and we were having dinner and she started talking about my roommates. She had met my roommate and my roommate’s girlfriend and she was making some comment about their relationship and whether or not they were girlfriends.

And I said, “Yeah, they’re together.” I just felt compelled at that point and time to be, like, and segue into, “By the way, I also like women.” We decided to eat in silence for the rest of the time and then we went back to the hotel that she was staying at with my dad. And she – we were in the elevator – before we got out, she said “Don’t tell your father.” For the next… about 10 plus years, we never told my father.

I always felt that we had this understanding that it would just be something we [unintelligible] was okay but we wouldn’t talk too much about. I would bring home girlfriends for holidays and we would stay in the same room. I always did notice little things like my – if we we sat next to each other on the couch, my dad would get up and leave. We never really talked about what made them uncomfortable or what made me uncomfortable, we just kind of existed.

Our relationship was pretty strange throughout the years. I think that once my family started asking me if I was going to ever get married and we would – the conversation about whether or not it was legal and “Yes, I’d love to get married but it’s not legal” – when that would happen, I could always tell that my mom would get upset and weird and would never participate in the conversation. That always made me feel bad. And then I started to scale back from holidays. I stopped putting myself in the place of feeling uncomfortable, putting myself in a place of, like, not feeling welcomed in my own family. So I stopped showing up for Thanksgiving, stopped showing up for Christmas.

And then when I did move to Chicago, I finally and proposed to my now-wife. I finally had a conversation with my mother about that. I told her that I was getting married and then it was this blowup – this trickle effect of all these past hurts and that, you know, I was with someone for 6 years and she never knew the last name of. I think we said a lot of things to each other that really hurt. I don’t remember who hung up on whom, but someone hung up on each other and then we didn’t talk for months after.

I didn’t want anything to tarnish or to hurt or taint this new relationship because I really was like, This is the one. I love this woman. I did do some check-ins with my father about whether or not they were going to come to the wedding, and he was trying to play mediator between us two and say yes, they’re gonna come to the wedding.

Two weeks before the wedding, we had planned our rehearsal dinner and so I got on the phone, I called my dad, I was like, “Okay, so this is where this is going to be.”

And he was like, “Okay, pretty sure we’re going to be there.”

A little hesitancy but I was like, “Okay, well, this is where the house is, what time it’s going to be.” I didn’t really hear from them over that 2 weeks and then the day before the wedding. I just wanted to check in to see what time they thought they were going to be there. I got married in Minneapolis. They lived in Brookings, South Dakota. It’s a 4 hour drive, so I knew they’d be driving in.

And I said, you know, “What time do you think you’ll be driving in?”

And then he said, “We’re not going to make it after all.”

My heart broke and all I said was, “I understand. Okay.” I knew that if he could come himself, he would come. But I knew that he was just going to stand by her and that he was – he would feel badly if he left her at home. And I didn’t want her to feel bad and I didn’t want him to feel bad. I was all still caring about their feelings more than my feelings at that moment. I hung up the phone. I cried a lot.

The next day, we tried to figure out – I made some phone calls to some friends to see who could walk me down the aisle since my dad wasn’t going to be there. My wife’s step-mom and mother walked me down the aisle which was pretty beautiful, that other moms showed up for me when my mom didn’t. And it was a really great day.

After realizing that my own parents didn’t show up for the wedding – actually only one member of my family showed up to my wedding – and I realized that I had no reason to… I didn’t – I no longer wanted to give this name that they gave me to my wife, nor did I want to keep it.  We got married hyphenating our last names and then we talked about just dropping the hyphen and me just taking my wife’s last name. Then I was like, I would really like to change my whole name, so I changed my name to Parker.

I picked Parker for a couple of reasons. One, I used – my wife and I watched the movie, “The Life of Pi” and one of the main characters – the tiger’s name is Richard Parker – pretty much helps this boy across the sea and kind of saves him. And she looked at me after the movie with alligator tears in her eyes and said, “You’re my Richard Parker.” And so I used to – when we lived long distance away from each other and wrote each other letters, I always signed it “love, Richard Parker” So I changed my name to Parker for that reason and also because it felt like it was a gender-neutral name.

After, you know, feeling what it feels like to have people call me Parker, I feel like that also led me to realize that the gender identity and I had been living in as a female was not right for me. It never really felt right. So I was able to kind of learn and pursue more of what that would look like of me not being female. And then I learned words like non-binary and I’m like, Oh yeah, that one. That fits me. They/them pronouns. That fits me.

I am still learning what it means to be me and authentically me, but right now it feels really good to be Parker, feels really good to identify as a trans non-binary human being. All of that, you know, unfortunately stemmed from, like, this heartbreak, but it really like opened up this time to be me. I am sad that I don’t have a relationship with my parents or my mother, but I’m ecstatic that I am me.

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