My mom got a tattoo

When I first showed my most authentic self to my mother, she didn’t quite know how to process this kind of news.

 I’d always used my clothes and hair to express myself. My sisters would paint my nails, my mother would let me pick whatever temporary hair color I wanted from the Walmart hair salon. I even dressed in ‘’girl’s clothes’’ for most of my time in high school. While the school administration gave me a hard time, my mother always encouraged me. That is until I loudly reclaimed my girlhood – that is until I firmly reclaimed a name that resonated with me. She was stuck between her own personal beliefs, and a marriage that wouldn’t let her call the shots whenever she wanted to. In a sense, she was the messenger, not the sender.

The first time I got kicked out, I left without being told to leave. Most discussions ended in a shouting match. I was called a name and pronouns that weren’t mine. In a way, the outside world seemed much more accommodating. Did that really leave me a choice? But when I got tired of telling a new couch good night every week, I came back.

The second time I got kicked out of the familial home, it was through my mother that my father and my extended family sent the message. I could see the powerlessness in her eyes the morning she delivered the news. I can’t say a part of me isn’t still mad at her to this day.

"My presence was a gift that came with many restrictions."

Because of this, she knew she would only be able to see me every other month. Each time she wanted to learn more about the people around me, she was eager to talk to them. This was unlike years of distance between us where ‘’staying over at a friend’s house to study’’ was an unwritten agreement of silence between us. My presence was a gift that came with many restrictions. And over the next few years of me living outside of the confines of the nuclear family, she caught a glimpse of me stepping into whoever I was at the time. At age 66, she got her first tattoo.

In her own words, she told me she’d been inspired by my reclaiming my autonomy in any way I could. She started speaking openly about her husband’s mistreatment, about her need to emancipate, and soon after the pandemic started she was out of the house. She moved in with a trans man in his late 20’s and started living life like a young queer person who just moved to their first apartment. The first time she left the family home was to get married, and the last was when the Lebanese civil war intensified. In a way this was her first time living with a friend in the big city. She was the Little Prince she tattooed on her right arm.

They would smoke weed, compare recipes and go on nature walks. He is Syrian and she is Lebanese, and while whose food was better was always a debate, there was no competition when it came to her spaghetti. They had late night smoke sessions, became each other’s confidants, broke some pandemic rules and supported each other through a couple of bad trips and anxiety attacks. Reader I’m breaking it to you now – there is no surprise ending – my mother is very much a woman and very much likes men. And yet she shares with a lot of young queer folks a unique tale of kinship through 2020.

Although her roommate was years into his transition and assumed to be a cis man by most – he had never really told his family his real name. Without my knowledge, she coached him to stand up for himself and not compromise his truth with his own family. I wonder where she learned that from? 

And just like myself, came a time where she spread her wings and moved into a small dwelling in an apartment complex. When I visited her the week after her move, she already introduced me to everyone in the building and had volunteered to teach French to the lady who cleaned the block. And for the next year we spent some of the best moments together. We shared bits and pieces of our life we never felt safe to before. I learned family secrets that explained why my transness was such a trigger for many. We fell asleep watching Crip Camp, and horror movies and ritually met up under the oven light for late night snacks. We even fought a couple of ghosts together

My mother was always suffering with intense chronic pain, illnesses doctors never seem to care for. And while her medication got better over the years, it was the first time I saw so much vitality in her, and she started to dream again. 

Last year, my mother, her roommate and myself left for Europe for 6 weeks. We saw many cities and went on some terrifying hikes. When I saw the marvel in her eyes, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, I learned that I had decades upon decades to fulfill my dreams. I learned that sometimes you have to accept years of distance before things get better. That we hold on to belief systems we think keep us safe, but actually hold us back.
 
In a way that was her transition, and she didn’t let her age dictate her process. Finally I can tell her now for the first time: Happy Mother’s Day.
 

About Author

Sahar (she/her) is a queer Lebanese trans woman who was born and raised in Tio:tia’ke / Montreal.

She works in the community sector with an approach that centers pleasure, kinship and harm reduction.

Her free time is spent painting, writing and enjoying fresh air with her loved ones. 

 

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