My grandmother died about five months ago. I’m still reeling. She was a big part of my life–she lived with us when I was growing up and was one of my main caretakers. She gave me many gifts and burdens: our Sephardic heritage, her experience of the Holocaust, her lifelong struggle with mental illness.
Today, though, I want to talk about another gift she gave me: her acceptance.
I was scared to tell her about my transition. I’m not sure why. She was a hardcore leftist, and I never heard her say a bad word about trans people. But she an old woman, a towering authority. I guess I was scared to tell pretty much everyone.
I think my mother was the one who finally told her. I have no idea what happened in that conversation, but she never said anything negative to me about being trans. This makes my trans status one of very few topics she did not complain about.
She told me my name was old fashioned. “It is not a modern name,” she said, a little perplexed. “It sounds like an old Sephardi man who keeps the keys to the synagogue.” I took this as a compliment.
She did mess up my name and pronouns from time to time. Then again, she did that to everyone. She had two strokes and forgot more languages than I will ever learn. And she didn’t make more mistakes than anyone else did.
Later, whenever she wanted to bring up my being trans, she would say, “What is this group, how do you say, the one that has no civil rights?” This would lead into a short lecture about the discrimination transgender people face–a set-up to try to convince me to go to law school.
She saw being trans like she saw everything: a reason I should become a doctor or a lawyer. She was not just any Jewish grandmother. She was a true master of the form.
Rest in peace, grandmother.