Is going no-contact my only choice here?
April 23, 2015 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm a trans woman, and my mom is completely unaccepting of my transition, and I feel like I need to cut her out of my life entirely. Is that my only option?

I'm a 33 yo trans woman, and my 64 yo mom is unaccepting of my transition. I'm an only child. She's culturally chinese, and she's concerned about never having grand kids and with how the extended family will feel when they find out about my transition (and, really, only with how both of these reflect on her). She didn't want me presenting as a woman anywhere where any of her friends and family could ever see me — and as a compromise of sorts, I moved from new york city to montreal just so I could continue my transition and live here as a woman full-time. The move has gone very well for me, far better than I could've expected. I'm happy with my life here.

Anyway, it seems like moving to a difficult country hasn't actually deterred her from harassing me. She's been visiting and staying with me, and I've just have had about enough. Stuff that she's done in the past two weeks:
  • Argue with me about every choice I've made here
    • don't wear that, that dress is too short
    • don't eat that, you'll get fat
    • don't wear those heels, you look like a whore
    • are you sleeping with boys? don't sleep with boys, that's disgusting
    • are the girls you're sleeping with actually boys? they're boys aren't they? that's disgusting.
    • your boobs are too big, if they get any bigger they're going to bust and explode and shit. (I'm not even kidding)

  • Ask that I dress up as a guy around her friends here in montreal — friends she never mentioned having or wanting to visit until after I told her I was moving here — I don't even look like a guy anymore, and I sorta feel like that's plainly obvious to everyone except her.

  • Suggest that she could literally buy a child from (an adoption agency? surrogate mother? her relatives? a broker??? in) china, and pass it off as my own to the extended family in new york — which is several WTFs on it's own.

  • Told me that a cousin (that I basically never talk to) on my dad's side saw me in girl-mode back in new york when I was down there for chinese new years, and that I should tell him that wasn't me and that I was up here in montreal the entire time (Which to me would seem like it would only draw extra fucking attention to myself) — I'm out to all of my cousin's on my mom's side, and and another cousin on my dad's side, but I assume everyone knows via the grapevine already.

  • Ask that I present as a guy when I'm back in new york this summer for a class/training for work — so that no sees me as a woman and it doesn't get back to her — but it's not like everyone at work doesn't already know, I transferred from the new york office to the montreal office and everyone fucking knows, and she knows this. She's seem me go to work as a woman every single work day I've been here. grr

  • Ask that I hold off on surgery until after my dad dies, because she doesn't want to have to deal with my dad's family asking her about it — but it's not like I plan on telling any one I'm not sleeping with what genitals I have; I'm not exactly sure how my transition or surgery changes anything for her in any meaningful way, besides rendering me permanently unable to produce grand kids for her, I guess.

  • Ask that I go to my dad's funeral in guy mode — my dad is getting kinda old (he's 85, almost 86) but he's not dying or anything so that's kinda WTF too — but it's also something that's actively been on mind, since I left new york, because he's actually important to me, and is otherwise completely neutral on my transition even though he's probably enabling her. :/
She has a flight back to new york on saturday, but, we've been arguing about this for close to three years now, and I'm not sure there's anything left to do. I'm just absolutely tired of her telling me my decisions in life are wrong for her, and I want that to end. She only speaks chinese, and my chinese is limited enough to not really know how to communicate with her about all the things I feel like I need to. And I'm not sure what choice I have besides just cutting her off at this point. But I also worry that cutting her off is just going to mean that she'll reach out to me through my cousins (whom I'm all out to, not that she knows), and that I'll be forced to eventually cut contact with my entire extended family. :/

Another thing I should probably bring up, and I'm sure y'all will yell at me for this one, but, I feel compelled (bullshit chinese filial piety?) to support them, and I pay all of my parent's bills, including her rent in nyc, lol. :( And I feel extra bad about cutting that out, since my parents are my parents....... or something.

I don't know. I'm tired of this, and I'm tired of being hurt by the shit she says. But I also don't want to feel like I have no choice but to cut her off (and my entire family?)... and I sorta feel like a couple of weeks of hurting every few months when she visits ... isn't going to kill me, despite making me pretty suicidal?
posted by and they trembled before her fury to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you seeing a therapist?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:36 AM on April 23, 2015

Response by poster: @roomthreeseventeen: Yeah, I'm seeing a therapist. Poor timing here, but she's been away for the past two weeks. I see her again this coming tuesday. But I only recently started seeing her (february? march?) and I'm not quite as comfortable with her as I was with my old therapist in new york.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 9:39 AM on April 23, 2015

One thing that helped me was to cut people out of my life for now. For instance, I need to not talk to that person for the next 2 weeks (or 2 months or 2 years, whatever).

It felt a lot gentler. Cutting people out of my life is hard on ME, even when it's the healthiest thing to do.

First I said no contact for a month, and then I extended it. If, as the in-contact time approached, I started getting really anxious about it, I extended it more.

In my case, I ended up being able to have at least some relationship with all these people eventually, though it sometimes took a couple years. I am really glad for that and I'm glad I left the option open, so I didn't feel like I was going back on my word by initiating contact or whatever.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2015 [24 favorites]

I suggest that you view her and perhaps the rest of your family through the lens of Reason, Season or Lifetime:

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

You can cut off contact with you mom if you want to. This is a thing you can do. It does not make you a bad person or child. It also does not mean that you have to cut off contact with your maternal family. It might not be easy, but it is possible. It will mean shutting down their attempts to reconcile the two of you. See the next paragraph for setting boundaries of all kinds.

But if you do want to give it a go with your mom, what you need to do is set up some hella strong boundaries and reinforce them as necessary. This response from Captain Awkward (I adore the Captain) gives some great starting scripts. You start by setting the boundary (e.g. 'Stop commenting on my clothing') and reinforce with the consequence (e.g. leaving/hanging up the phone if she won't stop).

Definitely some hard work. And it might not work on your mom. She may step over that boundary every single time. But if you do it, do enforce your boundary. Don't get caught in an argument loop. She starts up, you say that topic is off limits and change the subject. She hangs on the subject, repeat the limit and tell her you are ending the conversation. End the conversation (hang up, go offline, walk out the door).

And you might want to take some time away from her before you do the above. Maybe you need a mom-free month as small_ruminant suggests.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with an unsupportive mom.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am sorry you're dealing with this.

I can't really advise you on whether or not to go no-contact, but I have chosen to remain in contact with a difficult parent and so if you go that route here's what helps me. I don't know how this translates to your cultural context:

- I don't arrange visits longer than overnight, and every time I've broken this self-imposed rule I've regretted it. Some things are easier to handle in short doses.
- I follow a script very similar to the one linked to above if something hurtful keeps coming up.
- I take initiative on phone calls, etc., so that I can time them when I'm ready to deal with the boundary. Call display is a good thing!
- I create direct relationships with family members, so that the communication does not go through my parent.
- This one sounds like it might be tough but I have de-meshed our finances, including retirement planning for myself based on an assumption that I will be disinherited.

To put this in context a bit if it helps (and I hope it does), my mom took a chair over which I was sodomized as a child and put it in her living room. She knew that I had been molested on this chair. I told her that I would not go into her house while the chair was there. It took three years of meeting her on the porch and in coffee shops for her to make the 'independent' decision to get rid of the chair.

...about a year later the matching ottoman showed up. Sometimes you cannot win for trying. Parents can be weird. I am occasionally sorry I have not been more forceful in severing contact. But for me, in the full context of my life and family and everything, it works okay. I love her, but I know that she is not always good for me and I take steps to protect myself.

In case it helps you to hear it, your mom's limitations are in no way a reflection on you and your choices. She has the problem and you don't, unfortunately you have to deal with it because she's your mom.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Tell her you won't discuss it with her, then literally walk away. Walk out of the room, tell her goodbye and hang up the phone, ignore/never respond to letters or emails or texts on the subject.

Honestly, she's so hung up on grandchildren and other peoples' impression of HER that it's ridiculous: she'd probably have had just as big of a hissy fit if you weren't trans but instead married (to a woman Mom approved of, of course!) but unable to have kids anyway.
posted by easily confused at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Going no contact sounds like the best choice. Kick her out now, tell her she's being a terrible mother and that you love her but you're over her disrespect and harassment. Let her fend for herself. She is not entitled to abuse you just because she gave birth to you. If she shapes up you can reassess. It's okay to tell relatives that they can't be in your life as long as they're going to treat you poorly.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It strikes me that you have a lot of financial power in this situation - it sounds as though your parents have only what you give them? (I'm sure you feel obligated to give them money, but still, they're out on the street if you don't.)

Could you cut off social contact with your parents while continuing to give them money? (Money via check or bank transfer, whatever you're doing now.) It sounds like the money isn't the problem for you. (Although honestly, I think it would be okay not to pay their bills if that felt all right for you and they had some other kind of resources; I don't think it's healthy to be abused by your mother out of some sense of duty, no matter what cultural cues suggest that it should be acceptable.) I mean, if you're going to feel like a failed person if you don't support them - if supporting your parents is a really important value to you - then keep supporting them, or at least offer them the option of the money without the visits.

Can you tell your cousins that you don't want them to pass along messages from your mother? If you are out to them, would they respect that? Captain Awkward has a lot of good boundary scripts for stuff like this, along the lines of "I love to hear from you, but please don't pass along messages from my mother; issues between us need to be resolved between us". Your mother may try to contact you via your cousins, but that doesn't mean that your cousins need to go along with it.

I feel like you might need to unpack just how much this is all costing you emotionally - a couple of weeks of feeling suicidal every year is a high cost, and a parent who is cool with producing that kind of result is failing as a parent. I don't think this means that you need to cut contact, but I do think that you should make sure you're not minimizing your own suffering to make the whole thing feel more manageable.
posted by Frowner at 10:11 AM on April 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

As far as the financial support goes, it might be helpful to think about it as something you do for yourself. So rather than thinking "I pay her bills because she needs me to and I have no choice in the matter" you can think "I choose to pay the bills because, for now, it saves me from having a conversation/making a decision I'm not ready for." It's a way of moving the locus of power from her to you and can help support you as you make further decisions about what you want the relationship to look like.
posted by mcduff at 10:16 AM on April 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I just saw that PFLAG has some Asian-American specific materials - maybe there's an actual group in NYC? Or maybe you're lucky and know of another Chinese-American mom who's further along in her understanding that you could put your mom into contact with? Or a relative who could maybe run interference now and then?

If you actually want to stay in contact with your mom, I think carrioncomfort, warriorqueen and Frowner have offered good advice.

(Question: not that it matters as far as what you should do to protect your own well-being, but what's your mom's deal with your dad's family?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think before going no-contact, you could try cutting her off "emotionally". I come from a Chinese background so I totally understand where the guilt comes from. I can't imagine how tough it was talking to your mom about this initially, especially with the language barrier. Perhaps it is important to set your boundaries with her now, as carrioncomfort has suggested. Know your boundaries, and stick to them when she crosses them.

From what you've written, she doesn't seem outright hostile, but just very...Chinese. People are not as concerned with manners and usually just say what they think, especially with a younger generation. This is common among all the older Chinese people I know, so I just block out anything offensive or rude in my head. I know this isn't easy. It seems that she still wants a relationship with you and has accepted that this is what you're doing, she just cares a lot about face and what other people think, as many many Chinese people do. I'm not saying it's right or you have to put up with it, but perhaps it is possible to build your own emotional barriers (and let her know clearly what is and isn't acceptable) while still maintaining somewhat of a relationship with her.
posted by monologish at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2015 [16 favorites]

I don't really have any insight into the trans aspect of this, but your mom sounds horribly overbearing and pushy. Even if you don't want to cut her off completely, it sounds like you could really use a break from it. You are absolutely entitled to a break. It sounds exhausting to deal with it all the time.
posted by stowaway at 10:31 AM on April 23, 2015

Response by poster:
(Question: not that it matters as far as what you should do to protect your own well-being, but what's your mom's deal with your dad's family?)
@cotton dress sock: When my parents got married, she was approaching 30, and my dad was in his 50s. Mom has repeatedly told me that my dad's side of the family bullied her for not being able to produce offspring, and urged my dad to ditch my mom apparently. Eventually she did have me, and she was vindicated (vindicated?), but she is wary around a lot of them for what they did, and apparently is very careful now with how they see her (and yet through all this, she somehow still needs/wants validation from them, wtf?). I don't exactly know if this an accurate or complete description of all that happened, but based on what she's told me, this is my impression of that.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 10:32 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm trans and kinda cut off contact with my mom in my youth because she was being pretty horrible about the whole thing and I just didn't need to deal with that anymore. I regret the way I did it, however. If I could go back, I would cut off contact, and set very clear expectations for her behavior. I would make it clear that if she were willing to change, I'd be right there, but that ultimately this is not MY problem, it was hers, and SHE needed to do the work to fix it. Otherwise, maybe a polite phone call on holidays or something, but yeah, you don't need this because it IS abuse.
posted by polywomp at 10:37 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh man, Chinese moms. They are crazy. I know, I have one. It’s abundantly clear that she doesn’t know how to process or understand that her son is now a daughter and she’s worried about what everyone thinks. Doesn’t mean it’s not awful for you.

Why doesn’t she know that all your cousins know? Are they supportive of you, at least? Can you ask them to show their support when she contacts them? Like, when she calls to wring her hands over how you’re now a woman, can they say something like, “Yes, OP has been a woman for the last x years. She’s doing great."

I understand the filial piety thing. My take is that you can continue to pay everything and just not talk to her for varying lengths of time.

Any chance you can reduce the frequency of visits? And the duration? A couple of weeks every few months seems like A LOT. How about once a year, for like, 3 days?

Do you have support from friends? From the LGBTQ community? You may want to contact some LGBTQ organizations in Montreal for peer support, commiseration, etc. Beware that there might be racism within LGBTQ communities though (no community is immune to some type of ism, I’m not trying to bash LGBTQ communities) or that they may not quite understand your cultural context.

Can you send your mom some stuff about this woman? Why not even try to contact her? (Though she was fortunate in that her parents were understanding.)
posted by foxjacket at 10:40 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

It also does not mean that you have to cut off contact with your maternal family.

Kinda does, if there's a chance they'll all rally around her 'cos you're being so mean. (You have to at least be prepared for the dice to fall that way).
posted by Leon at 10:42 AM on April 23, 2015

You could start by making some boundaries for yourself -- as you know, just asking her to treat you with respect isn't going to work. Tell your mother what you will and will not do -- and tell her what you will do if she tries to change your mind. And decide on some behavioral changes for yourself.

First, don't argue with her. Decide not to discuss any of the things she doesn't approve of. Make a vow to end the conversation or the visit if she insists on criticizing you or asking you to be dishonest about your identity.

Tell your mother (perhaps in writing) that you will not dress or otherwise present as a man -- not ever. That you won't seek out any of her friends, but you won't hide from them either. And that the matter isn't going to be discussed between you.

Tell her you won't discuss her fears and unhappiness about your identity, or listen to criticism. That you will talk with her and visit her if she can avoid those subjects completely; that you will have to change the subject, hang up, or walk away if necessary, because you're not going to participate.

If you can, tell her you love her and that you really don't want to turn away from her; that you and she can stay in touch if she will keep her negative thoughts and feelings to herself.

The is very hard to do and to be steadfast about. But if you can do it, it might allow you to avoid cutting off all contact.
posted by wryly at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2015

This is all making me think of which is both hilarious and horrifying.

Something helpful that a friend told me that really stuck when I was dealing with a difficult figure in my life was that she could see I was imagining I could train that person. And I could not. I still kind of want to give you buzzer or something so you can just be like "bzzzt Crazy talk!" and cut it off. Even though it won't work. You can't make your mom a different person. So the question is, can you manage contact with her better? Or do you need to cut her out of your life?

I am tempted to suggest that saying to her "Listen, Mom. I love you. But I also pay for your apartment and if you don't want me to cut you off financially, here are some rules: I am a woman now. Live with it. A woman, and not a girl -- it isn't your business who I fuck or how I dress. And you must attend PFLAG meetings for six months."

And for pete's sake! She does not need to stay for more than three days, ever. Especially not if she comes more than once a year.
posted by amandabee at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster:
Any chance you can reduce the frequency of visits? And the duration? A couple of weeks every few months seems like A LOT. How about once a year, for like, 3 days?
@foxjacket, @amandabee: I didn't plan this most recent trip. She booked a flight, and told me she was coming, and then she just showed up. :-/
If you can, tell her you love her and that you really don't want to turn away from her; that you and she can stay in touch if she will keep her negative thoughts and feelings to herself.
@wryly: I'm... I'm not sure I love her anymore. Maybe not for a while now. I don't know. I think I need to step away from this thread and stop thread-sitting maybe and think about that.

Thank you all for your thoughts.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 11:11 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Chinese-American second gen here. I'm cis, but have a long history of trying to establish boundaries with Chinese immigrant parents who are Fucked Up and say Fucked Up Things.

But I also worry that cutting her off is just going to mean that she'll reach out to me through my cousins (whom I'm all out to, not that she knows), and that I'll be forced to eventually cut contact with my entire extended family. :/

Ah yes, the time-honored Chinese family communication method of triang-fucking-lation. How American are these cousins? And how supportive are they? Because if they're short of actively hostile, your communication with them might be as straight-up as, "I'm sorry my mom is being inappropriate. Please don't pass on messages from her -- you can tell her that you'll pass on the messages to stem the crazy, but I don't want to hear any of it."

And if your cousins are like mine, everyone will breathe a giant sigh of relief because they didn't want to pass on messages either, and you can go back to talking about Little Second Cousin's cute new baby.

Another thing I should probably bring up, and I'm sure y'all will yell at me for this one, but, I feel compelled (bullshit chinese filial piety?) to support them, and I pay all of my parent's bills, including her rent in nyc, lol. :( And I feel extra bad about cutting that out, since my parents are my parents....... or something.

No yelling from me. My parents make as much money as I do, so my (white) spouse is still super-confused about why I send them (a small amount of) money every month, especially because I essentially refuse to talk to my parents and never want to see them because they're abusive and haven't loved them for a long, long time because of that. But I keep sending the money, even if my parents have started not cashing the checks.

Because I'm still Chinese, and because even if I don't love them, even if they were abusive, they did do X, Y, and Z for me. And I sleep better at night knowing that I do all that I am comfortable doing for them.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2015 [17 favorites]

Sounds like she's lonely, and carrying fear, and shame about her experiences as a wife (and maybe that's what she is, in total, as far as she's concerned?), and maybe grief for the loss of some ideal life or sense of legacy, and doesn't know what to do with herself at this time of life... There's nothing you can do about that, other than encouraging her to help herself if she can, and making the boundaries you need to make to protect yourself. I'm just so sorry that her hurt is hurting you. Maybe recognizing that that's what it is - her hurt, nothing to do with you - might help take some of the sting away.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you choose to continue a relationship with her, it will be a tremendous exercise in establishing and maintaining very strong boundaries. Her behavior is a laundry list of terribleness. The boundary maintenance is going to take a lot of energy, so if you choose to cut the relationship off for now in order to preserve energy for your own goals, that's a 100% healthy and legitimate decision. It doesn't have to be permanent if you don't want it to be. Making it a "for now" solution is fine.

She bought into a cultural system that is full of various expectations. That doesn't mean that you have to. It also doesn't mean that you have to make things easier for her by pretending to be something you aren't, dressing as a man, lying to family who may have seen you, financially supporting her, etc. You get to live your own life as you wish. You do not have to waste your life in blind servitude to her, especially in light of how cruel she's being. Your extended family relationships are yours. You can choose which relatives you choose to stay in touch with and it's fine to have a frank discussion with them about why you've made the choices you have with regard to managing mother, and tell them that they can manage their relationship with your mother however they see fit. If you have established relationships with them and you're out to them, I'm not sure how much your mother can undermine that, especially if you have this situation out on the table with your cousins. They likely have far more in common with you than they do with your mother and her generation.

If she wants to have an ambush visit, she can also book a hotel and you can plan to see her on your terms. Boundaries. They get easier to manage the longer and stronger you hold onto them.

You've already moved away from New York. You've done more than enough to keep yourself separated from her and her social circle.
posted by quince at 12:19 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man, there is so much stuff here that has to do with remaining mentally in one culture while living in another. Seems like your mom's pride and ego are wrapped up in having a son, especially if she had a hard time having kids, and all the shit she got from her in-laws (so so very familiar to me, as the white wife of a chinese man who didn't have kids until several years into our marriage - his family was actively lobbying him to divorce me starting from our first anniversary when we [I] still hadn't produced a child. Now the fact that I've produced a son, with another on the way, is the only reason they talk to me at all).

I don't think there's any getting around that, or changing her mind as it's so deeply ingrained in her, from her own childhood, and reinforced to her every single day from her own peers (since she only speaks Chinese, she doesn't socialize outside of the Chinese culture much, does she?). It's not that she doesn't love you, it's just that a) she's in a lot of pain because she thinks she hasn't conformed with her community and hasn't done her job as a mother, and b) she totally does not get that your world and your community do not judge you in the same way that hers judges her.

Which is not to say that you have to allow her shit into your daily life. You are allowed to tell her "mom, I love you, but I need some space." You don't have to allow her to visit. You do. not. have to acquiesce to her demands that you present as a man. Hell, you don't even have to tell her when you are going to NY for work or what-have-you.

I've said this in threads before - the first decision you need to make is whether you want to assimilate or not. You are from America, living in Canada - do you want to be culturally Chinese? Or do you want to be (North) American? Because, frankly, once you know the answer to that question you should pretty much know how to proceed. Either you proceed as a (in your mother's eyes) selfish, arrogant American, or as a Chinese person, submissive and unquestioning to the wishes of your elders.

As an aside, I was actually a little bit amused at your mother's comments about how you dress as a woman, because the way it reads to me is that in her mind she is trying to be supportive and help you - these are the kinds of things that all girls heard growing up ("that skirt is too tight!", "that shirt is too low-cut!"), but they are things that she never taught you because you were a boy. Now she feels responsible for teaching you what she didn't before. And believe me, we all had the same reactions that you had "Gawd, just shut up Mom! I'll dress the way I WANT to dress!". Par for the course for going through puberty again I'm afraid.
posted by vignettist at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

This is really tough. I wonder if one thing to try might be a "trial" separation. As in, rather than saying "Mom, we are never going to speak again, never contact me," try something like "I need some space, I am not going to be available for the next (week or month or two months, or whatever). I won't be answering the phone or emails, period." And then stick to it and see how it feels. Maybe it feels amazing and freeing! Maybe it feels really horrible and unsustainable. Probably it will be some combination of those things? But at least you'll have some additional emotional information going forward.

I also like the idea of enforcing boundaries by making yourself available to "appropriate" Mom and not available to "inappropriate Mom." Like, have a conversation with her where, as best as you are able, you communicate that your gender presentation and associated topics X, Y, and Z are off limits. If she calls you and wants to talk about to cool new coffee shop that opened up or how your job is going, hooray, you guys have a pleasant conversation! If she calls and asks you to dress as a man when you come to New York, you say "Mom, this is not something you get to decide. I'm sorry, I have to go now." And hang up and don't answer the phone for a while. NOT EASY. But possibly something to try and see how it goes.

On the visiting thing, I would honestly try to avoid these for now -- maybe you guys can work up to this in the future, but it sounds like right now it is too much for you to be dealing with this AND have her all up in your living space. Again, not easy, but if she pulls one of these "inviting herself" things again, say, Oh, I'm sorry, that won't be possible. And then literally crash with a friend for a few days so you are not home and there is no one to let her in to your apartment if she randomly does show up anyway.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

She reminds me of my maiden aunt who is generally well meaning, and a good soul under all her Must Maintain the Image, and What Would the Neighbors Think? but also so. astoundingly. oblivious. She is the type to offer such advice as 'have you tried not being : LEGBT/depressed/unemployed/upset/ etc etc etc' and other such platitudes that are equally unhelpful. No matter what you try to explain, or how... the oblivious power is going to win every. single. time.

So, I guess I'm saying you mom doesn't sound malicious, per se. I'm not in your shoes, so only you can say how it really is, and what you are going to do about it, but I still vote not abusive/malicious. Annoying and upsetting and painful and frustrating, oh yes. I'd feel unsupported and hurt. But.... I also suspect she's confused. You are doing something that is probably pretty foreign to her. And she is NOT (in my mind) trying to drive you away.... make things The Way They Were, Look Good to the Family/Neighbors, yes. But it sounds like she honestly wants to be with you.

Maybe talking more is the answer? Having an interpreter to tell her how the change is permanent, and such?

HOWEVER, surprise visits where she stays with you for two weeks are RIGHT OUT in my book, and she can stay in a hotel. And you can fit her in your schedule when you can, if you want. So yes yes yes boundaries, but also, based only on what you've listed here.... I'd probably try to stay in contact.

Course, I don't have to live with her.
posted by Jacen at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2015

I would suggest the Mefi favorite response of

"That won't be possible."

In varying tones as necessary. No explanations, no apologies. Then change the subject. Repeat as often as necessary. It's really easy once you get used to doing it. And you can practice in the mirror beforehand!
posted by raisingsand at 1:36 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I say "fuck her." You owe your parents exactly nothing--they decided to have you, not the other way around.

If you like, you can give her one more chance: "Mum, you can continue to criticize my life choices and disrespect who I am as a person, or you can have me in your life. Pick one."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:58 PM on April 23, 2015

Check your memail, if you haven't already. I posted my answer there.
posted by Michele in California at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2015

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