Early on, they wrote me a letter encouraging me to reconsider my decision to become a man. The message, while cruel, was likely founded in misinformation, fear and concern for me, but that was no comfort in the midst of a life-changing journey, which now would not include their support. Over time, our relationship healed — somewhat. Mostly, we just didn’t speak about it.
Then, in 2015, my father emailed me, acknowledging his difficulty recalling words and confirming that a recent MRI indicated early signs of Alzheimer’s. Three years later, my mother learned that she had it, too.
My parents were trained as journalists and worked as writers. Now they are frustrated by their inability to use language in ways that used to feel so natural. My father rarely speaks, and my mother can only form sentences on good days. Even then, she calls keys “stuff that goes with my car.”
This, and the slow erosion of their independence, starting with the cancellation of their drivers’ licenses and the opening of their home to round-the-clock care, has them feeling defeated. As a child of parents with a terminal illness, I am obviously upset, too. Unexpected, however, is the sense that my identities as a man, husband and father — all predicated on my gender transition — seem to be falling away, too, as their dementia progresses and they forget who I am.
It was two months after Mum died. I would not meet anyone. I would not answer messages. I would not talk about my feelings. I didn’t want to chat. I...