My Dad vs. The Dementors: A Coming Out Story

Jan 04, 2010

Posted by: abandonedboyjon

Bloggers - Jon

Warning: this blog contains a few
details and photos about Harry Potter: The Exhibition. (no
photography is allowed in the exhibit, these were in another part of the museum
where it was okay).

I’m moving to Los Angeles. I’ve been
planning to move there since I was about 17, but as Dr. Connors once told Peter
Parker, “Planning is not a major at this university.” At 24, and
done with school, I guess life is my university now and no horrible economy or
bad luck is going to change that. So I’ve packed my bags, I’m
getting my car tuned up, and somehow, I’m going to cross this country and make
it to Hollywood.

Of course, all this means leaving New England,
where I’ve lived for all but one year of my life. I won’t miss
shoveling cars out of the snow at six in the morning, but this place is
beautiful, breath-taking, in every season, and it will always be home.

I became particularly sentimental about
leaving New England when I visited my hometown of Boston to see Harry
Potter: The Exhibition. In the familiar entrance way,
with its high glass walls letting what was left of the daylight in, sat the
Ford Anglia and Ron’s chess piece from Sorcerer’s Stone. I
have this incredibly strong memory of bawling hysterically in that entrance way
about thirteen years ago, when I got separated from a camp group. I
was actually a junior counselor for the group, getting paid, but I was still a
kid, and there was something about the way I turned around to see an empty
room, where my group had stood moments before, that really freaked me. Years
later, as I stood there, gazing up at the knight’s horse, I thought about Ron,
that kindred spirit of mine, and how this was such a great symbol of his
bravery and worth. So many asked why Harry and Hermione needed Ron
on the Horcrux hunt. Well, that chess piece is your answer.

You see a lot of things that way when you go to
the exhibit. As I walked through, object after object made my head
spin: the Death Eaters’ masks from Goblet of Fire, so
much creepier in real life than on-screen; the blood-stained parchment from
Harry’s detentions with Umbridge; the Mad Muggle comic books
you could just picture Ron reading. There was a realness to
everything that went beyond the fact that we were seeing these things in person
for the first time. And nothing was more real for me than the Prisoner
of Azkaban
-era Dementor that was on display. Already such a
stunning figure in the film, the Dementor is actually far more intricate than
I’d previously thought. Like we see in the Quidditch match scene, it
came complete with a ring of bloody teeth around the edge of its mouth. They
always used to remind me very specifically of the mouths of these
carnivorous fish in Lake Victoria that bite whole arms off fisherman. The
model hovered above us, maybe 9 foot high, and at first the inclination is to
peer into its cloaked face. However, after a moment of staring, my
mother pointed me downwards, at the spine that curled below like a tail. My
stomach did a double-flip when I saw a trace of blood on the spine. I
couldn’t stop staring at the creature. Even as we turned the corner,
I gave it one long, last look, to cement it in my mind.

After seeing the Exhibition, I started to wonder
a lot more about the idea behind that design. A spine, like a
human with no body, literally the bare bones of a body. And the
blood. It was as if it was making a mockery of human pain. How
can something with no body bleed?

I’d turned over this question in my mind many
times before I slowly started to associate it with the relationship between my
father and I, which has been particularly strained since I came out to him a few months ago. The
two of us are very similar people with very different beliefs. We
share a temperament, a love of the Greek language, and a talent for
music. Our disagreements are usually about religion, sometimes
politics. Fairly typical, you might say. But my father’s
faith and religious beliefs are hard-wired, and as a Catholic there are certain
fundamentals in his church that conflict with my very being as a
transperson. Knowing this, I’ll be the first to admit I lost faith
in him coming around nearly from the moment I had my talk with him. I
would comfort myself with “It doesn’t matter, we’re not that close” and “I
wouldn’t want to stand between him and his faith anyway’ but of course there
was a deep pain underlying this. If it didn’t matter, how could I
feel pain over losing it? In other words, if my father and I had a
relationship so devoid of substance and value, how could it bleed?

Most of the time, when I’ve been upset and
frustrated about how my parents have handled learning that I’m trans, I’ve lashed
out, yelled. I thought it wasn’t healthy to be tight-lipped, and the
truth is, I was angry, but mostly disappointed. Disappointed,
because I had always held my parents in high regard, morally speaking. When
I was growing up, I noticed that they did things, sometimes things that hurt
our family, made things harder for us, but they did it because it was the right
thing, or to help someone else. And that’s how they raised my sister
and me. When I came out to them, I stuffed this in their faces,
daring them: “If you really are who you think you are, then you’ll
accept and respect this.” It’s true, but that doesn’t mean people
don’t deserve time to adjust. To paraphrase Attitude magazine,
give your parents time, after all, how long did it take you to get used to
being queer?

I was recently on a two-hour car ride with my
parents. I was singing along to the radio when my dad said, “You can
really hit those high notes, girl.” Everyone sort of stopped. My
mom eyed me in the rearview, waiting for the explosion. My dad then
tried to go on like nothing happened, but I asked him what he’d said, hoping
I’d misheard. “Nothing’ he said, “I said nothing.” I
don’t know, maybe it was because I was exhausted, having stayed up all night,
as I do sometimes, writing, but it struck me funny. “Curl?” I
teased. “Whirl? Pearl? Oh! ˜Duke of Earl.
˜ That’s a good one. Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl¦
I sang. And the conversation went on like normal.

And that’s when I realized that it
matters. It matters to me. I don’t care what he thinks
about what I’m doing, but I care if I lose his respect and the only way to
retain that is to be the good person he knows I am. Be thorough,
patient, kind. Try to understand as much as I want to be
understood. My mother recently likened this time for them as a
“grieving period.” It was good to hear because it was so obviously
true, the way she said it, but it’s still hard to accept that something died
for them that day. There’s no changing that. But if this
is a grieving period, then it follows to think that one might get over this in
a similar way: by continuing on in life and finding enjoyment and
happiness in the things that are still here, surrounding us. And I’m here. If I
lose faith, I throw that away as much as they do.

After we got home from the trip, I had patted
myself on the back for keeping my cool and acting normal. I thought
it was one small step for me in the right direction and that that had to count
for something. But the next day my father made an even bigger step,
a leap for him really. He called me Jon for the first time. And
we just¦ went on like normal. The struggles are not over and I’m sure
there’ll be more hurt, but that’s the way it should be. Because I
was wrong, we are not like that Dementor I saw hanging on the wall. There
is something there, there is worth, and that is why it bleeds.

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