I heard her talk in a soft voice. I turned to my right and I saw her speaking on the phone. Her voice was low, she was slouching her shoulders which was highly unusual since she was always sitting up straight, with a confidence that couldn’t be shaken. I looked closely and I saw she was wiping tears from her eyes. I looked back at my screen, but I couldn’t focus.
I heard her hang up the phone. I turned my head to look at her, hoping to see some relief on her face after this obviously difficult call. There was no joy on her face. She simply wiped her tears once again and she got up and left.
I sat there, not knowing what to do. Do I go after her to see if I could be of any help, or do I keep working? I couldn’t decide. I sat there, while a battle was raging within my soul. Finally, I got up and went outside to find her. I looked everywhere and she was nowhere to be found. I decided reluctantly to go back to work. As I went through the door, I heard a sob coming from a small break room. The lights were out, and the glass wasn’t transparent, but I knew she was in there. I stood outside, still hesitating about what to do. This wasn’t about me; it had to be about her and whatever she was going through.
I took a deep breath, exhaled, and knocked on her door.
“Hey, Camilla (fictitious name). it’s Freeman. Are you ok?”
No answer. Maybe I had gone too far. I should have minded my own goddamn business.
“Sorry to have bothered you Camilla. I just wanted to make sure you were ok. I’ll leave you be.”
Before I could even make one step, she answered.
“Come in, it’s ok.”
I opened the door and entered the small break room. The motion-sensors turned the lights on. She was sitting but she looked lifeless. Her eyes were red from the crying and there were big bags under her eyes, indicating fatigue. She was holding a tissue in her left hand and she had the other hand covering her mouth, desperately trying not to cry anymore.
I sat in the chair next to her and I put my arm around her shoulders. She cried and held my other hand. We sat there in the darkness for a few minutes, in complete silence. Someone knocked and I let them know the small break room was occupied. Silence again for a few minutes. I could feel her pain through her crying and how her body was shivering. There was nothing I could do but stay there.
Camilla was always full of energy, saying hi to everybody, smiling nonstop, and sharing her encyclopedic knowledge about the work we were doing. She spoke to clients with a mastery, a warmth, an assurance no one could ever achieve. She was that good at her job, but she was an exceptional human being, and she is still, to this day.
Finally, she spoke to me. She felt she owed me the truth. I told her she didn’t owe me anything, but she insisted on sharing with me what had transpired a half hour earlier. She wanted to explain to me the reason she was so profoundly distraught.
Camilla told me it had to do with her daughter, who was a transwoman, meaning she was transitioning from the male gender assigned to her at birth to female. She was telling me how difficult it had been for her daughter mentally, emotionally, and physically. She was telling me about the verbal abuse, the mockery, the bullying her daughter had gone through over the years and the toll it had taken on her young mind. She was surprisingly open and unfiltered when she was telling her daughter’s story.
Camilla told me she didn’t want to make the situation about herself, but she couldn’t help it. “It’s my baby, Freeman. She has been through so much. She has contemplated suicide. We took her to therapy because she was depressed at one point. We did everything we could, but she is still unhappy, maybe miserable and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help my baby.”
Tears came running down her face as she was telling the story. I could see her pain, her sorrow, her despair, her anger. I didn’t know what to say. There was nothing to say, frankly. She looked at me and I could only tell her the truth; I am not a parent but simply imagining myself not being able to help my child, I felt a sadness drown my heart. I almost cried myself. Parents simply want to see their children healthy, safe, and happy. Camilla’s daughter was none of the above.
Camilla told me how her daughter would lock herself in her room and cry for hours. She would refuse to eat or go out and meet with her friends. She was only 19 and she wasn’t living a life most 19-year-olds live unfortunately. She had her whole life ahead of her. Yet, all the mockery, abuse, and discrimination she had gone through, had crushed her spirit and with it, her body and mind.
I went home disgusted that day. I was angry and I could barely talk to my then girlfriend. I ended up telling her the story, and she felt the same way I did. We sat there, both utterly angry and disgusted by how despicable some people can be. I am not perfect, nor will I ever pretend to be. Nevertheless, I never could understand the hate or disdain people can feel towards someone who is different than them. I could never understand how some people can be bully or discriminate against those who are different. It speaks to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and any other kind of intolerance that populates this world. Camilla shared her pain as a parent with me. She insisted on how her pain was nothing compared to her daughter’s pain, sorrow, and internal struggle. Imagine being yourself, just yourself but to live in a world that hates and dismisses the very foundation of your being.
“I just want her to be happy, Freeman”. That was the last thing Camilla told me that day. I still think about the profound meaning of that sentence. She simply wanted her child to be herself and be happy. I couldn’t help but congratulate Camilla on accompanying her daughter through her transition and the difficult moments. “I am her mom. I want her to be happy and I will do everything I can to help her’, was her answer which she uttered with a smile on her face.
This story is about Camilla and her daughter. I know how polarized we are nowadays, and we all want to stand our ground. Pride comes before the fall. Trans people are people, first and foremost. They are like everybody else. They simply want to be healthy, safe, happy, and live life how they see fit, just like any other person on this planet. They have the right to be themselves and they should strive for that. The rest of the world, in this case, us, we have a responsibility to make the world a better and safer place for them. By the way, trans people’s dignity, safety, and happiness do not take away other people’s dignity, safety, and happiness. Hopefully, one day, we shall get there.
I recently spoke to Camilla. She told me her daughter is doing better. In this fucked up beginning of 2021, at least there is some good news. To Camilla, her daughter, and their whole family, be strong and things will get better with time. To my trans people, be strong and we got your back.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!