I woke up at 12:30 this morning & didn't fall back asleep until 4 or 5. I was mostly silently crying.
The good news is that none of my in-laws said anything overtly mean or derogatory to me. The bad news is that none of them said anything directly to me. You know when you are at a semi-busy social gathering of semi-strangers, talking to someone and suddenly you both realize that someone in the area passed gas? It's always an unbearable stench, and everyone must simply politely pretend that it doesn't exist until it dissipates. Well, apparently at last night's Christmas Eve gathering of conservative relatives, I was the fart in the room.
This was the first time most of my in-laws have seen me since maybe five or six years ago. Slowly, over the course of the evening I realized that I was invisible. Not only invisible, but apparently so repulsive that no one would even acknowledge my existence except for my wife & our children, my mother in law and sister in law. I ended up taking care of the kids, making sure they were occupied, and helping make sure the gathering went smoothly by clearing the table & setting things out as the evening progressed. After everyone left (we are staying at my wife's parents' place) and I was lying in bed I realized that no one had directly spoken to me that hasn't seen me every few months. It hurt.
Then I started looking at my life & I realized that the thing that keeps people going is their connections to other people. Even introverts; they simply have fewer connections. For me anyway, having no thread of compassion / love / affection / friendship to others is the same as not existing, in some ways. People can simply cut you out of their life and when everyone does so, it is like you no longer exist. For a few minutes, I understood one reason people decide to end their lives; there is no difference between life and death except a ceasing of pain. I'm better now, btw.
I started running through an inventory of my connections to others in my life at around two in the morning. My in-laws obviously have cut their threads, some going back decades. My family of origin, while originally seemingly supportive, have reverted back to insisting on using my birth name & titles (son, man, father, birthname). And they play guilt games. The threads there were never many or strong, but they are only held together by my irrational loyalty and seem pretty one-sided. Even my spouse, while putting an effort into using my preferred name & pronouns, has clipped many of the threads that once bound us together. She has decided that she's no longer physically attracted to me. We are still best friends but there is no affection & she won't discuss it. She's also become more controlling in every day little details as my transition has progressed and I am out everywhere but work. Micromanaging. And yes, I know it's a reaction to losing control of other parts of our relationship, but that doesn't help when I crave some sort of affection.
Pretty much the only people who in any way 'celebrate' or even acknowledge who I am are my coworkers. And they are celebrating someone who doesn't exist, the man they've worked with for the last decade or so.