Five weeks ago, Maryann Durmer’s granddaughter came out as transgender to her. She knew that the road ahead would not be easy for her, let alone her granddaughter.
Then, Elliot Page came out.
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Page’s coming out at the beginning of December was partly prompted Durmer to write a personal essay, published in HuffPost as “A Love Letter To My Granddaughter (Who I Knew As My Grandson Until 5 Weeks Ago).”
“Elliot Page recently announced that he is transgender, and as the grandmother of a transgender young woman, I am grateful that he did,” Durmer’s essay opens. “His coming out publicly is helping my 22-year-old granddaughter and many other trans people live openly with freedom.”
She goes on to explain how she has felt since her granddaughter’s decision to come out. “I am a 75-year-old, white, heterosexual cisgender woman who was raised in an authoritarian home,” Durmer writes, explaining how she “attended 12 years of Catholic school” and was taught that “I would go to heaven if I followed my faith’s rules, and that those who did not follow the rules would not get into heaven.”
“Everything seemed more clear-cut when I grew up in the ’50s, because I didn’t know many people with different life experiences,” she admits.
Still, she didn’t hesitate to support and express her love for her granddaughter.
“When I heard the news,” she says, she sent a text that read, “I talked to your dad last night. I’m so happy you came out, and I support you 100%.'”
Then, she adds, “I just wanted to stop by and tell you I love you. If there’s anything I can do to help you, I’m here.”
Durmer credits Page, the 33 year old actor currently starring on The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, for bringing more attention to issues affecting trans people and creating an opportunity for people like Durmer to educate themselves, or others.
“I have been researching, reading and watching movies and documentaries to aid me in better understanding and empathizing with what transgender people experience,” she says, citing the book Transgender History by trans scholar Susan Stryker, and the documentary Born to Be.
“For instance, it’s key to understand that each transgender person thinks about their identity differently, and uniquely,” Durmer continues, “so it is always important to know which pronouns to use.”
“Elliot Page uses both ‘he’ and ‘they’ pronouns. My granddaughter uses ‘she’ and ‘her.’ Getting it right may seem like a small detail to some people, but to trans people it means the world.”
Durmer, an actress and activist from New York City, admits that she may not be perfect every step of the way. She writes, “no matter how good my intentions are, mistakes are made. Sometimes I slip right back into using my granddaughter’s ‘dead name.'”
Still, she promises that she is “committed to doing everything I can to embrace her as the beautiful young woman she is (including apologizing if I do make a mistake), and I want to learn as much as possible to help our whole family make this transition easier for my new granddaughter.
“After all, a matriarch’s position should not be underestimated.”
Calling being a grandparent “one of the most beautiful roles in life that a person can achieve,” Durmer hopes that she can be the grandmother to her granddaughter, that her grandmother was to her. “I cannot walk in my granddaughter’s shoes,” she writes, “but I can do my best to continue reaching out with kindness and acceptance, praying that she is protected from the hate and intolerance often expressed openly by people in the state where she lives. I hope that she can move forward in the way that is most meaningful to her.”
Her conclusion is the most heartwarming of all.
“So to Elliot Page, I say: Thank you for coming out and using your fame and visibility to help other people who are struggling to be their authentic selves ― especially at Christmastime, when the birth of a new life can give hope to many.
“To my granddaughter, I say: Thank you for teaching me the value of living an authentic life. I am proud to be your grandmother. And as my thoughts and heart transition to embrace this new you, please know one thing isn’t changing ― I love you.”
Durmer’s essay, first published on Christmas, earned her praise from all corners of the internet. The LGBTQ organization PFLAG tweeted, “this is a #ChristmasGift to all of us!”
Taking to social media to thank everyone for their support, Durmer tweeted after the essay was published that “love and acceptance is all that really matters.”
Thank you to everyone who loved my @HuffPost essay about my granddaughter! Together we will win inclusivity because love and acceptance is all that really matters ❤️ 🙏🏻
— Maryann Durmer (@mdurmer) December 26, 2020
— PFLAG National (@PFLAG) December 25, 2020