My Aunt Meg was the one responsible for all this, in a very real sense, because when I was ten, and hanging round looking board during one of those family visits when everyone was cooing over my five-yearold kid sister's unbearable cuteness, Meg pulled out some of the sf magazines she used to read on the train and gave them me to read. She was the aunt who never married, because she was engaged and then diagnosed as ill with MS, and sent her young man away without telling him why. She had one of those lifes that is not even a bit tragic or sad - she outlived the young man by many years and she had a lot of things she cared about that made her more or less happy.
When I transitioned, I did not cut myself off from my immediate family, but I did more or less let myself drift into not sustaining relations with most of my aunts and cousins, especially on the Catholic side. (The main exception was Cousin Carol and the reason for that was mostly that she is an academic and we have friends in common.) I started to rebuild some of those ties after twenty or so years when I went to my parents' Golden Wedding, - in particular I had a long chat with Meg there and realized just how much I liked her - but then I was ill and never really got round to pursuing it.
Until today, when I went to Meg's funeral because my father is too ill for my parents to be there and my sister lives in the North. Simon, bless him, drove me up because he was hitting the chazzers in that part of the Midlands anyway today - he is a ceramics and ephemera detail - chazzers is slang for charity shops, sorry. And I spent hours with all the cousins I don't know and various surviving aunts and uncles - and it was all surprisingly OK.
One of the strangest things was going to Mass again after thirty years. They done changed it all on me - some of it I knew about, like the kiss of peace or rather the milling around giving everyone slightly embarrassed handshakes of peace, but had not actually had to do before. Some of it I did not know about - like suddenly you can have both sorts of communion if you want it - when did that happen? Interesting that most of the older generation only feel comfortable still with the bread. I of course am excommunicate according to the Vatican, because the current Pope disapproves of trannies along with everything else. All very well his disapproving of war and capitalism- when is he going to excommunicate people over them the way he does about sex, then?
Odd how much I can still be moved by not very good hymns badly sung even though I have no religion bar a vague sense of the spiritual and certainly don't believe any of the dogmas the hymns express. Except inasmuch as various hymns about Mary work as hymns to the female principle and the psalms are great religious poetry even in crappy translation. And when did Catholics start singing The Lord is My Shepherd to Crimond?
Cousin Patrick got us lost on our way to the crematorium, which was just fine by me because it meant that we arrived just in time to leave for the pub. Lots of not especially wonderful sandwiches and coffee and diet Coke and various cousins getting a bit tiddly and confiding in me to a worrying extent.
I swapped e-mails with several of them and had Buffy conversations with cousins and their daughters and suddenly realized that this is the conversation which will save me in any public place for the rest of time. And I realized that my Cousin Cathy, whom I last saw when I was twentysomething and she was twelve, is a big old geek and lots of fun.
And it was Meg who turned her on to fantasy trilogies. Obviously a bad influence on all of us. God rest her soul, because she believed in him even if I don't.