When you are speaking to someone who is transgender or their family and friends, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind. I apologize if it gets a little fierce but this continues to be a sore spot for me. While it might seem like it’s specific to my own circumstances, I know that other families of transgender folks encounter some of the same issues.
1- Use the correct gender pronouns and name. I cannot begin to express how incredibly important this is. I understand that it is difficult to just switch over but if I can do it and I’m his mother, then anyone can! It’s a matter of accepting it. Plain and simple. If you consistently use the correct pronouns and name, it begins to feel more natural and in time, the old ones just won’t work. Trying to lead the secret double life of only using the proper pronouns when he or I are around won’t cut it. You will slip up the majority of the time and won’t even notice ever more often. How do I know this? Because I notice every single time it happens. And if you aren’t making a sincere attempt to make these changes, IT HAPPENS EVERY TIME!!!
2. Treat him the same way you always would. It doesn’t matter if he’s a boy or a girl. He’s still my child. He’s still your grandchild, nephew, cousin, friend. The only thing that is changing is the packaging.
3. I don’t want to hear how every time you look at him you see the girl he used to be. That tells me one thing- that you are not really seeing him. Even though he’s the same kid he always was, those things that make him “K” might look a little different in the male form. K is still right there, where he always was.
4. Please realize that by using the wrong pronouns, you are sending a message to both me and K that you haven’t accepted him for who he is. (It’s been almost 3 years. If you haven’t taken the time to accept it after 3 years, when are you?)
5. Try to understand that even though K knows that he is male and feels it to his core, that doesn’t mean he knows how to act it. Or that he will ever act in a typical male manner. I have 2 other sons who are completely different from each other and they are not transgender. K is learning how to define himself. Although he felt male, he was raised female. He is processing everything he knows himself to be and figuring out which parts he wants to keep and which ones are just out of habit that he wants to lose and which are just too girly and no longer feel comfortable. Do NOT judge him too harshly. He has a lot going on and dealing with other people’s hang ups is not high on our priority list these days.
6. Remember that the way you act towards K, whether in his presence or absence, impacts the rest of us. We are his parents and brothers. We have gone through hell together and we will not put up with any crap. If you think that my fierce mother face is scary, you really don’t want to mess with the brothers.
7. K deserves to be loved and have the support, acceptance and love of his grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins unconditionally. My entire family deserves the same. And all of us deserve to be given a break.
8. Last of all, please remember that this is MY CHILD that we are talking about. Every wrong pronoun and name, refusal to let go of the girl, unrealistic expectation and lack of compassion towards what we are going through causes me to retreat even more. At a time when we all really need to feel that we can count on our family, we could sure use some understanding and maybe a few free passes when it comes to the etiquette of returned phone calls and unanswered messages.
I know it isn’t easy. Just as I did when we started this journey, I keep asking that you give it an honest to goodness try!