Contentious Family Issues
Do you know any transgender persons who have been disowned by at least one, and perhaps all family members? If not, welcome to the community. Family rejection is the most pervasive and damaging phenomenon transgender persons face. This includes partial exclusion to outright rejection. It most commonly occurs at the beginning of transition or when coming out.
If you are reading this article and planning on disclosing your gender issues to family, it is strongly recommended that you wait until you have significant experience telling others. Not having experience, and feeding into other's overreactions are big potholes in the road to disclosure.
You should learn how to deal with a variety of personalities and their reactions, if at all possible. You also need your own support team to seek when matters become challenging. You will need to hand hold those you are telling and then have a third party available to support you. Sometimes the first family member you entrust with the news, can support your disclosure to others in your family.
The biggest fear for any transgender person is that short term rejection will become long-term or a permanent circumstance. There is a possibility that will happen. You must come to understand that it is survivable and you can have loving relationships despite being rejected. More importantly, in preparing for the possibility of rejection, there are things you can do to shorten the time it takes others to adjust to your situation. This includes your laying the groundwork for an eventual reconciliation.
Generally most rejection occurs when the informed party cannot traverse the gap between their gender experiences and yours. Parents particularly want their children, including adult kids, to pursue a path that is recognizable and comfortable. In some ways that still can occur. You can be honest, spiritual, loving, even business wise - and this should be pointed out to them. But your experience with gender issues will always differ from theirs. This, too, should also be pointed out, and it should be stated that this is a situation where it may take them some time to understand, if that is possible. It is also important to emphasize that coming to terms with new information is okay and worth the effort.
Another thing that is helpful in laying the groundwork to overcoming rejection is to develop an explanation which is relatively understandable to your family members. The easiest and most accurate one is to state that you have a medical condition. And, that you need their support making things as comfortable as possible.
You can also use the 'trapped in the wrong body' or even mental illness model. Your goal is to evoke a care-taking response from them. You are asking for their help. Should matters become contentious you can even say that its not right for them to abuse and harass a person who is sorting out mental or medical issues.
There is a long debate whether being a transsexual or having a transgender identity contradicts religious beliefs. It is also possibly you may never entirely convince your family of your position. However, one possibility for piercing that veil is to inform your folks that God made transgender persons too. And, stand up for yourself by saying that just because you have slightly differing beliefs, that doesn't mean that you're going to give up your seat at God's table. Emphasize that you are willing to find a compromise that allows everyone to get along, even if that is to 'agree to disagree.'
Its also possible to use a guilt model, although this must be done very carefully and should be restricted to an all or nothing confrontation. Within my family I told my Dad that I was so ashamed of him, because it defied explanation why a big strong man like him had to pick on little soft people. If you use mental illness, or even a medical condition as the explanation behind your situation, this may fit into the confrontation. This all may well reach their level of understanding, but it will take some time to convince them down the road that these conditions stabilize. Usually after several years of consistent behavior living in role, or about a year after surgery if that is your goal, you can start pointing out that you are better, the condition is stable and has normalized as much as is possible.
My most favorite family pattern to deal with are members who persist in using the wrong name and pronoun. These folks can be very stubborn, and honestly believe they are in the right. This is a situation that can be very difficult to overcome. Probably the best, was to deal with it, is not to fight it. Early into transition if you can give family members permission to use any name or pronoun they like, you will gain some power for being so reasonable. After all you know who you are.
After you have been successfully living in role anywhere from one year to three years, you can tell them you don't want to take away their right to choose, but if they are the only party not using the name and pronoun which match who you are at the time, not conforming makes them look like idiots. So, they may wish to consider catching up with where you and others are at. And, indicate that its okay to do so, even if it feels new or they still have differing beliefs.
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This Website Created ...... Saturday, 20. May 2006
Last Updated: Tuesday, 22. January 2008
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