Updated: Feb 24
So many people have contacted me asking for an opinion piece on when they should come out as Trans to family/friends. And I live to serve, so here we go!
This is a very personal and private matter, definitely not something to rush in to. And it is also most certainly not something that has easy cookie cutter advice. Wowzers, not even close. Honestly, this is a topic I would counsel people on an individual basis for rather than delivering a general blanket statement on a blog. But I will try to muddle through a bit with some advice.
First, assess your family member's feelings concerning anything LGBT. For ease of typing, I will be using your mom as the example, but this could be applied to any other family member or friend really. So...how does your mom feel about anything LGBT in general? How do you find out? Mention something casually on a few separate occasions to help gauge her feelings. You don't want to take one negative reaction from one instance and think it means she hates everybody/everything. Who knows? Maybe she is having a bad day and would lash out at anything. So do this information reconnaissance at least a few times before drawing conclusions. At least one of those times, specifically work transgender people/situations into the equation.
Now, was her reaction negative or positive?
Positive: Congrats, this is probably the better scenario, although nothing in life is guaranteed. After all, some people are perfectly fine with LGBT folks until someone they love reveals that they are one. Anyway, in this scenario, I would continue introducing LGBT (specifically Trans) issues into conversations over the course of several weeks (or a couple months if you feel it necessary). Bring up news topics. Make up something you "heard from a friend." Watch a show/series together with LGBT/Trans folks in it, like "Pose." This will help to lessen the shock value of it for those who might be a bit upset initially, because they will have been thinking over LGBT issues all this time and will have hopefully reached a certain comfort level with the topic. After all, if a person is knowledgeable about the process of a surgical procedure due to a friend having been through it, then they are way more likely to not freak out when they find out that they themselves need the same procedure performed. People are afraid of what they don't know. So if your mom professes some ideas that are incorrect (or if she is just totally clueless), gently try to educate her as you bring up these topics by saying that you yourself were curious as well and so you went and researched etc etc. This will prepare her for your reveal later. Also remember that not every seemingly negative reaction to your reveal is inherently mean-spirited or bad. Some people react poorly because they understand the hatred and violence the world holds towards Trans folks right now, and so they are more upset at the fact that you will now possibly be in danger due to being Trans rather than the actual fact that you are Trans. They lash out hoping it really isn't true so that you won't have to experience the prejudice this world currently offers. Or they may have some misconceptions regarding what being Trans means, thinking it is a mental illness or some such thing, which would obviously be upsetting to them. Seek the reasons and educate. Be patient, because they will also likely experience a type of grief at your transition. True, they may be gaining a son, but they will be losing a daughter in a sense. And they often wonder if all of the fond memories they have of your early life were a lie (another misconception to gently correct).
Now, you've done your part and believe she is prepared. Set aside a time when there will be no interruptions and it will be just her. If you need a support person (or a mediator) then certainly include one. Although, be careful if you know your mom gets embarrassed easily, because having someone else there could inflame her emotions a bit more since she may feel blindsided. You know your mom's typical personality, so you can be the judge on whether or not having someone else present with you is a good idea. Another reason a mediator might be a good idea is if you get tongue tied. Bring someone who is knowledgeable concerning your gender and what it entails so that if you struggle to speak, they can take over until you recover. This person could be a friend, another family member, or even a therapist.
Once you are ready and reach the designated time of revelation, with or without a mediator, go for it. You can choose to jump right in and just blurt it out as a single statement, which gets the job done but usually ends up with more of a knee-jerk reaction from the mom....Or perhaps, what I recommend, is to ease into a bit. Something along the lines of saying:
"Hey mom, you know we get along great, and I love you a lot. I wanted to get you here today to discuss some changes that are coming down the road for me. You're the first person I'm telling because I trust you above all. And I would appreciate it if you let me say my piece right out now and wait until I finish to ask questions. Is that okay? Do you remember that stuff I was asking you about regarding the transgender lady we saw in the news who went missing? Or the transgender man who was on that show we watched and was trying to adopt a baby? Remember how you said *insert whatever she said*? I've done a lot of soul searching over the past few years and really evaluated where I am in life and how I feel. I've always felt there was something different about me on the inside, like maybe I was born for something else, you know? But what I've discovered is that there isn't anything in particular that is wrong with me, it's just that when I was born, my gender assigned at birth just hasn't ever aligned with what I felt inside. It's very difficult to explain, and that's why I've been researching so much lately, because it has reached the point that I feel I need to tell you about it. Please know that there is nothing you have done wrong, and it's not because anything 'happened' to me. But I am wanting to explore this further, and I would really appreciate your help and support with this."
How it goes after that is anybody's guess. But remember, as I said before, they will likely be somewhat shocked. They will also likely enter the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance). And they may be scared for you and react badly because of it. Give them time and patience. However, that does NOT mean to let them be abusive. If that happens, then just leave the situation and tell them you are open to discussing this further when they have calmed down. This conversation will require a lot of reassurance, education, and discussion. And it might end up taking place over the course of several conversations instead of just the one. So be prepared!
Now, if they reacted in the opposite manner to your slow introduction of LGBT topics... As in, they aren't open for talk or learning, and they disparage the LGBT people/situations you bring up:
Negative: I hate to tell you this, but it may not be worth it unless you're prepared to walk out on having her in your life (at least temporarily). While it is possible that some of the above-mentioned scenarios could also be true here (that she may be scared for you or have wild misconceptions), it is also possible she is just another one of those who is unable to see past her own nose despite any evidence that she is reacting wrongly. If you choose to proceed with coming out to her, it should be because you feel it will be of benefit to you whether or not she is supportive. For example: If you believe that telling her, having it off of your chest, and being able to start social and/or medical transitioning whether she is a part of your life or not, then go for it. I strongly advise you to have a mediator person present in this situation, though, just because they can block her for you. They can argue on your behalf and say things that you may feel unable to say. And if nothing else, they can help give you an exit from the situation. Sometimes it can depend on the reason why the person is so against Trans folks. If it is ignorance, well, they may eventually come around, but that is usually a prolonged process. If it is for religious reasons....sigh, those are the most difficult. To me anyway. Because not only do they have misconceptions about what Trans means, but they also have this idea in their head that God has said it is wrong. And convincing someone that something they have followed for years (religion) is wrong...ugh. I really feel for ya in that one.
Now, I have stated my own personal opinion in a previous blog post. But here it is again... Anyone who can't support you (even if they don't understand Trans) isn't worth your time. I do think that many people don't seem to understand just how deep of an issue it is to be Trans and how much psychological distress this causes folks. They seem to think it's a choice, or a phase, and that you just aren't being serious. They have no idea how painful it is, but they feel they are doing you a service (much like parents think telling a teenager to stop wearing black makeup and stop dying their hair blue think that they are giving their child good advice; these folks see it as the same type thing). But those who just flat believe being Trans is evil and unnatural generally can't be reasoned with. And I hope they fall off the world. :) But anyway, you can find real friends elsewhere, and family is what you make. Blood isn't everything. You deserve better. Don't settle for their stupid bullshit. Be happy. Be you.
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