Imagine the scene… Mum and Dad opposite you on the sofa, eagerly awaiting your ‘announcement’. They’ve already discussed it among themselves and have settled on three possibilities…
a) you’re getting married.
b) you’re going to be a father.
c) you’re going to get promoted.
Your actual announcement…
d) none of the above. Definitely, none of the above.
You nervously tell them that you’re going to transition and your Dad asks ‘That’s an island somewhere in the Carribean, isn’t it?”
The first, rather confusing law of dealing with family is this…
That most of what you think… isn’t really what you think.
What this means is that our relationship with our parents and our siblings has an emotional, subconscious element that is beyond our control. Therefore, whatever ideas you formulate in your conscious mind, for example – “I don’t care what they think…” are not necessarily your real feelings. Not having your family on board may seem manageable but could definitely affect you over time.
On the other hand, just as a ‘screw them’ attitude may not be the full story, you must also be careful of trying too hard to please them. Family ties can sometimes make us feel we owe our family something which, in reality, we don’t. Just because your parents are your parents it doesn’t give them an unconditional right to have their feelings taken into account.
In other words, there are no sacred cows or instant demons when thinking of transition and your family. You need to consider each person – one by one, consider how much they mean to you, and why? Why is it important what they think?
Putting emotions to one side a moment, family is an important source of logistical support – whether you are looking for an emergency loan or need someone to mind your kids one afternoon. A supportive family means you have more people on your team to help you out (however, unless you are a taker… it also means responsibilities.)
If you come from a liberal family you should be aware of a possible gap between what family members say and how they feel. A classic liberal believes in equality of gender, sexuality and religion… so he or she might say they have no problem with your transition; however, they may have a mild trace of transphobia in their thinking which will make it difficult for them to fully and unconditionally accept you.
Be sure to talk to family members in depth and gauge their true feelings! And not about transition as an abstract topic but the nuts and bolts. Ask them how it makes them feel – the idea of you walking through their door, dressed as a woman with female mannerisms and a new, female name.
- – Apart from the fact they’re your parents, what have your parents done to deserve your esteem and respect. Did they raise you well?
– What role do you see your parents playing in your future life… major players or figures in the background?
– Which family member do you most fear informing of your transition?
– How does the concept of family weddings, birthday parties and gatherings etc. strike you, if you are attending as the real you… ie – a woman.
– How would you describe your father in one word.
– Are you in any way dependent on your family – financially, emotionally, for housing etc?
Forget the immediate question… how will the following people react? and focus more on… how much emotional and logistical support can I expect from the following people in my transition?
Assign a global score from 0 to 10 for how you think your family will handle your transition. 10 is extremely favourably… 0 is complete rejection.
proceed to the next unit: 3. Should I transition – Sexual motivations