Telling someone something very private is always a nerve-racking experience because you just don’t know how they will react. You might be the first person in your circle of friendships who is in a transgender family. How do you tell someone your parent is transgender?
Why We Have Friends?
Most of us have a variety of friends who give us different sorts of experiences. Friendships which:
- Give you a good night out.
- Develop your cultural experiences.
- Challenge your thought processes.
- Enabling you to have sincere thoughtful conversations.
- Give you adventure and excitement.
And then there are others who we can meet up with once in a while for a good old catch up.
How Do You Find The Right Friend?
The thing is, until you start testing the water with more sensitive subject matters you will never know for sure how someone will react. The first person you tell is always going to be the most difficult. The last thing you need is to upset a friendship and loose someone close to you. Even though gender dysphoria issues are now in the press weekly if not daily. Let’s face it having your parent deciding to be a different gender isn’t an everyday subject matter.
If you are already within the LGBTQ community it will be easier for you to talk about your concerns. Otherwise picking the person to open up to may take a little bit of time. It isn’t guaranteed that the length of your friendship makes your openness fool proof.
If this is the case you could start testing the waters with more sensitive subject matters.
Gender dysphoria is a difficult subject matter for a lot of people to understand.
You will need someone who can just listen, without being judgemental, giving their opinion or advice.
The person who is most accepting may surprise you. It may not even be a close friend but a work colleague.
Opening your heart up, working out how to tell someone your parent is transgender may not get the response you had hoped.
“They are the same person underneath.”
This depends on how secretive your parent has been about their gender dysphoria. If they have started to talk about it already, then may be, you have already started to have an insight into them in their new gender, otherwise it will have come as a total shock.
“Are they happy and healthy?” They may be but this is now about you not about them. You are looking for your own support network here.
“I just don’t get it. They just need to toughen up and get on with life.”
Statements like these will be thought provoking. They may even be annoying because these throw away statements aren’t being a solid support for you. The person you tell needs to be able to put their personal opinions to one side and give you the time you need. Time for you to talk and start to share your thoughts, feelings and fears, about how life is going to progress from now onwards.
Struggling to Manage Doesn’t Mean You’re Transphobic.
The majority of children with transgender parents want to be supportive but need support themselves. They are having to manage a big change in their lives too. You’re not being transphobic you’re just being a normal human being with a normal set of thoughts and feelings who needs time to process information and get used to the idea.
An interesting article, “I Love My Trans Daughter, But I Am Still Struggling”, is a mother expressing her thoughts and fears. This will give you a snapshot into how this mother loves her child but is struggling to manage her feelings around her son coming out to her. Read here
You Have Found The Right Person, What Next?
When you have found the right person, take a little time to plan what you are going to say, when and where. Somewhere quiet where you can talk properly and leave easily if you become over emotional or the conversation isn’t going quite according to plan. The last thing you want is for the conversation to go badly. A bad experience will put you off from opening up to anyone else.
Make sure your confidant has your best interests at heart, respect your privacy and leave it to you to tell other people when you’re ready.
How Do You Tell Someone Your Parent Is Transgender?
This is how I told Anne.
“As the children played and our husbands talked, we found ourselves standing in her kitchen together, Anne’s back to me whilst she re-arranged the dirty crockery in the sink. I remember being so frightened about what to say, and how to say it. Although I felt safe with her, I had kept this information so secret that it had become a huge barrier to shift, like massive wooden doors that are so big and so heavy you need strong arms to push them open. I needed to find the right words in the right order to force the dead weight of the doors open, and just say it. Eventually, I began to explain. The pressure of wanting to speak out made my head hurt, my heart pound and my stomach screw up into a tight knot. There was no easy way to say this, so I just had to take a deep breath and go for it.”
To read more about the process I went though before I began telling someone my parent was transgender is in my book “When Dad Became Joan”.
Remember you’re not alone.
How to tell someone your parent is transgender is difficult.
More often than not your conversation will go really well and a massive weight will be lifted from your shoulders.
If it doesn’t go according to plan it will not be the end of the world, learn from it and you will find the right person to open up to.
Part two of “When Dad Became Joan” will give you space to begin investigating how you can start to understand you conflicting and confusing thoughts and feelings. Giving you the opportunity to start having those authentic conversations to transform the new family dynamics.