Transgender parent, now you know what are you going to do?
You now know your parent is transgender, but what happens now?
Your thoughts and feelings will have a massive bearing on how you found out about this change. Was it a total shock or have there been gradual changes? Is your parent going for a full change or a partial change?
Whatever the answers are to these questions, there are going to be some basic and very important information you need to find out. Living in ignorance will determine how long you will feel lost and alone. Learning more about both your parents’ thoughts on how life is going to pan out will put you in a better position to adjust to your new normal.
Until you have processed this information your mind, your thoughts and feelings will probably be on a roller coaster ride. Let’s face it, this is going to be a new experience for you and with it comes a lot of ups and downs, doubts and unknowns.
When my dad told me that he was going to become Joan, it took me a while to find the questions I wanted answering.
Then, to make my life harder for myself, I was frightened of asking them. I want to help you through the first stages so you can begin to process the information more easily.
There are going to be a lot of uncomfortable questions you might need answering.
As an individual you need to continue to feel as safe as possible because the family dynamics, whether you and your parents like it or not, will change.
This learning process falls into two categories: you and them. In this blog, I am going to be discussing the questions you might want to ask. Please bear in mind families are very complex micro-communities; you will need to shape these questions to suit your family situation.
What you need to know from your parent?
- Why now?
You may be feeling as if you have lost some respect and trust with your parent. Having a better understanding of ‘why now?’ will help you manage your thoughts and feelings about the change your parent is wanting to go through. Learning more about how they have had to adjust their life to fit in and cope, and knowing how long they have been struggling will help you get a better perspective on the situation for both of you.
- Why couldn’t you tell me earlier?
You may be feeling cheated on, rather like a cheating partner or best friend, creating an atmosphere of mistrust. Your trasgender parent may have been frightened to tell you because of your reaction. They might not have been sure of what they wanted in life until more recently or perhaps had pressure on them from someone else to not open up. Most people want to keep their families together so they may have wanted to protect you, hoping that miraculously it would all go away, and they would feel normal. However, we are not mind readers and all these suggestions are guess work. You will only find the answers by asking.
- Who else knows?
This will include family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, doctors. You may feel embarrassed about your parent’s decision, especially when they start leaving the home dressed as the chosen gender they identify with. This will have a knock-on effect on how you walk around your community, the conversations you have with people around you and how you socialise. The last thing you need is to feel trapped, not knowing who to turn to. The other people who know may be experiencing similar feelings and have doubts about whether they can approach you, not necessarily to talk about it but just to express their concern and ask if you are okay. Knowing this will help you find someone to talk to at the very beginning whilst you find you own personal support network.
- How private is this information?
This is similar to the previous question. You will need your own safety network outside of the family, someone who you can turn to download, upload or just someone or somewhere you can go to be you and have some resemblance of normality. I am not suggesting that you plaster this information all over your social media but having the heads up on who you can turn to, knowing the information is safe is important. You all need to feel safe so that you can function as normally as possible whilst your new normal settles in.
- What is going to happen to you as a family unit?
Thankfully there is now a lot more support for those transitioning. Talking therapies are a lot easier to come by, with less stigma attached to them resulting in a lot more families managing to stay together than even ten years ago. For some though, it is just impossible. However, the more you can discuss this at the beginning the more likely you can keep open communications going and hopefully the family unit can stay intact.
6. What am I going to call you?
Not only have you got to get used to your transgender parent wanting to change their life, their looks, mannerisms and voice, you are probably going to have to get used to a new name and using the correct pronoun. With more people becoming gender neutral and gender fluid this may be a little easier. The role of our parent and their title within the family has a lot of weight attached to it. We don’t realise how important this is to us as children until it is challenged. Working out how your parent wants to be addressed as soon as possible gives you more chance of learning to use this new title or name. It is not going to feel easy, and you may not want to use this change of name but to keep a relationship going you will have to get used to it. The more you use and refer to your parent in their new identity the easier it will become.
7. When are you going to start dressing differently?
There is a three-part process to this question. A, when are you going to start crossdressing? (In private, they probably are already.) B, when am I going to see you for the first time dressed in your chosen gender? C, what will you look like?
Meeting your parent dressed as their chosen gender is going to make you nervous. You are not going to know how you feel about it. Not knowing how they will look is also going to worry you. You will both feel embarrassed and uncomfortable because they will be unsure about your reaction. They will be desperately trying to look convincing and at their best in their chosen gender. As an onlooker, there will be a lot of original mannerisms coming through, creating an uneasy balance within you that will not sit well with your ideal. However hard it is, the more you run away from it the longer it will take to get used to your transgender parent’s new identity. The further through the transition they go, with the help of their support network and hormonal treatment, they will begin to look more convincing in their new identity.
8. Are you going to have a full or partial transition?
This is a very personal question with a lot of conversation about private body parts which may make you both feel very uncomfortable. Your parent, even though embarrassed may be pleased that someone is talking to them about it and taking an interest. Waiting lists for consultations are slow and a lot of hoops have to be jumped through until any surgery is sanctioned. Many people will skirt around this subject matter but talking about time frames will give you an idea of how quickly processes will progress.
9. The family dynamics?
Again, not a question any child wants to ask their parents, but it will be there flitting around at the back of your mind like a blue bottle battling around the bedroom at night. I know it is nobody else’s business what’s going on in your parent’s bedroom, but you will be surprised how many people will ask you. If you have a better idea of what is happening between your parents, you will be in a stronger position to answer this question in a manner that suits you. Are they going to continue to share their personal life? Are they going to stay together, or will they live apart? Will they be moving into separate bedrooms? Will you still be able to turn up home and go out as a family unit like you always have done? What restrictions are there going to be? You may not feel comfortable about going out of the family home together but if you know where the boundaries lie in the family home that is a good starting point for all of you.
These questions are just a starting point. The more transparent and open you can keep the communication, the transition will flow more easily for all of you. Arrange a proper time to go through these questions. Don’t be frightened of the uncomfortable emotional communication that will spring up during these conversations such as anger, tears, silences, or, possibly storming out the room.
Going into these conversations with your list of questions and a good idea of what outcome you want will help you. If you have a long list of questions work out which are the most important ones to start with.
Trying to get answers to all of them in one meeting is going to be asking far too much from all of you, however, let your transgender parents know you have more for another time. At the end of the meeting, you will be emotionally drained.
Plan for quiet time or to do something entirely for yourself afterwards. Be warned, squeezing the meeting in before you go to work, collage or off to parents evening, for example, will not work.
If you do this, you will not be in the present, your mind will be processing everything you have been through recently and the day will not pan out well for you. Plan ahead, and keep an open mindset.
If you would like more help with planning your questions or managing the feedback from your meeting, don’t forget you are not alone.
Message me at: email@example.com
and we can arrange a meeting so I can support you.
To find out more about how I did or didn’t manage my thoughts and feelings read my book When Dad Became Joan: Life with my transgender father’. This can be ordered directly from my website here or from Amazon here