Your parents’ end of life creates a mass of difficult thoughts and feelings in the simplest of relationships. Add into the mix the complexities of gender identity and reassignment will make those thoughts and feelings even more complicated.
I have recently cremated my trans Mum, Joan, and can honestly put my hand on my heart and say I did the best that I could do. I was able to stand in front of all our family and friends for her eulogy knowing I was speaking the truth about her life before and after transition and what she meant to me. I can now say I do not have any regrets about how I handled my Dad’s transition to Joan. This didn’t come easy at the start but eventually, after a lot of soul searching, I learnt how to manage those difficult thoughts and feelings along the way.
To be able to discuss this we need to go back to the beginning.
Finding Out Your Parent Wants to Transition
When your parent tells you that they are going to transition it may be a total shock with no warning signs. It was for me, and I am ashamed to say I laughed. Not because it was funny, but it took me totally by surprise, there were no warning signs, and as we know, laughter is a symptom of shock.
The warning signs you are given will be down to very personal circumstances.
Some parents will be experts at deception but the point is, you now know and how are you going to progress from here? You will most probably have a vast entanglement of thoughts and feelings:
You may not know how you’re feeling because you will need time to process the information and be prepared for your feelings to swing one way and then the other. Let’s face it, this will be a game change for you and your family.
A lot will also depend on how other members of your family react. You may find that you want to be supportive but at the same time you don’t.
These mixed emotions will create a lot of self-doubt about your relationship with this parent. You may query the reality and sincerity of their life so far and how it will play out from now on.
All these thoughts and feelings are natural but at the same time, you will need to start getting a hold of them, understand them, work through them and come out the other side learning more about yourself so that you can continue to be the daughter or son you want to be.
Time to Step Back
In situations like this you need to give yourself time. Time to reflect and understand yourself by asking yourself some searching questions. You may not discover these answers right away, but they will come to you. Be prepared though, you may not like what you discover from these questions.
You may feel embarrassed and upset by them.
It is important to remember that these are the honest answers and unfortunately, sometimes honesty hurts. With time, however, you can learn to understand them, accept them and look for alternative thoughts and feelings.
This process can be really painful at times and you will feel like giving up because it is easier. Nobody said life was always going to be easy; you have to continue to move through the process otherwise you may never be true to yourself and will live a life of regret. Afterall your parent is being true to themselves after many years of soul searching and you need to do the same.
You need to work out how you want to be feeling to this adjustment in this relationship, long term. What you are feeling today doesn’t necessarily mean you want or need to feel these further along the road in your relationship.
Start At The End
Thinking about death or end of life is not something I like to spend a lot of time pondering on but at times it will help you to find focus and this is the perfect time. Think about your parents end of life. You are standing in front of a room full of family and friends to talk about your parent’s life and what they meant to you.
What do you want to be saying and feeling?
Do you want to be feeling regret about your feelings and behavior?
Do you want to be able to hold your head up high and be celebrating the success of their life?
All relationships whether it is with family, friends or work colleagues have their ups and downs. We can’t always agree on what others think, feel and do. We have no control over others, but we do have control over ourselves.
Even though you may not agree with your parent’s decision and struggle to understand it, if you want them in your life you have to find a way of unravelling the massive entanglement of thoughts and feelings. The sooner you work all this out the more quality time you will have to develop and strengthen this slightly new relationship you have with your parent.
When you do have times of doubt and negative feelings you will be in a stronger position to tweak your thoughts and feelings and get back on track to where you want to be heading.
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 here or from Amazon.