Honor the Transition: The Importance of Loving, Honoring and Supporting Your Tansgender Loved One
There is a message in *Coming Out*
My 27 year old son, Nash, has been openly transgender for about four years now. By openly, I mean that he has taken enormously brave steps to inform everyone that he is living as the man he is and wishes to be treated as such.
A few years ago he participated in a local special feature interview called, Trans* in Montana, highlighting the unique challenges and issues affecting transgender individuals. Nash revealed painfully personal details about the challenges he faced coming into himself as well as the importance of family support. *Coming Out* in this way (or any way), is an incredibly courageous and momentous achievement on the path to transitioning. In my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest moments of truth and a fearless leap of faith.
The message it sends is, “this is who I am, I love and honor myself enough to share myself with you and hope that you will do the same”.
He proudly shared this interview with everyone he knew.
Despite Nash's local yet largely public disclosure, the heart of his message, sadly, was lost on some.
A person is never more vulnerable than when exposing the most sacred parts of themselves to you. When a loved one chooses to come out to you as transgender, know that you have been given a gift-one that might have taken many agonizing years of soul searching before being offered to you. You have been given an opportunity to know, love and honor them for who they are.
Despite how you might feel in the moment, it's the perfect opportunity for you to embrace them with love.
You will never get that moment back.
Respecting the Battle for Identity
I don’t believe that someone wakes up one morning thinking, “this seem like a good day to turn my world upside down, offend Christians, confuse my family, lose friends and risk losing my job”.
From the perspective of a mother who witnessed the trauma, heartbreak, and devastation of a child fighting to come into himself, I can attest to the fact that it is indeed, a battle.
When Nash was about 15 years old, he came to me terribly distraught and emotionally broken. Although I was aware he was facing many challenges, I learned that he had been battling something of which I knew little about. That something was his disconnection with the physical female body he was born with. Nash's pain and struggle coming to terms with this revelation was beyond anything I could comprehend but the maze of self -inflicted wounds on his body reflected an agonizing journey, one that had just barely began. Despite my own lack of understanding of what *transgender* meant, I was dedicated to loving and supporting Nash the best way I knew how.
I can only speak from my own experience when I insist how CRUCIAL it is to lovingly embrace them when they come to YOU in this moment.
That moment is seared into my memory forever because it was one of the few times I have felt the absolute, pure, tangible agony of another human being and I never want to see it again. It will make you walk through fire for them to be free of it.
These are moments that the world doesn’t get to see. And there are more just like it that are experienced in deep isolation where no one else can enter. The rest of the world gets to see a more composed version, the *public version*, so to speak. They haven’t a clue what it might have required to get there.
Being real hurts, don't make it worse.
I will never understand or agree with those who insist that *being* transgender is a choice. Really? To them I ask, would you choose to walk a path through the lion’s den every day? Would you really choose to put yourself through endless heartache and pain, subjecting yourself to the worlds demeaning judgements and discrimination if you had a choice in who you are?
I think not.
Of all the things you could possibly be, why would you choose one of the select few that can cost you, among other things, your family, job, the place you live, and might even get you killed?
Wouldn't you choose an easier, safer path if you could?
Being real hurts though.
But it’s worth it.
Consider everything you, yourself, live for.
What makes you real?
What gives you the greatest hope, inspires your biggest dreams, makes your life worth living?
You believe in yourself and who you are.
Now imagine being told you are not who you are and because you insist on being something you aren’t *meant* to be, you are no longer entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else.
Don’t be the person who jumps on that bandwagon, you might fall off and get run over.
Family Betrayal; it's the worst kind
In an ideal world, family and friends will always be the most supportive, compassionate and loving people in our lives. But as disappointing as it is, a transgender person’s family can be where betrayal is felt the most. Someone comes out as transgender and suddenly people are compelled to label *it* an illness, an act of rebellion (phase), or a *sin*. Some might believe it’s a negative reflection of who they are as parents and cower in self-imposed humiliation. Others scramble to the top of their fragile soap boxes and start preaching their ignorance, lecturing on God’s behalf. Sometimes everything is just swept under the rug and ignored.
This is, in one word, DAMAGING.
If you are one of these family members and truly value your transgender loved one, please pause, educate yourself and seek guidance before you do some serious spirit crushing and risk jeopardizing a very special relationship.
A little soul searching on your own behalf won’t hurt either.
It’s understandable how family and friends might not know the best way to react or even know how to be supportive because of their limited (or non-existent) understanding of what it means to be transgender. Even those of us who are more familiar make mistakes. My suggestions are based soley on my own experiences, observations, self-education and enlightenment from others. I’ve discovered that I can always learn more by asking questions, researching, being involved and listening. And there is really no excuse for ignorance because everything you need to know is at your fingertips.
Betrayal happens when you know damn well what your transgender loved one needs to feel supported and you intentionally disregard their needs.
They may request that you refer to them with a specific pronoun and their new name. This may take some time getting used to but by making the effort you are honoring their identity. If you only do this when they’re around and not all the time when speaking OF them, you are diminishing the significance of their identity and teaching others it’s okay to do the same.
It is not okay.
I had to learn this myself.
It was easier to use the correct pronoun and name when around Nash and even mostly everyone else, but I found myself reverting to old habits on occasions I would talk to my parents because it made conversations more comfortable-for them. I did not feel good about this at all and stopped trying to pacify others for their comfort. Now I make sure to use the correct pronouns all the time, even if it’s excessive, just so others get the message.
The Bottom Line
My message to others who may experiencing similar situations is to stand by your loved ones. Stand by your children regardless of how old they are! They need your support. Speak up for them and proudly acknowledge who they are. Just because they're adults doesn't mean it hurts any less. And be consistent! You can't consider yourself supportive when you revert back to using old pronouns and birth names just to make other people comfortable and reaffirm ignorance. That's cowardly.
My message to non-supportive family members of transgender loved ones is to educate yourself before thoughtlessly acting out of self-righteousness or ignorance, and especially in the name of religion. You can cause so much emotional and spiritual damage! Not everyone believes in a terrifying god! Really THINK about how your actions will affect not only your transgender family member, but ALL family members. It hurts and angers a mother to see her child suffer at your lack of sensitivity. It hurts to the degree of detachment from you. My child is far more important to me than you are.
The bottom line is that if you really love your transgender family member, you will show them in how you treat them..