The holiday season is upon us. A time of year with so much going on. For the Trans and Non-binary community it can also be a time of great stress. Family gatherings, holiday shopping, financial stress and more. Are you preparing yourselves to weather any of these experiences? It can also be a time of joy. I am hoping that the latter is true for all of us.
Coming out to family. I have heard some real horror stories about the holidays with a family who was not accepting, not supportive and not understanding. As we travel through our own journeys, we need to be prepared to handle these situations as they arise.
Something I never recommend is coming out to family during the holidays. It could be great and everyone is happy and supportive of you, and that would be awesome. It could also go the other direction and turn into a disaster. For example, sitting at the dinner table and the scenario goes something like this: You have been having a fairly nice day with the family. Everyone around the table is talking about their lives and family milestones. You are dying to get it out and just tell them, so you say something like, “please pass the potatoes… oh by the way I am Trans”. The entire room becomes silent, the potato passer drops the bowl, your parents and siblings and everyone else looks at you like you suddenly have two heads. Whoa this is uncomfortable. You are asked to repeat what you said and now you are probably shaking and scared. You say it again and you can see the comprehension of your statement slowly sinking into their brains. Plus, you didn’t get the potatoes you wanted. Now the questions begin, parents are upset, siblings angry, and grandparents are dumbfounded. This is not a good way to come out nor a good way to enjoy your holiday dinner. You don’t want this to be your holiday legacy.
Whether you decide to come out during the holidays or some other time of year you need to be prepared for any reactions your family might have. Of course, we always hope for the best that they will all be wonderful and positive about it. That does happen quite a bit, but sometimes things go south quickly. You always need to be ready for that.
If you are planning to do it in person, then figure it out ahead of time. What are you going to say and how are you going to say it? Some folks write a letter and let the family read it while you are there. Or you read it to them. Some write a little speech ahead of time and follow that. Or maybe you just want to say it out loud and then discuss. Do you want the entire family present? Is it maybe just your parents? Perhaps tell a supportive sibling who can be there with you. Maybe you could bring some type of literature for them to read afterwards, a book or an article you print out.
So now the deed is done; if they are kind and loving towards you, congratulations, you did it. If they are not happy about it, you need to figure out before you go what your plan of action will be. Some folks want to tough it out and try to get them to understand and this may or may not be successful. If you live with your parents be prepared to live with possible hostility towards you. It is always an important strategy to have a lifeline. Have a friend or mentor on stand-by. Maybe they are outside waiting for you. Maybe they are just a phone call away. Is there a support meeting you can go to that night? You need to plan to keep yourself safe, mentally and physically. Have a crisis line number handy.
Other ways to come out is to send a letter or email fully explaining who you are and what it means to you. Speaking from the heart is always the best way to talk to family. Try not to be angry about the past and don’t put blame on anyone. The more positive you are about your wonderful news, can certainly have an effect on those you tell. Often the waiting for a reply can be torture, so be prepared to wait.
I have heard of some folks creating a video and others find a video to send with their email. It’s never a bad idea to be creative here.
Now that you have told them, decide who else you want to tell, and again choose wisely how you will tell them. Often grandparents can be the most accepting or maybe a favorite aunt or uncle. If you are very close to them, they might be a good choice to tell next. Remember it is your right to tell who you want, when you want, and ask your family to respect that.
If your family is not accepting, please remember that it doesn’t mean they won’t come around down the road. I always tell my Trans and Non-binary folks to never slam that door completely shut. I have seen family come around many times. It might take a few months or a few years, so don’t give up on it.
Remember that this is your life and you have every right to live it as authentically as you choose. It is your right to be happy and healthy. It is your right to not live your life just to please others.
When I first transitioned it was very difficult for my young adult children. We had just gone through a divorce, and they were still angry about that. I wrote them a letter as they were 3000 miles away from me. I waited for 6 weeks to hear back but never did. I finally did it over the phone and they were not accepting, and they didn’t understand. Over time I just kept in touch with them over the phone, I visited once a year. They all got married and with each passing year they slowly began to understand, they did their own research and discussed it together. It took about 5 years before things started to get better. I do not know exactly what changed their hearts and minds, and I don’t need to know. I was blessed with 3 amazing young ladies who didn’t shut me out completely, who made their decisions in their own time and space. I did whatever I could to make it easier for them, but I did what I needed to do to make myself happy and whole. I did not disrespect myself or my needs. I was firm about who I was and asked for respect back, which I got.
Now I have the most amazing relationship with them and the 8 grandchildren they gave me. They made the decision to tell the kids about me, in simple child explanations. All of my grandchildren know and defend me to anyone who dares disrespect me. So, you see, it is possible and very likely that this will be your future as too, well maybe not 8 grandkids. So be positive, DO YOU, and no matter what, you will always have community around you for love and support.
I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. May it be shared with loved ones and family and chosen family. May you all feel the love of the season.
Crisis line information:
- Call 911 or the San Diego Crisis and Access line at 1-800-479-3339
- Trans Life Line 1-877-565-8860
- Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386