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Need Advice (trans issues)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Okay, let's see if I can make this long story shorter. My mother and I have had a difficult relationship for the past few years. I moved across the country to a town I felt was perfect for me and my daughter and my mom moved here a year later to be close to my daughter. They have a very close relationship, which is difficult b/c I don't enjoy being around my mother's negative energy.

She has had a hard time with my relationship b/c my partner of 2 years is trans. My mom came to our wedding, but she was a very strange presence. I can't really describe her personality other than the fact that she wishes she could make all of my decisions herself and she doesn't approve of any of the decisions I do make. She is very negative. About two years ago we were having such problems that I decided not to have her in our lives anymore and we didn't talk for about a month. This was very hard on my daughter, who is used to seeing her several times a week.

Our relationship got better for a while, but lately now that my partner and I are pregnant it's been worse again. My mom pretended to be happy for us, but really thinks we can't afford a baby, etc etc. and passes her opinions onto us.

My partner and I want to teach our daughter to be open-minded. She's 5. We have been talking to her a lot in preparation for big sibling-hood and about how babies are just babies, that they shouldn't be defined by "girl" or "boy" because sometimes boys are born with vaginas, etc. We want her not to grow up close-minded. This isn't the center of our discussions, but it is something we talk about because we're so tired of people asking "boy or girl?" etc like our body parts totally define who we are. We thought we were doing the right thing in talking to our daughter about this. BTW, our daughter has always accepted my partner as a male when others do not, b/c he is not on hormones nor has he had any operations.

Anyway, my mom wrote a really nasty email to us about how she thinks this is wrong to teach a child and that someday when our daughter finds out the "truth" she will never trust or speak to us again. I'm referring to the baby comment about people not being defined by their body parts. My mom thinks we should go along with everyone else and just play along even if it's not how we feel in order to protect my daughter. She went on about how people will tell my daughter she is stupid if she ever tells them things like what we've talked to her about. My mom even made a threat about how "CPS sure wouldn't like it".

It annoys me b/c she is so set in gender roles herself and often talks about how we want a girl (like it's hers too) because we wouldn't know what to do with a boy. And girls are more cuddly, etc...all these things she is teaching my daughter.

Every time we email her about our beliefs and how it's important for us to be honest rather than fit in with society just to fit in, she cuts me down. I've asked her to read trans books (she usually calls my husband a "she" and says she just can't remember to use male pronouns) but she says that she won't, that it's not about her not being educated, it's about the danger we're putting our daughter in.

I get so mad b/c my mom isn't willing to try and understand our side of things that I often wish to move away again or at least separate my chosen family from my negative mother. But this is so hard on my daughter. We've tried counseling etc but nothing seems to work as she's not trying to find a middle ground...she just thinks she's right. BTW, she's a liberal Democrat, not a small-town Republican Christian. You'd think she would be more open-minded.

I would like to know how others feel about what we've told our daughter. Is she too young to be educated? Did we go about it wrong? What should we do about my mother in general since she's not willing to compromise? Thank you.
post #2 of 12

i saw your post on the gqtg parenting list, and meant to respond there, but will do so here instead. this will be short & messy - baby on lap - but what you wrote really resonated. we've had very similar struggles over gender & trans stuff with my (liberal dem) mother.

i think that what you've told your 5yo is great. we've been thinking a lot about how to talk abt gender with ocean, and i think your approach is right on.

shoot, i have to go, but i'll come back later. i'm very interested in this conversation...
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Angela I hope to hear more from you soon. I'm glad that someone else feels like we do and that we're not nuts!

I forgot to add in this post, though I did mention it elsewhere, that my mother refuses to work on calling my husband "Dad" to my daughter. So now that my daughter only hears me saying "Dad" she has taken to calling us both by our first names--not something I really like! My partner wasn't in the picture when my daughter was born, but he is the only father she's ever known. I made sure to tell my mom that we'll be going by "Mom" and "Dad" with the baby, too, but she doesn't seem to respect that.
post #4 of 12
a quick reply... I have no experience with Trans people. In fact, if I were honest, I would have to say that it is the one part of LBGT that I don't "get". That said, I too hate gender role assumptions. I have a friend that has two girls and they are princess this and pink that. It is nauseating. And my friend is in criminal justice and wanted to be a cop for quite some time, so I'm not sure why she is so heck bent on leading her daughters in that direction.

I can maybe understand a more conservative person reacting negatively to a child being told that "some boys are born with vaginas". But I think it is wonderful to teach a child to that people with vaginas can be beauty queens or doctors or firemen and people born with penises can be rough and athletic AND loving, emotional and tender. Or any or none of the above. And certainly at some point, it has to be discussed in your family structure why your DP was born with a vagina yet feels that he is male.

But there is probably no winning with your mom and you just have to do what you feel is right for your family.

post #5 of 12
Hi Raene ... When I first read your post, I couldn't even imagining responding, simply because the topic is so enormous and complex, and because of my own experience clouding my perspective.

So, this is not objective. It is personal. So be it.

I think five years old is a great age to start talking about gender in real terms, such as "just because you're born with a ___, doesn't mean that you necessarily ARE a ___."

That said, I think it's also a great age to talk about how the majority of the world thinks.

Take homebirth for example. If you and your DP are planning a HB for this baby, and this is what your 5 yr old understands as "normal," she will be in the minority, and may get teased about it at school, or challenged about it for it being wierd or gross or strange. The same goes for being vegan, or a raw foodie, or wiccan, or gluten-free, or raised by two mamas, etc.

As your daughter gets older, she'll put her life into her own perspective, which will change as she develops mentally and socially. She'll have questions, and concerns ... she might have some shame, but we've all been there at some point in our lives, when we've been mortified by some family dynamic that we thought was ours alone.

My ex partner (who I was with for 8 years) fully transitioned legally from female to male (and we were legally married as man and woman) ... and five is about the time we started to explain things more specifically to our nieces and nephews.

My DP now identifies as genderqueer, and will be called "baba" by our child.
After years of careful thought and counselling, she has no intention to transition, but still passes as male about 95 percent of the time, and uses a 'male' name by choice.

Our child's peers will always wonder about DP until they get to know us. Our child will need to be equipped to handle the questions and insults and confusion that is likely inevitable. I think you are being proactive and wise by keeping the discussion going at an age-appropriate level.

As for your mother ... I am so sorry that she is being such a pain, and so hurtful to your little family. Would she consider going to a trans-friendly counsellor with you and DP? To set some non-negotiable boundaries, ones that carry consequences? Again, I go back to my little list of other things that are not mainstream ... if you were raising your child wiccan, say, and did not want Christmas as part of her childhood but Solstice instead ... she would have to comply, right? And if she didn't, you would be imposing reasonable consequences for her not respecting your parenting choices.

I had a therapist once who told me about border roses. When faced with people trying to get in and be bothersome, put up your border roses. Imagine yourself (and your family ...) surrounded by a thick gorgeous barrier of luscious, fragrant border roses. The outsiders can stand at your fence and smell in the glorious scent, and admire the beautiful border, but they cannot cross that fence easily. They would be assaulted with thorns. Keep them out, keep you in ... and everyone can still appreciate your border roses.

Sorry this is so long ... it is a subject very close to my heart. I could go on at book length.

Take care, hon.
You're doing the right thing.
post #6 of 12
Oh, I am SO sorry you are going through this with your mother. When it's family it is just so much harder!

I think that you are doing a great job teaching your daughter that bio sex is not what defines us, and I think your mom is missing the point.

Just trying to get inside your mom's head here, I wonder if she thinks that you're not acknowledging your daughter as a girl (at this point) by talking about gender as fluid and not marked by sex traits. That might make HER feel threatened in some roundabout way. Perhaps letting your daughter and her know that you know that folks usually think all people with vaginas are girls and all people with penises are boys but that you know this isn't so and we need to have an open mind about these things would help. I think it's just a tiny nuanced addition. As my 5yo son would say, it's talking to your daughter and mother "about all the stereotypes that people have, like just because you have a penis, you're a boy and do 'boy' things" (gotta love him!).

I'm hoping this makes sense.....I think I'm really trying to get at figuring out whether your mother thinks you're somehow ignoring gender or refuting that there is sometimes a sex/gender connection. Wrapping your head around that might help understand _a bit_ of where she's coming from. Maybe.

good luck!
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
As I was reading the responses tears welled up in my eyes (okay, okay I'm pregnant). I really appreciate the support.

I do think it's harder for my mom b/c my daughter is 110% "girl". She refuses to wear pants (always a dress), her wardrobe is ALL pink, she wants to be a princess, etc. It's who she is. I never pushed her...she was born this way. I guess it worries my mom that our next child might not fit so well into her/his gender role/expectations.

It's great to know there are others who understand. I wish I had queer parent friends to hang out with. As it is, I live in a very queer-friendly town but know of only one other gay couple with kids.

Anyway, the whole thing about my mom bringing up CPS has made my DP question all of his decisions not to go on T. He is even considering it now, just to possibly protect our family. I feel badly that he now feels a reason to do what others want him to do so that they will be less confused. But I admit it would make things so much easier.

I know that trans-people have very little understanding, even with the law. That's where I get concerned in general. Would CPS take a healthy, happy child away b/c they see that one parent is "unusual" and claims to be a gender that doesn't fit with what's on their license? I have so many questions but don't know where to look for answers.

Starling, I like your point. We ARE different in many ways from mainstream families. I was a raw vegan until pregnancy, and my family is gluten-free vegan (do you know us?? you totally got all this right, lol). Just being a queer couple in general makes us different. Attachment parenting makes us different. Homeschooling makes us different. Even if we weren't so extremely different, kids can be cruel and always find *something* that's different. It's not something you can really protect yourself/your kids from; you just have to teach them your values and to be accepting of others too.

What do you all think I should do about my mom...keep having my daughter around her? Maybe only around when either me or my partner is there, too? Or slowly take ourselves out of that negativity?
post #8 of 12
Raene ... it breaks my heart to hear that your DP is considering changing his T plans based on your mother's interference and mention of CPS.
It is certainly more 'radical' to occupy the space of the "third" gender. You know this already, I'm sure. But if your DP doesn't want to 'comply' with the binary system, why should he? If he wants to go lo-ho (low hormones) or no-ho (no hormones) or have only top surgery, or only bottom surgery, or no surgery at all, then it is no business of anyone but himself.

My DP has struggled with this for her whole life.
She's at a place where she gets called "he" all the time (we use male pronouns at home mostly, along with most everyone in the world at large, even if it's by 'accident' ...) but is fine with being called "she" at work. She's fine with wanting top surgery and a hysterectomy, but even more fine with never seeking or even wanting bottom surgery. She's decided she doesn't want to be called "mom" or "mommy" because it doesn't suite her, so we're going with "baba."

The gender spectrum is vast ... please don't let your mother's narrow view dictate your partner's definition of himself.

As for your mother, I would try the counselling (you might have to travel to a major city centre to find a trans support program who could give you a referral), or a trans-friendly mediator at least, and if she still will not respect your family's wishes, I would limit contact with her in order to preserve the self-respect and integrity of your beautiful little family.

And I hear you about wishing you had more queer parents around ... we also live in a liberal small town where there is only one other couple (lesbian, not queer) who is also parenting.
post #9 of 12
Originally Posted by Raene View Post
BTW, she's a liberal Democrat, not a small-town Republican Christian.
Hey, what's that supposed to mean?!? I happen to be one of the biggest "Bible Thumpers" you will ever meet!. Alright I'll stop messin with you and answer your question now...

I personally think this relationships is toxic between you three. Your daughter is starting to become old enough to "understand" your conversations. Would you want hear what your mother thinks about your family? I don't think so. While it is true that her attitude may change I don't see her working towards that goal and I don't believe it will happen anytime soon. Keep the visitations on a limited basis and when your daughter asks about her grandmother tell her "The reason why we don't see grandmother as often is because she doesn't agree with Mommy and Daddy's lifestyle".
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Between everyone's kind comments and also talking with my daughter's preschool teacher (who is gay, btw), I feel a lot better about everything.
My mom loves to pull the "I'm a psych nurse, and..." card and she clearly is living in the past when this was an "illness". I can't expect her to change, so we're going to move on.
post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by Raene View Post
Between everyone's kind comments and also talking with my daughter's preschool teacher (who is gay, btw), I feel a lot better about everything.
My mom loves to pull the "I'm a psych nurse, and..." card and she clearly is living in the past when this was an "illness". I can't expect her to change, so we're going to move on.
Do we have the same mother?? Mine often uses the, "Well, I'm a therapist, and..." line.

One of the things that became clear to us in my mother's struggles with my DP was that, although she claimed she was upset about his interpretations of masculinity, and the ways in which we approach gender with Ocean, what she was ACTUALLY upset about was her sense that she had been displaced from our lives. When I decided to get pregnant, it was as a single parent, and I think that my mother imagined herself playing a very central role in raising my kid. When my DP and I started dating, she clearly felt pushed out, and had a lot of trouble re-envisioning my life with a partner. I wonder if your mom is having similar issues? I think that S&D's suggestion about family counseling is great- having an "objective professional" help her understand what an appropriate role might look like could help, maybe?

More thoughts on trans stuff, but once again, must go tend to my darling child...
post #12 of 12
I was just lurking here and had to post b/c your post touched my heart. I don't really have much advice but I just wanted to say that the love you and your DP obviously have for daughter and your little one on the way is so strong that I'm sure if you listen to your hearts you will make the right decision. It's too bad that your mom isn't more open minded but your children will certainly be more influenced by your loving guidance...I think it's ok for you to even explain to your daughter that not everybody (her grandma included) understands things the way your family does...tell her how lucky she is that she has two parents who love her and that whether the baby has a penis or a vagina is of very little consequence because the baby is a special person and a part of your family. The world would be a better place if there were more mamas like you! As a straight mama I am working hard to ensure that my DS doesn't grow up with traditional gender notions either...I was so proud the other day when his preschool teacher said one of his favorite things to do is play with the baby dolls at school...my reply was "oh he's a very nurturing little soul isn't he."

Good Luck with your mom...and try to remember she's probably where she needs to be in this life and likewise you and your family are where you need to be...perhaps as your daughter grows she will be able to help your mom see the light.

Hugs to you!!!!
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