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On being supportive...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I came home from work last night to my oldest's FB status where they came out as gender/queer and trans. Okay. They'd come out on the g/q part to me a couple of years ago, and it hasn't changed how I feel or love my child. I do realize that this could be a tough row to hoe, but I'm supportive.


Where I do have a problem is with the strident way in which they is (are?) insisting that they will not accept any male-identifying vocabulary directed in their direction (yes, A  was quite specific on no he/him - it must be they/them). I did - gently - comment that there needs to be some understanding that this calls for a period of adjustment for some people. Using the wrong pronoun does not always mean disrespect. In some cases, it will simply take a little time. My parents have always been supportive, but being realistic - they are in their 80s. Even with the best of intentions, they are likely to slip and call him by his given name or use grandson. Am I wrong to ask that there be a bit of understanding wrt their age and mental slips?


Even for myself, it's not a switch I can simply flip and never make a mistake. I have no doubt that there will be a time when I mistakenly say my son, or he, or him... After 21 years - it's an adjustment.


Any input - on any part of this situation - would be appreciated. Thx.

post #2 of 19

I think a conversation in person or on the phone would be better than having it on Facebook.  I agree that it does take time to change your way of thinking and how you address someone.  After 21 years, it will take time to make the switch.  Older folks do tend to have a harder time, so I hope your child can be sensitive to this.  Making an effort to use the correct pronouns and a new name, if necessary, will show that you are supportive.  It's often the behavior that is more important than simply saying you are supportive.  Your child may also need time to adjust.  Right now, they are saying absolutely do not address me this way.  With time, their stance may soften a bit as they see that people slip up unintentionally but still fully love and support them.  It will be easier when they meet new people, but with folks they have known for a long time, it will be more difficult.  It takes time and work to establish a new identity.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Just like coming out is a process not a single event.  It's ongoing. 

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks, pokey. I agree that a real conversation is preferable to one on FB, and I have asked if we could chat. We talked about this quite a while ago and my position is well known to A - my kid, regardless. Doesn't change my love or feelings one bit.


I also agree that coming out was a tough thing for him - it was hard enough for him to tell me. And I'm happy that he's finally been able to be honest about who he is. I know that my daughter is peeved - mostly because she was blind-sided - but we will be having a talk when she comes home. I think with a little time, and spending some time with A this w/e will ease that a fair bit. My brother... well... we'll just leave that one alone. I think my parents will be accepting, but still need time to adjust. My ex... well... that is the million dollar question. I suspect that will not go well, and will leave it up to A to decide when to come out to Dad.


Anyway - thanks for the input. I welcome any other comments.

post #4 of 19

Mtiger - Pokey has a lot of wisdom as usual. I second what she said, especially the part about how it's important to show support through behavior and not just saying you're supportive. One other thing that comes to mind -- and Pokey, I'm curious what you would say about this -- is that it's going to be difficult for your child to get people, especially casual acquaintances, to use a plural pronoun for a singular person. Over time, it's going to be extremely tiring for your child to explain that to everyone they meet. It will be harder than just switching pronouns from masculine to feminine. But that's what happens when you are pioneering a new way of thinking -- the words to describe your thinking don't even exist yet. However ---- it would be very hard to say any of that to your child without coming off as unsupportive.

post #5 of 19

I agree with outdoorsy.  Our brains like to think of things in binary opposition--male/female, black/white.  It's difficult to get our brains to work in a new way.  Having to educate and explain people constantly could get tedious, but I suppose if you are really passionate about it, it would be worth it.  Most people pronounce my name incorrectly, I used to correct them, but eventually I gave up.  As long as it's the right name, it's ok.  This is just an example.  Certainly, gender is a whole different thing from your name.  If people got my gender wrong constantly, I'm sure that would bother me more.  It's good that you are your family are willing to put in the effort and be supportive.  It will pay off in the long run.

post #6 of 19

I agree with the others, most important thing is that you show support and say that you will try your best to respect their wishes but that you will honestly probably mess up sometimes and what you would ask them in return is that they give you the benefit of the doubt that it is not coming from a place of judgement or disrespect but from a learning curve.  I think it is okay to ask for this.  Say, you don't mind them bringing your attention to it but to know that it takes time.  As for your parents, you can't really control anyone else's reaction which is hard, I am sure you want to protect both your parents and child from hurt feelings but aside from trying to have that same conversation, it may just not be something you can control. 


One thing I can say is that to have patience for yourself and your child.  When I first came out, I must admit I was indignant often, people using the term "girl" infuriated me, when my parents questioned me about my sexuality I was angry, hurt,and pulled away, even though they were just trying to understand bc apparently I was not as clear as I thought when coming out.  All this to say, is that is so long ago and I have mellowed, they have mellowed and we are all really close.  I am married to a trans man (born female) and they also had to adjust to that.  So if your child pulls away, gets angry, feels threatened, try to allow yourselves all space to go through things and not assume they need to be fixed in that instant.  As long as you stay open, things will most likely turn out fine in the long run.   You might want to find a parent support group too, if that is something helpful to you.  I am not assuming this but for a lot of my trans friends, I think their parents needed to process the whole thing and bc they had no one else tried to process it with their kids and that was generally a bad idea bc it put this stress, burden back on the kid.  I know that this is not everyone's experience and you know your child more than anyone else, just a thought out there.  


Good luck! 

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks, all.I did have a nice long convo with A this evening, Yep, I screwed up at least once, Corrected myself pretty quickly, apologized, etc. Which lead to a convo about others who may need more time. A knows that I am his biggest fan. Always. And if it is going to take ME some time to adjust my thinking/vocab/etc.? Then others may need even more time - but not to assume that they are intolerant.

I can't say that it is a surprise to me. I don't understand how it would be a surprise to anyone who knows A. My daughter was a bit put out - they are pretty tight, and she was hurt that she found out via FB .I did talk to both of them.  Maybe I shouldn't be a mediator, but I felt that A should know how hurt C was.I also made sure that C knew how hard it was for A to tell ANYONE, let alone those who mean the most to him. They plan to kick some time together this w/e. They're tight, and I think they will work it out.


I do think my parents will accept it. Not that it will be easy, but they love him almost as much as I do. My brother?. Can do whatever. I don;t care. I don;t think A does, either.


the million dollar question is A's Dad. I do not expect that to go well.


Again - thank you all... it makes it easier to process with some support. We'll be okay.

post #8 of 19
The first step to getting used to the new pronouns is to use the correct ones when talking to others. You have repeatedly used male pronouns on this forum, even when you previously stated your child prefers gender neutral pronouns. So probably start by practicing respecting that decision.

When I came out, I had been thinking about it for years, probably my whole life. So by the time I was ready to do something about it, it couldn't happen fast enough. I wanted my new life right this second. It didn't help that I was 19 and already prone to self-absorption. I now realize that while I had taken years to get used to it, I was expecting my family to get used to it immediately. That wasn't fair. So cut yourself some slack if you are trying your best, but do understand where your child is coming from. Each of your listening to and understanding the other is key.

My family still messes up names and pronouns sometimes. It is bizarre to me that they can used female pronouns while looking at a clearly male person, but it is difficult to retrain the brain. To them, their child, cousin, whatever is female, and it takes real practice to make that switch in your head. I try to be kind to my family, and they always correct right away and don't make a big deal. I would take that approach, just keep telling your child that you are trying and will keep trying. Never excuse mistakes, but don't dwell on them either.

I have friends who use gender neutral pronouns, and yes, it is very difficult to always tell people, especially when most people just want to make an assumption and go with it. Be supportive but realistic. Your child will have to decide what is important to them, making it a thing to tell every person they come across, or occasionally being mispronouned.

Best of luck.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

Yes, I am aware that I used male pronouns - mostly because I was focusing on the rest of the story, as it were. I did talk to A last night, and did pretty well wrt the pronouns. As well as via email.


I think your explanation of wanting to get your new life going NOW makes a lot of sense. And it is quite understandable. A was understanding - they are pretty much looking for friends/family to make the effort. They realize that people will have some trouble making the switch - and it really DOES take a lot of thought to change language that one has used for a lifetime. But we will get there.


Thanks for the input. I really do appreciate it.

post #10 of 19
I'm not going to write alot, because I'm on my phone and others have said most of it, but I will offer this. As the partner of a trans person, particularly in the early stages of his coming out and transition, I found that the greatest piece of advocacy/ally work I could do for my DP was to consistently and publicly use the pronouns and name he wanted, even when neither was necessarily intuitive. My DP identified as genderqueer for a long time before transitioning, and wanted people to use male pronouns even though many people still assumed that he "looked female." Because we rarely use pronouns when talking about ourselves, I ended up being the one who would "he" him in front of others. Honestly, it wasn't always comfortable- I sometimes felt self-conscious, and resentful that my DP was putting me in what felt like an awkward situation. I missed the ease of life that I had before, and part of me felt like, "why can't you just be okay with being really butch and stop confusing everyone?" I can imagine, as a parent, that perhaps you are feeling similar awkwardness and frustration.

However, I sucked it up, dealt with my own discomfort (and got support for myself along the way), and in the end wound up with a partner who is a million times happier and more himself, and a relationship that is much stronger. My DP's parents never did that work; neither did his siblings. This still hurts him, and keeps them from being close. You have an opportunity here to be your child's biggest advocate and ally. Get the support that YOU need to deal with your feelings (PFLAG often runs groups for trans families, and they have some great publications too), and don't ask your child to bear the burden of your conflicted emotions. They've got enough going on already. As someone said earlier, it's not enough to tell your child that you support them. In this case, you've got to walk the walk. But I promise you it's so, so worth it.

Good luck.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Aaack... my post got eaten.


I have always known my A marched to a different drummer, and suspected more than A may realize. It has never been a big deal for me. Yes, it makes conversation more difficult as more thought is required. I can edit posts - not so much spoken words. But I'm getting there. We've had some good talks on the phone the past few days. They know I am one of (if not the) tThey know that I;m workiheir biggest fans. It's just a matter of getting used to new terminology. After 21 years, it can be tough. They know I am working on it, and is good with that, and understanding that I may screw up at times. The effort is appreciated. We will be good. Me and A. A and #2. At the end of the day? The three of us are all that matter. I am 99% sure that my parents will be okay if perplexed. But they love A almost as much as I do. My brother and A's Dad? Don't care what they think.


I think I am on the right track. Having the feedback has helped a lot - because this is new territory and it helps to have a touchpoint. Thank you!

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

Just an update, if anyone's interested... We all survived the holidays, more or less intact. My brother was, as expected, a dick. A wasn't home for TDay, but after a very uncomfortable set of family meals at Christmas, the three of us opted out of some other family gatherings (New Years and our Christmas) so as to avoid further interaction with him. That was kind of rough on all three of us, as my parents are elderly and who knows how many more holidays we'll have with them. But, at the end of the day, I will protect my kids if they will not stand up to their son and his comments.


A brought their partner home for our Christmas. I'm not quite sure what I think of them yet, as the relationship is new and there are some quirks that raised my eyebrows, but if that is who A is with? What my eyebrows do doesn't matter. Their happiness and comfort with themselves does. We had a pleasant holiday w/good food, good conversation, lots of laughs. My daughter met them down in the city before going back to school for a day of thrifting. Apparently, it was a good day for all three of them, although she told me that they painted a very interesting picture. A and M are more alternative in their "look", while she is more mainstream. Said they got some funny looks, which amused her. Long story short, my kids are good with who they each are. Makes a parent's heart glad.


A has recently run into some issues at school with a particular professor who is not as... accepting. They were apparently quite taken aback, but didn't want to rock the boat. However, their mentor found out what was going on and stepped right in.


I expect that we will still have our rocky situations - what parent/child doesn't - but, for now.... We are good. Thanks again for the input/feedback.

post #13 of 19

Really glad to hear this, and glad to hear that A has an advocate at school as well. If their school has an LGBT Center or the equivalent, that might be another good source of support. Also, many colleges these days have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity and expression (or are located in states/municipalities that do). This is good information to know, in case problems with this professor continue.


Good luck navigating it all. A is lucky to have a great parent, and it sounds like you're lucky to have some great kids.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Actually, their adviser contacted both the head of the department and the dean of the College - both of whom made it very clear to the problem prof that his comments/behavior were out of line and putting him and the college at risk of a discrimination suit. A has a lot of good support.

post #15 of 19
Hi! Glad to read that things are going well! Hopefully your concerns about A's partner aren't major ones--it sounds like his sister getting along with them is a good sign, for sure! And glad for the supportive school environment, other than that one teacher. Sorry your brother is still a jerk, but it sounds like you can get away with not seeing him much. I hope things continue to go well for you!
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

No, nothing major. They're just somewhat immature. #2 said that they had a lot of meds laying around when she got to their place (they don't live together, it was a more convenient place for her to get to/park). But they seem to get on well, so time will tell how it goes. THere was some talk of moving in together (A's housing situation is in flux), but A has told me that they are not sure whether they are ready for the emotional commitment that should require. I'm glad they're not jumping into something that is easier to get into than out of, on all levels.

School is a great environment for A, both in terms of faculty and social groups. They made a good choice when they decided to go there.


Bro? Well... It is what it is. Our next family gathering will be here. So we can't exactly walk out (my daughter and I did that recently). LOL But it will be made clear that I will not put up with some behavior. And then my parents can choose to stay or go with him.

post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to give a bit of an update. The one particular professor has continued digging a hole for himself, to the point that A plans to file a complaint with the University. They've just been waiting for his concerts to go by, so as not to create any more drama. I missed the one on Wednesday, but was at last night's. 


I have never been more proud of my kiddo. They were so poised, so confident, so proud. It brought tears to my eye watching, and more when I heard the comments from the audience. It gave me the confidence to approach the professor in question, very politely. We had quite a pleasant chat, although he visibly blanched when I told him at the end of the conversation who I was. 


Got to spend some more time with A's partner, and they're growing on me. They'll both be home this w/e, and I am really looking forward to it, #2 will also be home. 


I read/hear so many stories of parents who cannot accept their kids for who they are, and it makes me sad. I can't imagine not being able to embrace either of my children for who they are. No matter who that is. It's sad for both sides, I think. But at the end of the day, you can't change those who don't want to change, who don't want to look beyond their little box. It is their loss more than it is yours... 


Make it a great day. :)

post #18 of 19

Really glad to read this update!

post #19 of 19
Glad to hear that things are going well! My DP emailed her mom a few days ago and mentioned the very difficult weekend about 6 years ago where she came out to her mom. Mom wrote back last night and said that it was the hardest weekend of her life, and then thanked DP for being patient and open and loving since then, while she (mom) became a better person. It made us both cry. Your hard work in becoming the person you want to be is deeply appreciated, even if it isn't always apparent.
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