Our transgender child is "out"; how to deal with extended family? - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-05-2010, 05:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My partner Sonja and I have a MtF transgender child, Serafina. She recently asked us to come out for her to our extended family by sending them home with letters after Ostara/Easter dinner last night. It was basically about how we are welcoming this change and how the family can be respectful and loving of this as we are. Then it provides resources/materials.

Sister #1 left early with her letter, read it as soon as she got home, and called Sister #2 who hadn't even reached the party yet (due to shift work) to freak out. So Sis #2 arrives at the party and the sh*t starts flying. They are all pretty homophobic to begin with, and have patronised my partner before about her parenting, and now they are accusing us of making our daughter trans through manipulation and exposing her to a "queer lifestyle". The only one who is supportive is Sister #3 who lives with us.

We have asked my extended family that they respect Serafina's transition and to call her by her chosen name and pronouns, or they will not be able to spend time with her. This is because when she was closeted to my family, when she knew she was about to spend time with them, she acted frantically, and afterwards had huge attitude problems and misbehaved a great deal. We figure this is probably from the stress of having to pretend to be someone she is not which is why we made this parenting decision about whom she should spend her time with. The book "The Transgender Child" suggested this approach.

My family is telling me that we should be respectful of them as grandparents/aunts/etc by allowing them to spend time with her and address her as male and by her former name.

What do you all think? What should we do??! We're losing sleep over this. We only want to do what's best for our child.

I'm a queer, poly, pagan, (dis)abled, crazy, crunchy, intersectionally-minded feminist. fsonj & I are mamas to our unschooled/freeschooled 12yo & 3yo!  (Ask me about co-breastfeeding, supplementing at the breast, inducing lactation, eating placentas, undisturbed birth, and parenting a genderqueer child with Aspergers!)
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Old 04-05-2010, 05:46 PM
 
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Wow, I'm so thrilled that you're supporting your kiddo in this.

Stick to your guns now. I think it's a really important issue - my family still doesn't stick to my preferred name/pronouns, even 12 or so years post-The Big Announcement. My mother in particular actually tries to talk me out of being trans on a regular basis. Stick with your kid.

Also, be prepared that your kid might change her mind. At seven, or at any age, this could be a phase.

It may be important to voice that to your family, if they say that it must be a phase, acknowledging that it could be but that you want their support in allowing her to explore this fully.

Ultimately, it sounds like this is going to be an uphill battle all the way. That's unfortunate, I'm glad you have at least one ally in your sister.

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Old 04-05-2010, 05:52 PM
 
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Wow, first of all, congrats on your BFP to Sonja!

Second, congrats to Serafina on having the courage to be who she is!

Third...ugh. Family. I have no experience with this--most of my family is cautiously supportive (they're very conservative, but generally are fine with us), and we are not yet pregnant. In terms of their argument that you need to respect them as grandparents/aunts/etc...if they cannot respect your daughter for who she is (even if they believe it's a phase), and they cannot respect YOUR parenting decisions, then they do not deserve respect in return. Respect is a cycle of giving and receiving. A slip here and there in the beginning is to be expected, but purposely ignoring your requests as moms and denying your daughter her own identity is completely disrespectful.

My family would probably, yes, talk behind my back about how I'm humoring this little "boy", and how I'm screwing "him" up for life, and yadda yadda, but to my face would generally be OK. That is all I ask, honestly. Sure, my dad would try and get her to play ball or something, in the hopes that having a male role model would snap her out of it...that's how my family is. But at least they would respect my request in regards to family interactions.

Good luck. That's a sucky, sucky situation. I hope maybe someone else can help better than I can!
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Old 04-05-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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Sorry to just jump in out of nowhere but I wanted to ask you a question about the book you mentioned. The Transgender Child? Who is the author?

I'm dealing with some gender issues with my son. Since he was able to talk everything, including himself, was a "she". He relates more with being female than male. He's asked me about when he grows up and is a woman. At one point he was telling people his name was Sarah. I'm very sure that he is a girl inside is body and definatley a girl in his mind. He's ten. I'd really like to read that book.

We're lucky that our families will and do support all my children in their decisions and this would be no different. I'm sorry you have to deal with such intolerance from your own family.
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Old 04-05-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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Wow I just wanted to say I am so impressed that you and your partner are handling this with so much grace and support. I think that is awesome. I am totally with you. I would do anything for my children. In the end isn't being comfortable with ourselves and happy the most important thing?! Good luck with everything.

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Old 04-06-2010, 03:50 AM
 
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It's awesome that you're being so supportive.
I do think that it's reasonable for you to require that your family keep their opinions to themselves when your DD is around. I also think it's reasonable for them to want to air their very real concerns about this child that they love. Those of us who are educated and informed and who advocate for personal choice are not the majority.
It's awesome that you've provided resources.
Another idea is a family meeting, with a trans-positive mediator brought in, and with no children in attendance.
For DD safety, both emotionally and physically, it is imperative that everyone be on the same page, whether they want to be or not.
Like papa says, this might be a small part of your child's journey to self, or it may be the deep roots of who she will become ... openness and flexibility and acceptance are key.
I fostered a child who transitioned from ftm when he was ten, and who is living now as an adult male. So for him, he stayed on that path, as hard as it was. For other children, a transgendered phase helps them come into their true selves, which may or may not be trans.
Continue being the supportive parents that you two already are!

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Old 04-06-2010, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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FtMPapa: I'm sorry about your family. Thank you so much for your support! It means a lot. I will definitely stick with my kid. And don't worry; we have had the conversation a few times where if she ever feels like being a boy again or doesn't feel like either a boy or a girl, we will still love her and support her. Her "boy clothes" are still easily accessible in her closet, and she knows where they are. (I think it's funny that she calls them "boy clothes" because DP dresses similarly to those clothes, only without cars and stuff on the shirts. lol)

kkearney1982: Thank you very much for both of your congratulations! We only told family a week ago about our pregnancy, and it went relatively well, with very few rude questions. However, now, (and I know this is kind of selfish) we feel kind of overshadowed by our kiddo's news... *sigh*
I really like your advice about respect. I'm going to remember that and tell it to my mom later. Well, that is when she's speaking to me again... Augh. What we're really afraid of is that my mom will try to sneak Serafina into reparative therapy or something... (She's a Christian and has tried to convince me to go when I first came out to her).

EkkaGrrl: I'm really glad you're thinking about supporting your child in this! It's a hard road sometimes, but worth it. DP and I have lots of friends who wish they had parental support with this as kids... some are not doing so well because of lack of support.
The book is "The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals" by Rachel Pepper and Stephanie Brill. It's been enormously helpful in dealing with the school especially. We've been trying to get them to educate the rest of the kids about gender diversity, but it's been a no-go so far. We're about to bring in the fleets. Especially since yesterday evening we had our child tell us of an incident at school where three kids from an older grade followed her around all lunch hour asking her to take off her pants and prove she's really a girl. DP phoned the school and bawled out the principal, but we're all VERY upset!!

Beautiful~Life: Thank you!!

starling&diesel: I absolutely agree about how letting them air their concerns is reasonable. We let them do so for a good couple hours on Sunday, and are still willing to listen again as long as they are willing to listen to us. I really like your idea about a family meeting with a trans-positive mediator. I'm not sure the family will go for it, but I'll definitely try to find someone to do that, and give it a shot! (Btw, our kid wasn't in attendance at our meeting on Sunday; she was in bed thank goodness. We wouldn't have let that go on in front of her. Also, there are no other children in my extended family.)
Thanks for your support and advice.

I'm a queer, poly, pagan, (dis)abled, crazy, crunchy, intersectionally-minded feminist. fsonj & I are mamas to our unschooled/freeschooled 12yo & 3yo!  (Ask me about co-breastfeeding, supplementing at the breast, inducing lactation, eating placentas, undisturbed birth, and parenting a genderqueer child with Aspergers!)
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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It's been said - They've (the family) voiced their opinions. That's all they get. Nothing they say is going to change who Serafina is. Nothing at all. They can either come along peacefully and supportively and with the best interests of your daughter in mind, or they can not come along at all.

There is zero room for toxicity and negativity.

I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with an unsupportive and bigoted family. *hugs*

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Old 04-07-2010, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks willowsmom! Her psychologist supported our decision as well.

I'm a queer, poly, pagan, (dis)abled, crazy, crunchy, intersectionally-minded feminist. fsonj & I are mamas to our unschooled/freeschooled 12yo & 3yo!  (Ask me about co-breastfeeding, supplementing at the breast, inducing lactation, eating placentas, undisturbed birth, and parenting a genderqueer child with Aspergers!)
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