Transition & Family: Dealing with Resistance and Lack of Acceptance

deja nicole greenlaw

Deja Nicole Greenlaw

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—

When you decide to transition, it can be a wonderful thing. Up to that point you may have felt you’ve been living untrue to yourself, and now all those painful years of being in the closet are finally over and done. Everything is full speed ahead. There’s no looking back, not even a second thought. You are finally on track. Can anything rain on your parade?

The truth is, sometimes there are people who do not want you to transition. They want you to remain as you were. They are not interested in you finally being who you are, and they don’t care about your personal growth. They want you to be who they want you to be.

Many times it’s family members who oppose transitioning, and this predicament can put a strain on family relationships. If you’re married, your spouse may want out of the relationship. They want who they thought they married, not you. If you have children, they may not want to lose their mommy or daddy. They do not want you. If you have a sibling, they may want their brother or sister, not you. Sometimes even your own parents will not accept the new you. 

Sometimes there may even be someone who is okay with you in family gatherings, but they don’t want to be seen anywhere in public with you. It’s a kind of acceptance, but not a real, true, across the board acceptance. 

You just may find yourself on the outside looking in when it comes to family. You may not get invites to family occasions such as graduations, family picnics, marriages, and even funerals. Sometimes a family member dies and no one even tells you. You’re out of the picture. All of the family-centered holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter will no longer be part of your life because they do not want the new you.

This doesn’t happen to everyone who transitions, but it still does happen to too many of us. Sometimes, it happens when we are still children, not even young adults. Family throws you out of your home, and you head for the city and live on the streets. When you’re older and this happens, you may also end up on the streets. However, chances are you may have somewhere to call “home,” but it will never be the same as your former home. Being shut out from family can become very lonely. 

You may not get invites to family occasions such as graduations, family picnics, marriages, and even funerals. Sometimes a family member dies and no one even tells you.

There are some of us who are lucky enough to stay married and lucky enough to be welcomed into the homes of our children, our brothers, our sisters, and our parents. This is good news, but even this may not be so wonderful. In these cases, you might have to tone down your true gender and instead go for a more androgynous mode of presentation, which can be very uncomfortable. It’s as if you are there but you are not really there. Many times the pronouns used are your old pronouns. A family member might confide in you that this is the way they like you, not the other way.  Sometimes there may even be someone who is okay with you in family gatherings, but they don’t want to be seen anywhere in public with you. It’’s a kind of acceptance, but not a real, true, across the board acceptance.

To not have this support is devastating. I remember my mom once told me when I was young that it’s important to have family. She said that when the world gets tough and no one seems to care about you, you still have your family. That sounds wonderful, mom, and I appreciate the sentiment, but the truth is that too many of us do not have our family anymore.

At one of my trans support group meetings I asked a burning question to a guest speaker, a therapist well-versed in trans issues. I asked her what we could do to get family members to accept us and love us. She told me there is nothing you can do. She said all you can really do is wait and hope that someday they just might change their minds. It hurt to hear her answer. 

I wish that unsupportive family members could somehow step inside our shoes and feel our pain. Maybe then they will understand.

Why does this happen? Why can’t people just accept and love you and share your joy with you in finally finding your true self? I wish that unsupportive family members could somehow step inside our shoes and feel our pain. Maybe then they will understand.

Sometimes because we have little or no support from our family it may be a good thing to join an online support group. Many of us are in the same situation and it may be helpful to ask questions and share thoughts on this matter. If you would like to join an online support group, check out UniTy of the Pioneer Valley on Facebook or their Yahoo group; TRUE TRANS FRIENDS; or Gender Mosaic.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at [email protected].

 

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  1. Anne Beon says:

    Well put Deja, Often the family we end up with is an amalgam of old friends that stayed and fellow trans folk in need of family as well.

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