By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist–
The December holidays will soon be upon us. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule, it’s a time of coming together as a family and celebrating the holidays. Holiday cheer, exchanging gifts and celebrating with the members of your family is the order of the season, but sadly it’s not for everyone. In far too many cases there are those who are viewed as outsiders of the family and who are not invited to take part in the festivities. There are many reasons why some may be viewed as being an outsider. One of these reasons may be that there is a transgender family member, and the family might not want this member to be present at the celebration. This family member now becomes an outsider to the family.
When a transgender person finally begins living as their true gender, resistance may be encountered within the family. When a daughter, sister, aunt, mother, or grandmother begins living as male, things might not go so smoothly within the family. The same is true when the son, brother, uncle, father, or grandfather begins living as female. In the family, emotions may run high, as well as feelings of shame or embarrassment, or even disgust. The transgender person is now pushed into the position of being an outsider to the family.
Is this fair to place a family member on the outside of the family, especially during the family holiday season? What happened to the love for this now ousted family member? Maybe the other members of the family might not truly understand, but they can accept unconditionally, can’t they? Why not? Maybe in this case, the concepts of unconditional love and unconditional acceptance could be too much for some family members? Maybe the family needs more time to reflect? Maybe it’s some other reason, but in the meantime, the transgender family member is left on the outside.
How does it feel to be on the outside? How does it feel when thoughts of past family holidays are recalled? There are family memories of togetherness, happiness, laughter, sharing the meal and holiday goodies and perhaps enjoying a cup of cheer. Now there are no holiday times with the family. Those times are gone, maybe forever. Now the ousted family member is forced to spend the holidays apart from the family. Do the memories now become painful? Is there now a deep feeling of loss of family love? Are there tears? Yes, yes and yes.
What can the transgender person do so that they are welcomed back into the family? They could possibly change their wardrobe for the day, and dress as the gender that the family members prefer them to be. There are transgender people who do this, but it is very hard to do. After you have found your peace within by finally living as your true gender, it is very hard to go back to the “old gender” and the “old ways.” Forcing yourself back to the old clothes, the old shoes, the old hairstyle and the old mannerisms can do quite a psychological number on you. All the work you’ve done mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, now all has to take a step back, a big step. Add to that the resurgence of your old name and old pronouns. They feel like bullets fired at you as you hear them again and again, as you are being constantly misaddressed and misgendered. It’s very hard to keep a festive mood under these conditions. Bless the transgender person who can pull this off.
The other thing that you can do is to wait. Wait until some period of time passes by and maybe one of the family members will change their mind and reach out to you. Maybe then they can convince another family member to give you a chance, then maybe another family member, then another. It could happen. Time can change things.
Until something changes, the transgender family member will remain an outsider to the family, maybe forever.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has 3 grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.