Transwomen Coming Out Later in Life Risk Losing Their Families & More

kate bornsteinDeja Nicole Greenlaw

deja nicole greenlawBy: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist–

To the transwomen who are/were family men and who have suffered the loss of family: When I began writing for TRT in early 2008, the editors asked me to write about the lives of transgenders and to educate people about how our lives really are. This particular column is about the sadness that too many of us face.

When you come out to the world that you are LGBT you may lose some friends and family members. They may not understand what is going on or they may not want to believe this new version of you. They may think that you are going through a phase or maybe that you have just gone crazy. Whatever they think, they just don’t like this coming out of you. You may no longer have their love, and loss of love is very traumatic.

I believe that the hardest thing about coming out is this lost love. It can be massive. The loss of your mom’s love, your dad’s love, your brother’s love and your sister’s love is awful. Imagine all of the above people you have already lost and then add to that the loss of your son’s love and your daughter’s love. Add once more the loss of that special person who you thought was going to be your life partner. It can really send one to the depths of extreme sadness and loneliness and suicide.

Many transwomen were dads and husbands. They lived through all of the things that families live through: the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the laughter, the memories, the traditions, and the love that keeps the family all together. When they come out as transwomen, part of the nucleus of the family is suddenly shattered. “Whaaat? Dad wants to be a woman? What do you mean? You’re kidding, right? He does? But, but, but …”

It’s awful to suddenly find this new, deep chasm between you and your family. Sure, sometimes the family may accept you but more often than not you are, in effect, banished from the family. It’s almost like you don’t exist. Any family functions that come up you are suddenly excluded from. Any holiday get-together or birthday, you most likely will not be invited. If you are invited you may get asked to come to the event “the old way.” The “new you” is not welcome. In many cases just forget about them remembering your birthday or acknowledging you on Father’s Day. You are no longer part of your former family.

You may have thought that you would live your whole life with a wonderful, loving life partner and your children possibly might have babies of their own. You would share your life with your wife and enjoy your children and your grandchildren together with her. But no, you most likely will not be sharing your life with any of your family members. You most likely will be alone, as an outsider looking in.

This loss of family is staggering and it takes a toll on you. It’s a huge loss but you must somehow deal with it. Yes, you have to work through it and it may take a few years or more to get past this stage of your life.

After a while, you may sort of get used to being without your family in your day-to-day life but then along comes the dreaded holidays, which bring families together, especially family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The birthdays are also tough and Father’s Day can be unbearable.

You are trading your family for the right to be who you really are. No, it’s not fair but what can you do? Go back in the closet to please them? That’s not fair to you. It would be so much better if they could only accept you but they may never accept you. Yes, maybe never.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has 3 grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at

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