Transgender Transition & Family: When Things Don’t Go Smoothly

kate bornsteinDeja Nicole Greenlaw
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deja nicole greenlaw

Deja Nicole Greenlaw

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist— 

When you transition to living full time in your true gender it can be one of the happiest days of your life. After years of dealing with questions, guilt, shame, and fear, you are finally ready to take the plunge. You can finally be you! You are ready to embrace the world as a vastly improved person. This can feel very exhilarating, as this is a truly incredible event in your life!

Although you are very happy with your personal growth achievement, others may not be so happy with it. You may have family members who do not like the improved you and they may want you to return to the old you. They liked you just fine as you were and they may have no interest in even associating with the new you, let alone celebrating with you on your personal achievement. [pullquote]According to 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide. I don’t think I’d enjoy life if I transitioned back to male.[/pullquote]

They might refer to you as mentally unstable and may claim that you need help. They might blame you for breaking up your family and causing embarrassment and pain to your family members. How could you do this to your family, your spouse, and your children? How could you do this to your poor parents? They might even call you selfish.

On one hand you are incredibly happy in your personal breakthrough of finding yourself. On the other hand you are labeled as unrealistic, crazy, narcissistic and selfish. This leaves you in a very bad situation.

As a result of family members who rally together against you, you may be excluded from family affairs and parties during the various holidays in the year. You are, in effect, now out of the family. If a family member sides with you, they may be also excluded from the family. It puts them in a tough spot where they must choose between supporting you and holding the line against you.

No one wishes you Happy New Year. No one invites you to hang out anymore or to celebrate the holidays. Have you ever spent a holiday not being with your flesh and blood because you are not welcomed? If you have, then you know the feeling. If you haven’t, then I ask you to please try to imagine it. How would you feel? What would you do? Many trans people have lost family members who will not accept or support them. What can the trans person do? [pullquote]No one wishes you Happy New Year. No one invites you to hang out anymore or to celebrate the holidays. Have you ever spent a holiday not being with your flesh and blood because you are not welcomed?[/pullquote]

One possible answer for the trans person is to transition back to their gender assigned at birth. This may make other family members happy, but it would most likely make the trans person quite miserable. Transitioning back is rare and many who do so eventually take their lives. According to 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide. I don’t think I’d enjoy life if I transitioned back to male. I believe it is selfish to want us, trans people who have already transitioned, to go back to living as the gender assigned to us at birth.

I once asked a local therapist about what a trans person, who has lost family members due to transitioning, could do to reestablish family connections. She told me that all they could do was to keep the communication lines open and hope and wait that one day they might change their minds.

Many of us are still hoping and waiting.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has 3 grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at dejavudeja@sbcglobal.net.