A reader writes: “I’ve had an idea that I might be transsexual for a number of years now. I’ve kept it pretty quiet until now, and even then have only muttered it to a couple people who I trust, because I’d like to start making some changes in my life.
“My problem is this – my sister is in the middle of transitioning. She has started hormone therapy, and is very happy, but our parents are still having some difficulty, especially our dad, who lives a considerable distance away and can be somewhat ‘stand-offish.’ My mother feels a lot of guilt over the fact that one of her children was born in the wrong body (that she knows of) and one is a ‘butch lesbian.’
“I’m terrified of bringing it up, because I feel like there might be an official tally somewhere in their brains that monitors the number of transgendered children they can deal with, and that the limit is one. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”
This is a dilemma, but it’s not as bad as it might appear. It’s true that your parents might have a difficult time facing the fact that they have two trans children. But it seems that they do, and they will probably eventually have to deal with that. There might be some things that you can do to make it easier. I have a few thoughts, and I’m sure that readers will have plenty more.
> I don’t know your age or your sister’s age, but I am going to assume that you are both adults. No matter how important you are to your parents and your parents are to you, there comes a point when adult children must go off and live their own lives – and their parents can’t predict or control those lives.
If you need to transition, you will have to do that, regardless of what is happening with your sister. The need to transition will not go away, and there will come a point when you are no longer able to live your life and make your decisions based on how others might feel. When that point comes, you will do what you need to do.
> People used to get irritated with Dear Abby because she always recommended that her letter-writers see a therapist, but this was not a cop-out, no matter what her readers thought. And I have to recommend it, too.
Most doctors still require a therapist’s letter before prescribing hormones, so you will need to see one anyway. And you say that you’ve had an “idea” that you might be transsexual. A therapist can help you find out. And because you will need to see a therapist before starting your transition, you can explore with that therapist whether or not you really need and want to transition, as well as how to approach your family.
You don’t need to come out to your parents right now. You can start seeing a therapist first. Once you have made the decision that you are going to transition, then your therapist can help you come out to your family. That will also allow a little more time for your parents to adjust to your sister’s transition before they need to turn their attention to yours.
> You say that your mother is experiencing guilt about a trans child and a “butch lesbian” child. If at all possible, try to convince your mother to contact PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Despite the name, PFLAG offers support for parents of trans children. TransYouth Family Allies is another place for your parents to get information. Even though TYFA deals primarily with parents of young children and teens, they have good information on their website for all parents.
The most important thing is for your mother (and perhaps your father) to find support and to understand that this is not their “fault.” They have done nothing wrong. There is no need for guilt. If you can get your mother hooked up with a good support system now, as the parent of a trans child and a “butch lesbian,” she will be in a better place, with a network of support, when she realizes that she is actually the parent of two trans children.
> You say your sister is very happy. You might find yourself happier, too, if you are able to transition. Most parents want their children to be happy. This does not mean that they will not be upset. But with a strong support system, they will hopefully eventually be able to see that their children are happy, and they will hopefully eventually be able to realize that this is the ultimate goal – and that they have achieved it.
Readers, it’s your turn – what do you think?
(I got several Ask Matt posts this week (keep ’em coming), so we’re having some Ask Matt Thursdays as well.)