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Posts tagged ‘coming out’

Thoughts for Parents of Transgender children

I had posted before about some ideas of how to come out to family, and I recently had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at a support group for parents of transgender children (part of New York City PFLAG). The following is a handout I used.  They are mostly talking points, but I think they can still be useful, so I’m posting them here.  Note that it is aimed at parents that have been newly-come-out to by mostly teenage and older children.

Thoughts on Parents coping with Transgender children


  • Keep the long term goal in mind in all communications

The long term goal is maintaining a relationship with your child.

 

  • Allow yourself time to process your feelings.

There can be pressure for immediate acceptance.
You are entitled to all your feelings about the situation.
Your child has had much more time to think about this and accept it than you have.

 

  • Communication

Listening: Don’t interrupt, don’t tune out, and don’t plan what you will say next, make eye contact, pay attention to the speakers feelings, before you give your opinion reflect back what you are heard in a non-judgmental way so that the speaker knows they have been heard or ask for clarification if you didn’t understand something.

Speaking: If you’re too angry or upset take a 20 min. break. Try to avoid blaming, ultimatums, attacking, insults, large proclamations or hurtful speech. Say what you feel clearly, don’t assume people know. (people are not mind readers). Say what you feel rather than acting it out, ex: “I’m confused and angry…”
Say where you are, example: “I don’t completely understand it but I’m listening and working on it”
Don’t triangulate; focus on you and your child not other people.
Don’t shut down communications or avoid your child

 

  • Telling Other family/friends

This is often the largest fear.
Let it happen when you’re ready.
Let others have their own feelings and reactions about it, don’t try and dictate.

 

  • Understanding and reframing

Educate yourself about transgenderism.
This is an opportunity for a more authentic relationship with your child.

 

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

The Need for Post Transition Support (Part 2)

A follow up to the Mike Penner/Christine Daniels saga.

The LA Times posted a long follow up article on the suicide of Mike Penner/Christine Daniels, the late LA Times sportswriter who transitioned on the job (and which I wrote about in a previous post)

A few things stand out as contributing to the suicide:

  • A very painful separation and divorce from her wife.  Complicating matters was the fact that they worked in the same office and wife expressed her wish to avoid all contact with Christine. (I’m certainly not blaming the wife for contributing to the suicide; I’m just saying that the separation and circumstances were painful for Christine.)  There was also the loss of the wife’s family, who Penner was close to.
  • Being a public figure, she got some harsh (and ignorant) public criticism of her ability to “pass”, which was hard on Christine.
  • Christine being thrust into and accepting the role of spokesperson for transgender issues when she probably wasn’t ready or personally strong enough to deal with the media scrutiny.  Then having disagreements with trans activists who objected to Daniel’s emphasis on appearance in her blog.
  • Daniels withdrew from friends, church and public appearances.
  • Daniels’s mother died.
  • Daniel’s focused on her transitioning as the root of all her problems and tried to de-transition in hopes of reuniting with his wife.

What are the lessons that can be gleaned from this?

  • There is a great need for support during and after transition.  Don’t underestimate the need for supportive people and institutions.  Including friends, family, support groups, therapy, religious institutions, knitting circles, etc…  Its like drinking water in the desert – you have to do it even if you’re not feeling thirsty – if you feel thirsty its too late – you’re already dehydrated.
  • Withdrawing is not the answer.  It will only make things worse.
  • Very often when people find themselves a part of a new group they feel they have to be a spokesperson/activist/possess complete knowledge of said group.   That’s great if you want to do that, but it should be a conscious choice and not an obligation.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.


Coming Out and Integration.

I wrote recently about the ‘coming out’ process for the transgendered individual and suggested a particular method (the letter).  This post  furthers that discussion and talks about the concept of integration.

Coming out involves integration.

There’s the integration of what you suspect about yourself into what you know about yourself. This in itself can be a lengthy and difficult process and may or may not involve a full acceptance of the knowledge.

There’s the integration of what you know being known by others in your world.  This is what is typically referred to as “coming out”.   This involves letting others know.  There’s also the idea of the knowledge spreading, i.e.  people knowing who among other people in your life know and what they know.  When you look at it from a purely mathematical perspective, the permutations get very large very quickly.

Other people’s level of acceptance of you effects your level of integration into family, society, work and friends.  This can also change over time.  For example when you first come out to someone, you may be in a very beginning stage of accepting what you know about yourself.  Later on, you may have evolved with your self acceptance and integration, and the next time you talk to that person, you may be presenting a very different view of yourself.  My thoughts on this are – don’t fake it.  If you are ambivalent, or unsure or hesitant – then that’s where you are.  It may change in your own good time, but there’s no point in presenting yourself as super-trans when you’re not feeling it.  It’s ok, to take your time with your own self-acceptance process.

Perhaps the most important one is the integration of what you know about yourself being consolidated into your identity.  One small example would be having gone from suspecting you feel female to knowing you feel female, you then integrate that knowledge into your identity by wearing more female-type clothes.   This can start slow – I’ve often had people come into my office and tell me that they are wearing some male/female undergarment.

You can often tell when one has successfully integrated a sense of themselves as transgendered.   Very often people seem more comfortable talking about their trans identity and transition path and engaging in politics and activism and even forgetting about being trans and working on their careers or love lives.  This can often be confused with having attained hormones, or SRS or a new wardrobe.  The integration of being transgendered into ones identity is related to those things, but also separate.

The more fully one has integrated one’s identity, the freer they are to reach out to others, to participate in community and to engage in relationships.  I think everybody has seen examples of people with poorly integrated identity (trans, queer or otherwise) and It always has some kind of limiting effect on them.  For example, one might have a partner, but might not feel comfortable taking them to a family event.

Of course the main problem with integrating or incorporating a trans-identity into your personality is that its part of a stigmatized group and it takes some not small amount of courage to go there.  However, knowing that you are integrating an authentic part of yourself into your whole identity can help.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.


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