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Posts tagged ‘parents of transgender’

WPATH Releases De-Psychopathologisation Statement on Gender Variance

This is the statement from WPATH:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 26, 2010

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has prepared and released a statement urging the de-psychopathologisation of gender variance worldwide.  The statement can be found on the WPATH website www.wpath.org and is as follows:

The WPATH Board of Directors strongly urges the de-psychopathologisation of gender variance worldwide.  The expression of gender characteristics, including identities, that are not stereotypically associated with one’s assigned sex at birth is a common and culturally-diverse human phenomenon which should not be judged as inherently pathological or negative.  The psychopathologlisation of gender characteristics and identities reinforces or can prompt stigma, making prejudice and discrimination more likely, rendering transgender and transsexual people more vulnerable to social and legal marginalisation and exclusion, and increasing risks to mental and physical well-being.  WPATH urges governmental and medical professional organizations to review their policies and practices to eliminate stigma toward gender-variant people.”

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


Parents dealing with Gender Dysphoria in young children

This NPR piece ‘Two Families Grapple with Sons’ Gender Preferences
Psychologists Take Radically Different Approaches in Therapy‘
by Alix Spiegel is from a couple of years ago, but its still relevant. “It wasn’t until Halloween when her 2 1/2-year-old son decided to dress as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz that Carol began to worry….“ (its worth reading the whole thing!) The article follows two children from ages two to six.

In the case of 2/1/2 year old ‘Bradley’ the family tries to convince him to be a boy by taking away feminine toys and directing his play resulting in Bradley’s withdrawal. It is another demonstration of the impossibility of authentically changing someone into someone their not, and the inadvisability of blindly following one doctor’s suggestions considering the enormity of the issue and potential consequences. (see a previous post on this issue here).

In the case of ‘Jona’, the parents reluctantly went along with the child’s direction of wanting to be accepted as a girl, and happened to find a psychotherapist that encouraged the approach, with the result of a happy, healthy and even popular child.

The article quotes Dr. Ken Zucker, the Canadian psychologist and (controversial) gender expert who treated ‘Bradley’ as saying: “Suppose you were a clinician and a 4-year-old black kid came into your office and said he wanted to be white. Would you go with that? … I don’t think we would,”

What’s wrong with that question? I think it’s important to note that these kids had long-term, persistent and strong identification as girls since they were old enough to communicate preferences. The example that Zucker brings up would be something a child learned later on in response to prejudice. That would be something about their environment that they don’t appreciate, not something about themselves. Also, continuing with Zucker’s question, that situation would never happen in an environment where there were only black people. Transgender people are found in all environments and societies, even homogeneous ones.

The article brings up another concern for me, that of what I call the ‘hidden transgender’. Both children in the article were strong enough to try and push for their authentic identity with their families. (One was successful, and one not) Not all children can do this and some learn early on that they must conform and ‘pretend’ to be their natal gender (the gender they were born with). I’ve seen a good many of these individuals later in life when they can no longer tolerate living in their birth gender, and by the time they come in for therapy they have lived a life of pretending and suffering the emotional consequences.  The ‘hidden transgender’ doesn’t really come to the attention of NPR, parents or doctors, yet they suffer in silence for years.

 

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


Thoughts on “coming out” as Transgender to family

This is mostly a posting about coming out to parents, siblings or other relatives or friends that you’re close to.  This is not about coming out to children; that’s for a different post.

Before you come out:

I think it’s important to start with thinking about the purpose of your communication, and that is just to come out to them, to come out of hiding and let them know who you are and what you’ve been struggling with.  I’m making the assumption that you also wish to remain as close as possible to your family, and be accepted and hopefully supported by them in the future.

There’s also the question of if you should come out at all. If you are dependent on your parents/family (under 18, or if they are paying for college, etc…) then you need to think of the very real possibility of their cutting you out or off.  The last thing you want to be is a homeless transgendered youth.  If this is the case, then it may be wiser to spend some time finding and getting support before proceeding.

If you decide that the time is right and it’s safe to come out to them then…

The Vehicle:

 

My experience has been with Transgendered clients, that a letter works best.  The letter has several advantages over face to face communications.

  • You get to take your time and think about what to say and word it perfectly.
  • You can have a friend, therapist or supportive person read it over first and give you feedback.
  • You can’t be interrupted.
  • The recipient can go back and read it again and take their time with it.

Why a letter and not an email?  Well, it’s more personal, email can be a little cold.

What to say:

I’m of the school of thought that you should just say it in your own words as clearly and plainly as possible.  I think it can be good to also include the following:

  • Reassurance that you love them and want to remain connected and hope that they will be supportive.
  • Reassurance that this is not their “fault”.
  • A little bit about your struggle with gender over the years, your experience, coping, isolation, etc… (be specific! It will help them empathize with you)
  • A few recommendations of books, articles or support groups in their area
  • and I recommend to ask them specifically not to respond right away, but to take some time (a week) before they respond.  Let them sit with it.  This will weed out any immediate bad response and let them cool down.

Just as you would tailor a cover letter for a job you may need to tailor your coming out letter for different family members.  Your parents are two (or maybe more than two) separate people, invite them to respond individually.

What not to say:

  • No need to talk about specific long term plans/timetables or surgeries in your coming-out letter. Remember, the purpose of the letter is to let your family know that you are transgendered.  Period.  Future plans are better left for future communications.  Why?  Because just digesting the fact that one has a trans son/daughter/brother/sister is enough to begin with.  Remember, you’ve had a lot of time to think about this and are ready to move ahead.  They are just learning of this for the first time and need to absorb it. I think its ok to gently allude to the fact that changes might be coming in the future, but I wouldn’t go father than that in your first communication on this topic.
  • There is no need to go into the etiology of transsexualism here.  There are too many conflicting theories biological and otherwise, and even if you knew the origin of your being transgendered, it wouldn’t change it.

Afterwards:

If you get a positive response that’s great!  Otherwise stay calm, even if you get a negative first response.  Give them time.

Don’t be reactive to a negative response.  Be the adult (or if you don’t feel it, just pretend).  Remember the long term goal is to have them be connected to you and supportive.  Keep the long term goal in mind in all your communications with them.

It does happen sometimes that parents have a very negative response and even reject you outright.  This can be very hurtful and disappointing.  When this happens, again, don’t be reactive no matter how you feel.  Keep the long term goal in mind.  It’s easy to “write them off”, but ultimately unsatisfying if you want to have your family.

A few things to do with a negative reaction:

  • Communicate that you are open and ready to talk when they are,
  • Be empathic with their difficulty in accepting/understanding/assimilating this information.  Understand that they need time and may have a religious/cultural basis of understanding that can’t be overcome quickly.
  • Express your wish and hope that it will change over time.
  • Ask what you can do to help them accept this?

Other Approaches:

You know your family best, so keep that in mind when crafting your coming out communication.

Here are some other perspectives on how to come out to your family:

coming out, hormone, surgery, and other letters

http://www.videojug.com/interview/how-to-come-out-to-your-family-and-friends-as-transgender video ‘How To Come Out To Your Family And Friends As Transgender’

http://www.hrc.org/issues/3455.htm
Article ‘Coming Out to Family as Transgender’ fromThe Human Rights Campaign

http://www.tsroadmap.com/family/index.html
Transsexual Road Map  – Family issues

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


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