TRANSSEXUALS AND THEIR PARENTS - PART I
TELLING YOUR PARENTS

Copyright 1989 by Kay Metsker


I have found that one of the major stumbling blocks toward
self-acceptance for many transsexuals is their reluctance to share
their problems with their parents. I have known people in their
forties afraid to tell their parents. They argue that they are
trying to protect their parents' feelings and to respect their
parents' position. Yet this relationship with their parents is
dishonest. They are really trying to protect themselves from their
"Mommy's" or "Daddy's" disapproval. They are not secure enough or
mature enough to risk disapproval by declaring their independence as
adults. Because this adult relationship is unauthentic and
superficial, the child remains a child, letting the parents' values
determine his/her behavior.

The relationships that are the hardest to alter and be open
and honest about are those charged with emotional content. They are
those relationships in which we feel that we have the most to lose
if we are honest about our feelings, values and attitudes.
Consequently, you and your parents may continue to play old roles
for years and never treat each other as adults.

To alter the relationship with your parents can seem extremely
frightening and threatening, especially when you know that your
parents disapprove of something that's part of you. One of the best
ways to ease this confrontation is to be sure of what you really
have to say or do to feel free and independent. Name calling and
blaming sessions can be avoided if you know what you want to convey
to your parents. Displays of anger and hostility accomplish little
and can drive a wedge between you and your parents.

Think through clearly what you want your parents to
understand. Then rehearse in your imagination a scene where you
tell them. Notice, as you rehearse, any fears, feelings of
frustration or anger, or other emotions that you are experiencing.
Pay attention to your body also. Be aware of any areas of physical
stress, like stomach-ache, cramps, headache, changes in breathing,
tension along your spine, etc. Most likely you will re-experience
old chronic areas of physical tension that you established long ago
as a response to childhood fears of the adult authority figure that
your parents represented.

As you rehearse and get in touch with emotional and physical
tensions and fears, acknowledge them and then let go of them. This
may take some effort on your part. Keep going over the same scene
until you can do it without any feeling or reaction. It may take
several tries, but don't give up. If you get stuck, talk it over
with a therapist.

Only after you have completed this rehearsal and planning
process should you approach your parents. Make an appointment to
see them. Tell them you have something serious that you want to
talk to them about, and ask when it's convenient for them to talk to
you. If you can predict the amount of time it will take, tell them
this too. If you set the topic of conversation and the length of
time you are willing to be with them, then you are the one in
control of the situation. Most important, you have defused the
emotional bomb for yourself. After the first step, things get
easier. So you will be able to direct the conversation and not be
subject to getting hooked into old ways of being manipulated.

When you meet with your parents, start by giving them some
idea of what you want to talk about. A few introductory words such
as, "This is hard for me to say, but I want to do it because it's
important to be honest with you," will give them notice that you
intend to assert yourself and are serious about it.

Then be direct and factual with your message. The simplest
way is the best. You might say something like, "Mom and Dad, I want
to tell you that I have felt like a woman (or man) inside, both
emotionally and mentally since early childhood. I am tired of
hiding the fact from you. I intend to start living full-time as a
woman (or man). If you disapprove of this fact, I hope that you
will not disapprove of me. And if you do, then I regret losing your
love for now, but I have to be true to myself." this may seem
cruel, but it's probably more unkind not to face the issue and to
leave your parents wondering about what is happening and yourself
guilt-ridden.

Your parents will naturally follow the long-established
patterns of dealing with you -- saying no, scolding, or threatening
punishment. These first reactions could even extend to vowing to
cut you out of their will, or threatening to withdraw their love in
some way. However, if you are prepared for the worst, then these
threats will not work. You are standing on your own feet. No
matter what the cost, you will have made a major step toward being
in control of your life and yourself. When they realize that they
can no longer control your life, they will most often relent and
accept you as you are. It may take them a little while to come to
terms with the changes in your relationship. Give them all the time
they need. Remember that you needed time to be able to gain the
courage to confront the issue yourself. Offer them time to think
about it. When they are ready and willing to discuss the issue
further, be available to do so. You've made the first step toward
redefining the relationship. It's now up to your parents to adjust
their expectations.

Many parents go through a grieving process for the
relationship that they are losing. This process will be explained
in more detail in Part II. Your parents may find it very hard to
accept the changes. They've been used to the old ways longer than
you have. They may greet the news with silence - a form of denial -
or may simply decline to talk about it any further. On the other
hand, your folks may surprise you and be far more receptive and
supportive than you expect. There are those rare parents who have
built their parent/offspring relationships on unconditional love
(we'll love you no matter what), rather than conditional love (we'll
love you if you live up to our expectations).

You should also be aware of the possibility that your parents
may not be in total control of their own lives or selves. Your
parents may fear what the neighbors, relatives, friends, etc. will
think of them because of your situation. Your parents may need to
build their own self-esteem and take control of their own lives,
just as you've had to do with yours.

Keep your options open. Few parents are willing to lose
contact with their children, and in time they will come around to
accepting the changes in you and the changes in your relationship
with them. Remember, change is always difficult, particularly where
emotions are involved. It requires giving up familiar ways of doing
things. Even if the old ways didn't work and weren't honest, they
were comfortable, like an old pair of slippers. You may have a
twinge of sadness at throwing away these "old slippers". But the
old ways must go, to make way for new ones. Sometimes, the scary
part is that you may not know what the new ways of relating to your
parents are yet, and since you know the old ways so well, it may
feel safer and less risky to keep them.

But it's worthwhile and exciting to move on to new levels of
maturity. The second hurdle is still high, but easier than the
first. Once an open dialogue is started with parents, it is easy to
keep it that way. The benefits can be enormous. You can begin to
relate to each other as real human beings. You learn new things
about each other and you may find a depth of love and feeling that
you never knew was there.

SOURCE: TV/TS TAPESTRY


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