Coming out to one’s Parents, Part 1

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I’ve recently been asked to advise a transsexual girl like me, as to how I suggest she come out to her parents. Her parents are very conservative and socially not all that civil. For example, they tend to rant and rave. This combination of attitudes on their part has made her understandably hesitant to come out to them.

There’s enough to say on this subject to fill a book, but it’s important to have a realistic idea of what “success” means.

I suggest that a good standard for success in coming out to your parents is where you look back at it and can say “I handled that as well as I reasonably could have.”

The key point is that you can’t control how your parents will react. You can do the best you can, and the rest is up to them. Whether they embrace you or disown you, it doesn’t reflect on how well you handled it. (I’m not saying this lightly; I was embraced by my mother and disowned by my surrogate dad). It’d be great if your parents accepted the news rationally, but that adjective doesn’t describe most parents’ approach of a “coming-out” conversation.

You simply can’t control how they react. You can do the right thing as best you can but possibly, given their mindset, they’ll react negatively anyway even if your approach was exemplary.

So if your standard of success incorporates how they react, i.e., something you can’t control, anticipating the conversation might be very stressful for you.

As to more specific guidance, I propose that as you look back on that conversation, you should be able to rejoice in not having violated your own standards of honesty, independence, rationality, justice and integrity. That’s success. If they also happen to accept you, that’s a bonus.

A good analogy is how the US declared independence from Britain. The Declaration of Independence was carefully drafted and much-debated. Then and now, it’s an exemplary way of approaching this sort of thing. It’s so exemplary that when Rhodesia declared its own independence from Britain in 1966, their announcement was very similar to the US document of 1776. In the case of both the US and the Rhodesian declarations of independence, the audience behaved atrociously.

In the case of the US, King George refused to even read the document, and then declared war on the US. In the case of Rhodesia, Harold Wilson, the PM of Britain, didn’t declare war directly but he enabled a communist dictator to take over Rhodesia. Fourteen years later, he succeeded and now the place is a shambles.

Even though in both cases, the recipient reacted abominably, you can hardly place the blame on the announcement that triggered the animosity. The same principle applies to you coming out as a t-girl to your parents.

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