Revised Principles: T-Girls Coming out to Parents

gg2015-09-19 03.06.38I’ve now been out as a t-girl for maybe 5 years, more than 3 of them full-time.

Having gone through the process of coming out and having experienced every variety of reaction short of violence, including both parents initially reacting very negatively, I have an unusual opportunity to advise t-girls who are about to come out openly as such.

I’m no guru, but by now I also have mentored several t-girls and I’m friends with many. I’ve seen various approaches and the effects that they typically have.

Before and after a t-girl is an adult, I think it’s a grave (and sometimes fatal) mistake for her parents to oppose her in her expression of self-identity. That deserves many articles in their own right, but this is not the subject of today’s article.

A t-girl has every right to come out and live openly as who she is. She doesn’t require anyone’s permission. She doesn’t have to convince anyone. She doesn’t have to announce it to anyone (and frankly I don’t see how the rules are any different before adulthood). And yet, I have seen enough journeys succeed, or falter and proceed crippled, or falter and fail, to have an opinion on the matter.

She could just vanish, cut her ties and start living a new life, consistent with who she is. The problem I see with this sort of thing is that people vastly underestimate how tightly integrated the people in their past lives are, and how non-viable it might be to cut ties and keep them cut for long enough that she’s accomplished whatever she’s set out to accomplish.

Short of joining a Federal Witness Protection program and sometimes not even then, I don’t think anyone can vanish indefinitely. At best someone can hope to vanish for a while, get strong enough to deal with re-appearing, and then re-appear. Perhaps a fond fantasy is to, by then, have transitioned so successfully that it’s all water under the bridge and it’s all past the point of debate anyway. There’s also the valid point that if all the parents want is a happy offspring and post-transition the t-girl is thriving then maybe that might help as to their acceptance. I have some concerns with that line of reasoning but I do know it exists.

If you keep someone else in the dark so as to avoid them initiating violence against you, you are morally as pure as the driven snow and if the issue later comes to light, you have a perfectly defensible position.

If you are openly and brazenly cutting ties with your family, friends and parents forever, and their past behavior suggests this is the fair and reasonable thing to do, and if you’re an adult (and arguably even if you’re not), then your sexuality and your gender are your issues and none of anyone else’s business.

I have no problem with the principle, but I have in the past disowned both of my parents individually, in utter disgust, including throwing into the dumpster everything I’d ever gotten from them (myself excluded). Strong as I nevertheless generally am, I still later caved in and gave them each another opportunity. And then the entire cycle repeated itself multiple times. Being outed as a t-girl and then having to deal with that … it requires only one such lapse.

I would suggest you not cut the ties so absolutely, if wanting to live openly as a t-girl is much of the motivation. Besides, being a just-out t-girl can be hard and lonely life. To burn bridges tends to be imprudent. To move into a difficult future while totally excluding everyone from your past … that’s a bigger and more difficult step than most people are capable of taking sustainably.

Besides, you’d be depriving yourself and them of the possibility that they might actually behave reasonably. For example, many of my pre-transition guy friends are quite macho and yet a great many of them accept me just fine, plus many of them go beyond that and also chose to learn and understand the issues. Also, one very macho-seeming friend of mine, who was always going to strip clubs, ran a business in a male-dominated industry etc. reacted to my coming-out with something like “I’m a t-girl too, I’ve just been hiding it” and proceeded to elaborate at length.

You might in a subtle way be ceding to others the moral high ground if you keep them in the dark just to avoid the issue. It’s sort of like a cheating husband. When his wife find out then it’s a double whammy: she’s not happy with the news and she’s also not happy with having been kept in the dark.

I understand that living as a t-girl begins with part-time sessions of trying it out to see how it works for you. If you’re not ready to announce who you are until you’re ready and able to move out, and live as who you are openly 24×7, I have no issue with that.

The main concern I have is if someone decides to move away and live as a t-girl 24×7 while (without threat of violence or cutting ties with everyone in her old life) keeping her family, friends and parents in the dark. I’d generally suggest she come out to them no later than the day when she starts to live 24×7.

For this event, I suggest having minimal expectations.

I am living proof that there’s just no convincing some people. Conservative Christians especially tend to be generally impossible to win over. For any coming-out process, if your coming-out hinges on others understanding and accepting you, you have a difficult task ahead of you — maybe impossibly difficult.

If being understood is the “gold medal” then being accepted seems to be the “silver medal.”  My adopted dad, so to speak, had that reaction. I explained the issues to him until I was just about blue in the face. He kept saying he’s hearing what I’m saying and he can’t fault any of my logic — but it still doesn’t make sense to him in some important way that he couldn’t explain. But whatever it was, it was beyond discussion.

Really I could have, and should have, spared myself the hassle of trying to convince him. He said he’d accept my decision, however. Life appeared to go on, and we’d go out to lunch together but he seemed very uncomfortable, and soon confessed that it’s excruciatingly unpleasant for him to be seen in public with me.  So “acceptance” is a pretty hollow victory especially if the person keeps using the wrong name or wrong-gender pronouns when referring to the t-girl.

There’s a tragic example in the case of a teenage t-girl whose story is told in the non-fiction movie Trans. She hid who she is for a long time, then came out including writing a letter to her dad. She then moved away and struggled to get traction, living as who she is. One day it all became too much for her and she ended her life by her own hand. In the movie, the dad tells how he feels about all this and it’s so tragically clear that even after all this, and even while blinking back tears, the dad neither understood nor accepted her being a t-girl; he kept referring to the deceased by her male name and referring to her using male pronouns.

I suggest you plan for the worst. As a just-out t-girl, I’ve been close to homeless and I’ve lived a hard life and seen much. Believe me, the lower social and financial echelons are a difficult and very dangerous environment, especially for a recently-out t-girl with meager resources.

However, unless you have VERY rational parents, you might be wise to anticipate financial pressure such as “not under my roof” and “I’m not funding your college tuition until you are willing to abandon this silly notion.” If you’re ready to live as a t-girl 24×7 then also be ready to leave that same day, and make it on your own.

If your parents surprise you by being cool, then — great, but don’t bet your future on it.

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