When we find ourselves in a new situation it can make us uncertain about what to do. At times like this it is often helpful to know that other people have gone through it too and to know what has worked for them.
With this in mind we are putting together family case studies which we hope will help you and your family. We would like to have a few more. If you would be happy to share your experience please get in touch.
When my son told me in early 2015 that he was transgender my initial reaction was disbelief. I also had some concerns – I was worried about how she would be perceived; whether she would be happy; and how she would cope. Additionally, as she had lost her father a few years before, I wondered what effect this bereavement had had on her.
At the time she told us her news, she was on a Year in Industry work placement from University, and was based in a town 75 miles away from the family home. Looking back I now think she needed time away from where she grew up, and time-out to experiment with how she wanted to live.
During her placement she was going to work as male, whilst going out socially as female. However for a long time she insisted that when she came home to us she was male. This made it difficult to adjust because she was reluctant to let us meet her new identity. She was therefore leading a double life which must have been exhausting.
Personally I have felt excluded from her whole transitioning process. As she was over 18 when she transitioned, healthcare professionals could not and would not discuss her case with me. I went to my own GP who said ‘don’t worry it won’t happen’, which was not helpful.
There are some support groups out there but mostly they support trans people and their families up until the age of 18. There are a few groups for spouses of trans people, but very little information for parents of over-18 year olds, or for other family members e.g. siblings. Until very recently I had never met another parent who was going through a similar experience. Having someone to talk to, to share thoughts and experiences would have made the whole situation a lot easier.
There is also no support for parents who have to ‘come out’ – it’s amazing how many people need to be told. Most of my family and friends have been very supportive but I have lost a couple of friends in the process.
I’m still adapting to the situation. I am pleased that my daughter is now getting on with her own life. She has recently moved job and city, and has been thoroughly supported by her new work and by her friends. She is an ambassador for LGBT issues and speaks at different companies and to the press, actively campaigning to increase understanding and acceptance in the workplace. She fits into society and is happy which helps me a lot. Our relationship is now good and she gets on well with her sister. She seems happy with her life, and is becoming a very confident young lady.
There are still things I find difficult, like buying presents. I still feel like I don’t know her well enough yet, or what she needs. It’s a real learning curve but it is getting easier.
Despite my initial shock at her being trans and feeling ‘cut out’ of the process she was going through, we accepted her decision very quickly. Everything else followed. It allowed us to talk things through and helped us to adjust. As a parent you just want your child to be happy. She is and she knows that we love and support her.
Although I’m sure there will be new challenges in the future, I know that we are strong as a family and will be able to meet them.