You just heard that that beloved cousin, honored aunt, or grandchild has come out as transgender. They are someone you love deeply. Yet, right now you’re terrified of hurting them. Here are my secrets that I wish my family had known and enacted when I came out. Clearly now, not all of these hints will be the same for everyone or each experience. Now, I share them to give you starting points for supporting your family member.
First, listening and trusting someone to know their best self is always good advice. Next, if someone tells you their name, believe them, even if it’s a name that sounds foreign to your ears. Yes, the same goes for pronouns. Try them out, and don’t be afraid of messing up – we all mess up – and we all get to try again. Check out http://www.practiceWithPronouns.com.
Whatever you do, take your fears somewhere else. Also, take your warnings somewhere else. Your family member is facing a world full of hate. Your fears and warnings sound a whole like like that hate they see everywhere. Today, the world hates transgender people; the world as it could be does not have to.
Then, affirm them in their gender, affirm them in exploring. Celebrate all that they might encounter.
Finally, find a trans friend – not your family member – and learn from them. Love them too. You can learn from them the foundedness -or not – of your fears and warnings.