Help me deal with the awkward fallout of telling my parents that I'm transgendered and want to begin hormone therapy.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I’ll try to keep this as brief as I can without losing too much of the history, but it’s likely to be pretty long; I’m not entirely sure what it is I’m trying to ask here, but I think that hearing others’ opinions would be helpful right now.
So, after struggling for years with the emotional push and pull of my gender identity versus the reality of my body, I decided this year to move forward and do something about it. This has been a completely scary journey that’s led me to a very awkward situation with my parents.
The necessary details, very briefly: I’m in my mid twenties, currently in nursing school and live with my parents. I have dealt with depression since puberty and have lived a sheltered life, wholly dependent upon my parents, until the past several years. I’m on the MtF side of things, pre-hormones and pre-everything. I live in an extremely isolated area with no support groups or resources aimed at transgendered individuals anywhere nearby, and I had been doing online therapy for several months until I received a recommendation for an endocrinologist.
I’ll be honest—the online therapy wasn’t a great fit for me, but it worked in providing me with information I could use and forming a clear plan for my gender transition. I don’t have any doubts that this is what I want, or emotional issues specific to my gender identity that I want to address at this time. I’m focused entirely on the medical and practical aspects right now. In spite of that, I feel I could use therapy for issues dealing with my dependency on my parents, but I don’t feel that it would be a wise way to spend my money and don’t want to embark on the most likely fruitless search for a nearby therapist who’s a good fit for me.
Now, my original plan had been to tell my parents about my being transgendered at the end of this past semester, help them navigate the resources and understand everything as much as they can and see an endocrinologist during my summer break about beginning hormone therapy before the Fall semester starts. I didn’t expect a big freakout or much anger, and I didn’t get any. My mother initially responded very positively, and gave me her support (although she expressed fears over the hormones). I haven’t spoken to my father directly about it, and don’t know how much he knows, but he asked to temporarily be dismissed from discussing it, so he doesn’t come into this at all. I am positive that he's not upset by it, but just has too many other things going on, right now.
The next day I thought that a follow up talk would be good. My mother’s concerns had inflated and she was rather angry about the online therapy for some reason. She had blown off the information I’d given her, which hurt me a little, but she has since read what I first gave her. She still has no knowledge whatsoever of the potential risks of hormone therapy and has an extremely poor understanding of what it means to be transgendered, so her fears are essentially ignorant.
During this second talk, she told me that she still supports me but insisted that I delay my transition for another year; she thinks that now is a bad time for me to be beginning hormones, because I’ll be starting practical nursing evaluations next semester, and may be stressed. I told her that there probably isn't ever going to be a "better" time, and tried to explain that being in a body that doesn’t conform to my gender identity is itself extremely stressful, but she showed no understanding of what I meant at all—her impression seemed to be that I “want” to transition, in the same way I may “want” an iPad. That my desire to begin hormones ASAP is rooted in a need to alleviate the disgust and fears I have concerning my body didn’t register at all. She’s also taken my emphasis that gender identity may have neurological causes too far, and found it strange that I’d be coming out to her in my twenties instead of simply behaving like a little girl (and believe me, I did plenty of this anyway) as a child. She didn’t seem to understand that this isn’t a delusion--I identify as a woman, but I’ve always known how I’d be perceived if I behaved like a woman all the time.
We both ended up crying, but she did end the conversation by telling me that she still supported me, but was afraid. That was almost two weeks ago, and since that talk she’s asked me one bizarre and insulting question that seemed to imply that she no longer thinks I’m “really” trans and down the denial hole we’ve gone—
--or so I’ve had to assume, because she’s suddenly stopped talking about it altogether. She won’t acknowledge it as a topic of conversation, no longer seems interested in reading and understanding more… Just nothing. Nothing at all.
I can only assume that she now thinks that if we don’t talk about it, it’ll go away. I’m getting really frustrated, here. Since I live with my parents, I see them every day, and there are issues here that go beyond my gender identity. My parents have always shut me out of their lives and emotions—they’re basically disinterested in me or my life, and have a lopsided view of who I am, despite living with me for a quarter of a century. They do care--they just don't want all that much to do with me.
For my part, I’ve responded to being shut out by withdrawing into a depressive lull, but I can’t stay in this state forever and I really would like to move forward as much as I can this summer. I know that going ahead and making an appointment with an endocrinologist will upset my parents, but… Should I even respect their views here? I know that they won’t throw me out of the house in anger, and I expect to be financially independent in one or two more years. They’ve essentially just not reacted to my news and gone on as they always have—by ignoring me.
Should I try harder to help them understand gender issues and gender transition, or should I just let this go and move on without them? Part of my hesitancy is that I’ll have to drive to an unfamiliar city to see an endocrinologist--something I've never done before. I was (perhaps foolishly) hoping I would have their support simply so I could have a hand to hold through all the new and scary stuff that doing this will take of me. On top of that, by living with them, there isn’t any way that I can just up and do this—I will have to announce it a few days ahead of time at the latest, to make sure our plans all sync up, and while I don’t expect a big freakout, I know it will hurt them.
…But my mother’s fears are rooted in a more general hospital phobia and my father hasn’t shown any interest in being involved. Why do I even still care? Should I even consider my mother’s advice to delay my transition? I’ll likely have more financial freedom, but I won’t be in an emotionally stabler situation a year from now.
How can I handle this situation tactfully? I really would like to have my parents’ support, but I don’t know how to make them understand what the transgendered experience is like and where I hope to go from here; and I simply can’t talk to them if they won’t listen. Are there any books or films that would give them a better idea of what it means to be transgendered? Should I push for understanding or let it happen in its own due time while I move forward with my own life now?
How long should I be keeping my own plans on pause while all of this sinks in for them (or doesn’t)?
tl;dr version: I told my parents I’m transgendered. They don’t really care, but don’t really approve, either. Now what?
Thank you in advance for replying. Here’s a throwaway email, if you’d rather respond privately: firstname.lastname@example.org