On the 1st day of Christmas my grandchild gave to me...
December 11, 2011 11:58 PM Subscribe
I am transitioning (ftm) and haven't told my extended family. My grandmother is extremely distraught by my mother's passing last year. We are seeing each other for the first time in 6 months at a holiday dinner this month. How do I balance my needs with her needs and minimize drama?
posted by buteo to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My mother passed away in January of last year (metastasised breast cancer, diagnosed at 36 and passed away at 47). Her mother (my grandmother) has taken her passing extremely hard and is still very distraught almost a year later. She is likely depressed and keeps making statements such as "why couldn't it have been me? I've lived a full life". She also places emphasis on my mother's gender by bringing up that she lost her only daughter (she has two sons).
I began my transition in November of last year (name, pronouns, presentation) but did not come out to my mother before she passed. I started testosterone in May and I am very male in appearance at this point: deep voice, facial hair coming in (though rather pubescent looking), very broad shoulders. I bind and I have short hair in a typically masculine cut. I am not stereotypically masculine in interests (which is likely to be a sore point) but I have been quite visibly queer off and on since I was 16 (and consistently for the past 3 years, I am now 22). Oh yeah, and I'm into men so I can't even use the "now I'm straight" angle.
When I saw my grandparents at my mom's funeral in June, one of my mom's extended family complimented my grandmother on having "such a handsome grandson" which visibly flustered her and she snapped "that's my granddaughter".
I am also my mom's eldest though thankfully I have both a brother and a sister so it's less bad than her "only granddaughter" transitioning. Still, I'm certain the combination of being my mom's child, my mom's eldest and my mom's daughter makes my grandmother particularly sensitive to my choices.
Oh yeah, and my middle name was a tribute to both my grandmothers (they have the same name). I have now changed it to something distinctly male.
Now comes the fun part: My siblings and I are going there for Christmas dinner (grandparents, 2 uncles, 1 aunt and 2 male cousins) on December 30th. I have not told them about my transition and I have no idea how to go about it.
We have absolutely no out LGB family members and definitely no T so I have no precedent to follow. I also have no allies that I can trust on this side (I do not want to put my siblings in this position; my brother is still very hesitant about it all but my sister has been cautiously supportive). My aunt in particular is a really obnoxious busy body who can get really bossy and has a flawed sense of personal boundaries. One of my cousins has a unique sense of style (goth) and has for the past decade so maaaybe that will help me?
They are from rural-ish Quebec so I have significant cultural boundaries to cross. None have a university education so they are unlikely to be receptive to an argument grounded in gender theory or scientific fact. No idea how religious they are but my mother was the most liberal of the lot (and she'd "cry [herself] to sleep because [I wore] men's pants").
I am not willing to compromise on any of my presentation as it is extremely triggering to me to try to "play female". I didn't bother last year in December and nobody commented (they were all busy with my mother's health) except my grandfather who said "so you dress like a boy now?". I told him it was in style.
What do I do to minimize conflict and be considerate to my grandmother during this time?
The options I see:
a) Come out prior to the holiday dinner so as to not shock them on the day of, deal with upsetting everyone and answering tons of questions at dinner
b) Don't come out and try to play it off as personal style while answering to my birth name all evening
My main reservation to postponing coming out is that I will have to eventually - I can't keep pretending that I have a cold and that I'm wearing shoulder pads or something. I'm only going to get more masculine appearing as time goes on. However, I am not opposed to eventually coming out via email later instead. (I know there will never be a good time but there may be a more considerate time.)
Thanks for any advice/insights on how to handle this. (And I apologize for the disjointed paragraphs, I tried to include as much information as possible.)