Help me think of my daughter as my son
July 8, 2010 4:23 PM   Subscribe

My daughter wants to be my son, and I'm okay with that. But...

It's gonna take some time to wrap my head around calling her 'him' and getting used to the idea. If I ever can. I mean, I still call my 32 year old baby brother my baby brother.

And how do I get used to the idea? I mean, she's 22 years old, and she told me this about two years ago. She still goes by her given name, except online, and she hasn't made any changes because we're all poor and it's difficult for her to move forward with it.

She doesn't like loose clothes so she wears skin tight clothes and, to be honest - she's got a hot bod (for a woman). She doesn't like her body, but she hates loose clothing more. *shrug* Anyway, it's hard to identify her as a man when her boobs are sticking out. Plus, she's got child-bearing hips (which she blames me for. Sorry, it's genetic).

Anyway, she wants to get started by purchasing a binder (Bonus - can anyone recommend a good binder? I don't want her to hurt herself with a bad one) and eventually having breast reduction surgery. She says that she doesn't need to have complete reconstruction as long as she can "legally take her shirt off in public" and be seen as a man. Since she's not interested in sex (with either gender) I can see her point.

So, I'm looking for pointers from people who have made the transition or who have family members - especially children - who've made the transition - how can I take my daughter of 22 years and turn her (in my mind) into my son??? I'm not looking on pointers about how to be supportive of her - I'm always supportive of my kids (unless what they're doing is illegal). I'm asking about how to change *my* way of thinking - is there any way to make it easier? or will she always be my little girl?
posted by patheral to Human Relations (40 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I've known people who've transitioned, both FTM and MTF, and it's a long process to change your own perception of them. My only real advice is for both of you to acknowledge that there needs to be understanding on both sides, that it will take time, and you might keep thinking of him as your baby girl for awhile!

I found it's a bit easier making my own perceptions shift when the person makes a full gender transition - as in, they live as their new gender full time. As in, if your daughter takes to living as a dude, then it'll be easier to consider him male. If she's doing 'drag king' or gender bending, then it's a bit harder.
posted by kanewai at 4:34 PM on July 8, 2010

If I were in your situation I would look for a therapist who has experience with transgendered folks and go for some joint sessions. Not because there is anything "wrong" with your daughter, but because this is a very complex situation and an experienced professional can help guide you through the experience, as well as help you communicate with each other as the dynamic between you changes.

(As a side note, doctors generally won't perform sex reassignment procedures until some extensive counseling has taken place. Since she's not planning to get bottom surgery, this might not apply...but in either case I'd imagine her physician could refer you to a therapist who specializes in this.)
posted by tetralix at 4:37 PM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: Try referencing him by his given name, and avoid referencing him using prepositions for a while.

Example (using generic trans-gender name):

It's gonna take some time to wrap my head around calling Sam 'him' and getting used to the idea. If I ever can. ....

And how do I get used to the idea? I mean, Sam's 22 years old, and Sam told me this about two years ago. Sam still goes by Sam's given name, except online, and Sam hasn't made any changes because we're all poor and it's difficult for Sam to move forward with it.

Leave out all the "she's" and "hers" for a while. Use your language to identify your child as a person first, rather than a gender.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2010 [9 favorites]

Are you in the US? There are PFLAG chapters all over. It's "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays" but I have also known parents of transgendered people to benefit from their support groups. If you're in or near a major city, there is likely a gay community center who can refer you to a supportive therapist.

Give it plenty of time, give yourself lots of room to "grieve" your daughter, and rejoice in the "birth" of your son.
posted by desjardins at 4:54 PM on July 8, 2010

Check out Athens Boys Choir Here's his page on Facebook. He's a FTM who had a mastectomy and politely tells people that what's in his pants is none of their business. Harvey talked to my Anthropology of Sex and Gender class, and might be willing to email with your kid (see what I did there? you can do it too! It might feel weird, but it might be helpful in making the transition) and sharing some resources. Harvey lives in Georgia, last I heard, which can be a very unforgiving place to be outed unexpectedly,

Here's a previous askme that you may not have seen.

I'm with previous responders who say, Time. Time and practice.

Also, please tell your son that you love him. Not that you love him even though... or that you love him especially because. But that you love him.

Also, know and remember that he's grieving too. This gender business is hard work, and he's likely having a hard time giving up what looks to be a much easier life (from the outside). I mean, being FTM is dangerous and stressful. He's not choosing this on a lark, or just for grins. As hard a life as FTM is, he's come to a point where it's harder to live as a woman than it is to face the stigma of not conforming to the social expectations of his genes and genitals.
posted by bilabial at 5:11 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Here's a previous askme that you may not have seen.

Yep, I missed it. Thanks! There's a lot of information in there for my, er, kid. ;)
posted by patheral at 5:27 PM on July 8, 2010

PS - I think you sound like an amazing and very, very thoughtful parent and I'm really quite touched by your acceptance and kindness in the face of something really confusing (for everyone!).
posted by tristeza at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [21 favorites]

A FTM that runs in my circle did a very gradual transition. He started by dressing and presenting more male binder and sometimes a smaller sock stuffed for effect) for about a year. Then he started the hormone treatment and made his name more masculine (Katie to KT). Then as his body became more male. He made the final "social" change and went from KT to Turner and ditched anything considered "Feminine" as far as dress and behavior. By that point, new ppl had no clue and old ppl were on board and ready for the final "stages". It made us all WAY more comfortable in verbage needed to support him in his new form. (None if us were uncomfortable with the change - just the reassigning of him in our minds.)
posted by eggerspretty at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I asked my friend who's FTM if he had any advice for you. His first reaction upon reading your post: "For the love of god stop calling him 'she'." Below are some highlights from our IM transcript:

-Be very careful where you get your information. "Do not watch talk shows featuring trans people. Do not watch movies or TV shows about trans people unless a trans person has told you it's a good portrayal. Do not, under any circumstances, watch Boys Don't Cry." What's wrong with that movie? "It's a panic thing. 'Oh my poor baby is going to die by hate crime.' It's enough to convince some people that being trans is a terrible idea, or to feel pity for us, or what have you." He says documentaries are generally good, though, particularly the ones following younger people.

-Seriously, be very careful where you get your information. "Even therapists who supposedly specialize in queer issues often don't know the first thing about trans people. But it might be very difficult for her to find someone who does. So if she goes to see a cis person for counseling, she needs to make sure that her son's opinions come first. She doesn't like how he dresses? Too bad. It's what he's comfortable with. Doesn't matter if he doesn't pass. If he wants dress tips he can find them himself. Speaking of which, Underworks is where I got my binders. They've got a great reputation, but they're quite pricy."

-Do not drag the kid to counseling or support groups. "It's up to him, and if he says no then accept it. If he wants counseling with you that's fine. Solo counseling is fine. Support groups are fine if they're led by someone who's trans... Even the LGBT specialist for my school district didn't have a clue about how to refer to trans people and she led the support group my mother went to. The parents would insert 'transgendered' before son or daughter every time. Yeah, I get it. Your kid is trans. But he's your son, not your different-from-normal-people son." He adds that all the parents there were supportive, if misguided, which is good.

-Don't worry! "Another thing you might want to emphasize is that he's not doomed. There's a perception, and a not unrealistic one, that trans people are doomed to unhappiness. We have high rates of suicide and homicide deaths. High rates of unemployment. We're bullied and beaten. But we're still okay. In all likelihood he will have a happy and fulfilling life. Parents worry about kids. And being trans leaves you with a huge target sign. But worrying parents do not help."

So, yeah, hope that helps. And good on you for supporting your son! It should really make his life/transition a lot easier.
posted by randomname25 at 5:56 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm FTM, pre-op (but looking into it), no hormones (don't plan to start them).

On adjusting: since a lot of your cognitive dissonance seems to come from the feeling that his body type doesn't seem right for his preferred gender, maybe this will help a little: There are plenty of narrow-hipped, flat-chested women -- the classic 'boyish' figure -- that society has no trouble labeling as women. There are plenty of 'pretty boys' who are clearly men (aside from whatever stupid issue homophobic people may have with perceived effeminateness). Heck, there are men who have gynecomastia and develop breasts -- they're still men! We have all these shapes that we like to box people into and say "this shape is man, this shape is woman" but there are already so many exceptions to those shapes even before we get close to the transgender issue.

On pronouns: I know prepositions are really, really hard to switch, but I believe that part of what will help you make the adjustment in your mind is to make a concerted effort not to slip up and say 'her'. (I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but every time you wrote 'her' in this post I winced.) This is just anecdata, but I've found that the more people get my and my other trans friends' pronouns correct, the more they seem comfortable with who we are. It may just be that in the time it takes to get used to not screwing up pronouns, you've had time to let the situation sink in and become normal.

I like jabberjaw's suggestion to use his name rather than a gendered pronoun as an intermediate step. Some gender-non-conforming individuals choose outright to use their names as their pronouns because neither 'her' nor 'him' feels right.

On binders: I get all my binders from the FTM section of Underworks. They're good people.

On surgery: Here's a previous comment of mine from the thread bilabial linked. As I noted there, the stringency of the requirement to have "the letter" seems to be relaxing, but the surgery should still be done by someone with experience doing FTM-specific reconstructions. I believe the surgery typically runs a few to a several thousand dollars -- most FTMs (including me, right now) spend a while saving up. Reputable, experienced doctors will have some provision for revisions to the surgery if he's not happy with how it goes.
posted by dorque at 6:03 PM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

I know prepositions

But apparently I don't know my parts of speech. Pronouns, obviously.
posted by dorque at 6:07 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My mother went jabberjaw's route when I came out to her almost 10 years ago. It's only been since I started testosterone a year ago that she was able to go from gender-neutral to male pronouns. And even then, she consistently slipped for about 6 months. Never mind I was never a girly-girl and passed even before testosterone.

Don't feel bad for slipping, but please, do keep trying. (When I first started transitioning, my mother would always ask what pronouns she should use when she met any new friends or coworkers of mine.) And if you do slip, don't make a big deal out of it. Overly correcting a slip in public can be far worse than the initial mistake!

Also, bear in mind that your (and your son's) feelings about transition are going to change throughout the process. There was a time when my mother could not bear to picture me with facial hair, now she teases me when I get lazy about shaving. Chest surgery was terrifying to her, now she's asking how I'm doing with getting some of it setup on insurance. The unknown is scary, but do realize this is a process (and actually a pretty slow one with many many steps) that's supervised by medical professionals. Educate yourself and go one step at a time.

For a binder, I suggest either the frog bra or a binder at Underworks. Your son will want to try a few. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a binder that does not hurt. Many will pinch under the arms and the shirt-style ones also tend to push in on the stomach, which can cause horrible acid reflux. (I am VERY small chested, but once got a full-compression binder that was so tight, it made me vomit and I had to cut myself out of it.)

Aside from attending a therapy or support group session with your son, I'd suggest also looking to YouTube to get a feel for some folks who have transitioned. There is a surprising variety of gender expression among ftms, and a lot of don't subscribe to the hyper-masculine "ideal".*

Here's a few to get you started:

Get a feel for the type of man your son is. Not just what man-parts he's interested in.

Feel free to memail for any more info.

* A lightbulb went off in my mother's head some years ago when we were watching an episode of Frasier together. She suddenly blurted out "You're Niles!". Ha ha ha, close enough, mom.
posted by Wossname at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2010 [15 favorites]

title nine has sports bras that some of my FtM friends have used - the one i know specifically is "the frog bra", but they've apparently made better since then. they have live support and i don't think this will be a new question for them.

let him dress how he's comfortable - but after he figures out binding, doing things like tight-ish tshirt, with a baggier button up (or a suit jacket - i got mine for 2 bucks at goodwill), and low slung mens jeans (ones that fit, not baggy) will certainly present more masculine. but, it's up to him how masculine he wants to present.

i've had some friends where the transition really surprised me - i'm all sorts of open minded and i've been a trans advocate since i struggled with my own gender and gender presenting as a late teen - but sometimes the news is just utterly shocking and hard to get used to. for me, the quickest and easiest way was to change the gender when speaking to them, about them, or even thinking about them. so i'd be driving along alone and my brain would switch to the topic of my friend and i'd be all like "craig, oops, i mean cindy, was really a blast at dinner the other night! he, i mean she (mental smack my hand) really lights up when she (metal pat on the back) talks about work!" so even alone, even where no one can see me or judge me, i force myself to think about their true gender, not their presently presented gender.

she's lucky to have a mom like you. i also suggest PFLAG.
posted by nadawi at 6:13 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: "For the love of god stop calling him 'she'."

Yeah, pronouns are going to be the hardest part. Look at if from *my* side - B has been my daughter for 22 years! It's going to take a looooonnnnggg time for me to stop using gender specific pronouns.

Sorry, I'm just wired that way. My baby brother still winces when I call him "Billy" instead of "Bill" because "Billy's a child's name." but Billy is what I called him since he was a baby... It's just very hard for my mind to make that switch.

I'm completely supportive of B's choice to become a man. It's B's right. I'm not scared that B will be unhappy with the switch. Most of B's friends are pretty supportive as well. As are B's sisters, brother, and close cousins (though not quite the rest of the family, but most of them are distant anyway). Somehow I think they'll have an easier time with the pronoun and name adjustment than I will...

posted by patheral at 6:17 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

if you think of saying the wrong gender as literally slapping your child in the face every time you do it - does it become easier to change?

maybe think of it like this: my parents were married for 20 some odd years, my entire life plus some. when i was in high school they divorced. my mom immediately took her maiden name back. for 16 years they were "my parents" and she had my last name - but suddenly every thing changed for me and i had to start thinking of them as "mom" and "dad" and i had to start relating to her as a single woman who didn't share my last name. this was incredibly difficult to me because my sense of self was wrapped up in them as a unit. but, i had to make the change because i wasn't the one who lost everything here - sure, i lost a lot and my suffering wasn't miniscule, but i had to always keep it mind that it was harder on them.

i'm sorry, i think you're being overall fantastic about this, but the pronoun thing is important and "i'm just used to it" isn't really a good reason. that's why i suggest making yourself do it in private as well as in front of him or your family or his friends.
posted by nadawi at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Using his preferred pronouns, regardless of body shape and ability to pass, is the first and best thing you can do. If the two of you are close, talk and keep talking. Keep your freak-outs private or with your own therapy/support group. And please please please please don't do what my partner's Dad did, such as keeping obviously gendered baby pictures framed around the house.

No Dumb Questions has a good forum with first-person videos, inspired by a documentary of a family whose uncle transitioned and became their aunt.

Get a feel for the type of man your son is. I could favorite this a thousand times. Everyone is different.

Upon preview, I realize it may feel tricky to make the change but the sooner you do it in your head the easier it will become out loud.

Only he knows for sure, but he may have not felt like a "daughter" for many, many years.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: let me explain how my mind works (and please don't yell about pronouns - I get it)

I met a person (whom we'll call Tim/Cindy). When I met Tim/Cindy, he was dressed as a woman, and passed quite well as a woman - until he spoke. (stop flinching!) Tim/Cindy had a very masculine, deep voice that didn't match at all with his outfit. We got along great after the first few giggles. Anyway, Tim/Cindy introduced himself to me as "Tim" because we were in a formal situation and that was his legal name.

Because that's how I met him, that's how he's forever etched into my brain, as "Tim" and as "him" even though I know she's now "Cindy." Hormones haven't quite gotten his voice to female, but hardly anyone can tell Cindy used to be Tim.

Another story - a friend of mine introduced herself (no gender changes here) as "Sharon" but that wasn't her name. She didn't like her name, so she chose to call herself "Sharon" her first year in college. Great, until she went home and everyone BUT me was calling her "Denise" and no one knew who this "Sharon" person was. I still call her "Sharon" because that's how she introduced herself to me, and it's been two years.

When I say I'm wired that way, it's not dismissive of how important the whole pronoun thing is - I really mean, I'm wired that way. It's difficult enough for me to remember people's names, let alone change them. I know that we're talking about my child in this case but my mind works like that once it connects a face to a name, that's the name it'll be connected to.

Does that make any kind of sense?
posted by patheral at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: patheral, yes, I understand where you're coming from - I am the same way. Once a person's name (or other parts of their identity) is set in my brain, it takes a LOT of work to change it. It will just have to be something you work on, and it will have to be something you make clear to your son that isn't meant as an insult or rejection of him.

I nth visiting some support groups for parents of the LGBT community, only because you'll meet parents of transgenders who will give you advice and support! In the meantime, practice makes perfect.

Don't sweat it too bad as long as your son knows it's just a brain thing and you're working on it. :)
posted by asciident at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2010

I understand patheral's point about names-to-face connection. When my stepmother immigrated, she took the English name Chris because it was the first thing she thought of. Several yeras later, and a few years after I had met her, she changed her name to Isabel. It's been a few years since then, and I would say that since I've known her, she has been named Chris for half, and Isabel for the other half.

I still mess it up, sometimes. Not because I disrespect her choice or anything like that, but because when I think about meeting her/our first interactions I think "Chris". I try really hard not to mess it up in front of her, and when I do she knows its not to be hurtful! Hopefully your son will feel the same way.

In a hopeful note, I think part of my trouble in making the Chris-Isabel switch is that I see her so infrequently that I don't think about it a lot/practice with her new name. With your son, however, I assume you will be in contact frequently and with time and concerted effort, it will get easier every time to get the pronouns, names, etc right. Transition is a long process, with plenty of time to adjust along the way built in on purpose to deal with questions like the ones you have!

You obviously love B very very much and are being a great parent by working to support this change :)
posted by hepta at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: She still goes by her given name, except online, and she hasn't made any changes because we're all poor and it's difficult for her to move forward with it.

If your child hasn't started expecting people to use a masculine name to address her or him, maybe s/he doesn't expect anyone, including you, to use masculine pronouns yet. Ask your child how s/he would like you to react, feel, address him/her, and then aim for that.
posted by orange swan at 7:54 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sister's friend has a blog that's kind of just a blog, about his life, like blogs are, but in this case that includes the before/during/after of his transition. It's a new blog with just a few entries, but he's a good and funny writer. Here is his post about binding, which I found hilarious and touching. It might be useful for both of you.
He also has a page about effective ally behaviors.
posted by librarina at 7:55 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a mom or trans, but I've known a few friends through their transitions.

You'll always see your baby, but perhaps try to de-emphasize gender of that baby of yours in your head. All parents have to cope with the weirdness of realizing that their children become adults. Maybe it would be helpful to think of B's transition not as something is starting now, but something that has been happening for a loooong time as part of B's development into an adult. Just like you had to get used to your kid hitting puberty, being taller than you, living on their own, being old enough to have a legit sex life of their own, having a career...and you'll eventually be shocked to see that your kid is getting gray hair.

But yes yes yes to using the preferred pronoun -- it's a huge demonstration of your acceptance of the transition. Using B's name instead of any pronoun for awhile can be a helpful step -- it makes you conscious of the need to think before speaking out of habit, but B's name isn't a new term. Once you're thoroughly annoyed by not having a pronoun to use, you'll hopefully be sufficiently conscious enough to start using masculine pronouns.
posted by desuetude at 8:01 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also consider that you will have two sons and two (?) daughters, not one son and three (?) daughters.
posted by Monday at 8:21 PM on July 8, 2010

One thing to bear in mind: B, presumably, has had a while to get used to the idea of being female-assigned-at-birth while identifying as male, it's completely understandable that you need some adjustment time as well.

If your profile is accurate, you're in luck to be in Philly! Each year, Philadelphia hosts the Trans Health Conference and in general there's a pretty strong, supportive trans & allies community. Check out the Trans Health Information Project - while they might be more medically-focused than you need, they can definitely provide you with some referrals to resources for parents of trans kids.

One thing that might help you flip the switch in your head is to think about B's perspective. For at least some amount of time, B has not been your "daughter." How long doesn't really matter, and it could be a couple years or his whole life. B is male. Not wants to be - but is. It's a tough thing to wrap one's mind around, but gender just isn't as neat and boxed up as we act like it is.

You sound like you want to do the best by your kid and that's awesome. Keep up the good work, and just talk to B to find out what he would like from you. I'm sure you do that, and you're open to anything he would tell you, but my guess even the small act of asking him what you can do differently or better or something like that would make a big difference.
posted by SugarAndSass at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also consider that you will have two sons and two (?) daughters, not one son and three (?) daughters.

You read my mind! I had the same thought not even five minutes ago....

Yes, I have four children. B is child 3 of four.
posted by patheral at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Also, thanks everyone for your support and answers. I'll definitely ask B what pronoun she would prefer. It's gonna be an interesting ride... I can see that from here.
posted by patheral at 8:44 PM on July 8, 2010

Thank you for reaching out to us!

If you have any other questions, feel free to Memail me (not trans, but not totally gender conforming either) or post on the green.

I'm with a the folks who say, it's good that you're making this effort, for B and for you.

(also, you're right that this process will be easier for some than for others, but it's going to present challenges for everyone, and folks who appear to take it in stride may be struggling internally. Just as it's ok for you to feel confused, sad, and maybe even angry, others will feel those things too. Including B. But know that feelings are not actions. While it's ok to feel something, some people use that as an excuse for terrible behavior. PFLAG can be a great resource for dealing with inappropriate behavior, no matter who it might come from.)

Oh. And my chiming in about agency is now. Please make sure B knows that as always, leaving situations that are uncomfortable is permitted. B doesn't have to be accommodating to transphobic jerks, and can leave social activities that feel unsafe.
posted by bilabial at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Oh. And my chiming in about agency is now. Please make sure B knows that as always, leaving situations that are uncomfortable is permitted. B doesn't have to be accommodating to transphobic jerks, and can leave social activities that feel unsafe.

If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's B's ability to let people know exactly how B feels and the fact that B will get up and walk away (in high dudgeon) when B is offended, insulted or otherwise annoyed. B very rarely internalizes B's feelings. ^_^'
posted by patheral at 9:18 PM on July 8, 2010

Patheral, do you have any terms of endearment you use with B, like Sweetie, Honey, etc? Maybe try to use those in the transition if a name switch becomes difficult. (Unless the endearment is Princess or something.)

I think that you probably have some grieving to do, and that's okay, but I would gently suggest you work through that on your own and try really hard with B to pretend that you are not grieving.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:36 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To tell y'all the truth, this is the first time I've even considered that there's the possibility of a "grieving" process involved in this. It never occurred to me that I might have to grieve for my daughter while welcoming my son.

Y'all have given me something to think about...
posted by patheral at 9:45 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If by any chance you're in Ohio, I'd suggest giving TransFamily a call and trying to hit some meetings. Even if you're not in Cleveland, they're a good resource and have some potentially worthwhile email loops.

Additionally, a name change can be had for under $100 in many places. I know that's not exactly a small sum, but it could be a Big Deal for your child.
posted by MeghanC at 10:12 PM on July 8, 2010

This may appear strange at first, but what helped me get over the pronoun and name issues was roleplaying. As in Dungeons and Dragons and all that. People give their characters different names, and particularly in a live-action (think improv acting) setting, you're acting in character and have to refer to someone by their character's name. Add in the occasional guy playing a female character (or the reverse!!) and then you're adding the pronoun fun.

The same thing goes with improv acting -- roleplaying and improving are practically the same thing as far as I'm concerned.

After, well, more than a decade or more oh god I'm old of roleplaying and LARPing and such, I've become extremely relaxed about gender pronouns. I've always been horrible with names so that's less of an issue; a number of friends know it will take me ages to remember their real names, as it takes me long enough just to remember ONE!

Maybe consider trying out an RPG? (Tolja it might be a bit strange...) Just getting into the mindset of another person can help you get past some of your mental fixedness, even if you're just playing a Human Cleric. Stretch your imagination, and the rest of you might follow.
posted by Heretical at 10:45 PM on July 8, 2010

I'm not trying to be flippant, here, but for the first several months of my son's life, I kept calling him by the dog's name.

You obviously love your child, and that's the key thing. The habits will take a long time to change, but -- let's face it -- you've known her as a girl since she was a baby, and you likely will continue to do it for a long time to come.

The thing is, that's okay! Nobody's expecting you to forget her past, nobody's expecting you to flip a switch and never make a mistake. What you're doing is something that few expect, but for an entirely different reason -- few expect a parent to be so understanding, so supportive, and so respectful. Just keep doing that, and realize you're being an amazing parent by doing it. Good on ya.
posted by davejay at 11:16 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay here's the thing. Names get stuck in your memory to large degree fine. You still call your brother Billy, whatever.

This is way more important than that. Don't fall back on excuses like that. To start thinking of your son as your son, start actually doing that. Commit to it. Whenever you remember, whether it feels weird or not, use the pronouns that he prefers. Even if you're thinking the wrong pronouns in your head, don't use them. If you forget, fine. Move on. Not a big deal. What matters is how you deal with messing up. Apologize, move on, go back to using the correct pronouns. Do it whether or not he's there. Correct yourself in your head if you're just thinking it.

As soon as you've asked him, and actually know what his pronouns are, start using them. Once you start, if you really commit to it, it'll be easier than you think.

Don't pussyfoot around the issue, don't do cutesy little things like you're doing here, putting 'him' in scare quotes, "My daughter wants to be my son", no. If he's your son, he's your son and there's no wanting about it.

You're going to mess up. Don't use that as an excuse for not trying.

You keep emphasizing how supportive you are, but you have to actually be supportive if you want to claim that. Supportive includes doing these things.

Other advice: stay away from "but you look so good as ". That's an old, and very worn out and unhelpful trope. Do ask him, as other people said, about his name and pronouns, and if he's only using them in certain contexts. You should respect these things.

This is important, and should be obvious, but a lot of people don't think of it: Don't out him to anyone unless you have his permission. If there is someone who does not know he is trans, it is not okay for you to tell them this without his permission. This is something that can have very powerful and broad ranging effects, to a degree that very few cis people are aware of. Depending on the situation, it can be very dangerous for him if you do this thing. Don't do it. Respect his boundaries, whatever they are.

Sorry if I'm 'yelling' at you.

posted by Arturus at 5:36 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might find this book interesting/illuminating/helpful: What Becomes You.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:42 AM on July 9, 2010

Response by poster: Okay here's the thing. Names get stuck in your memory to large degree fine. You still call your brother Billy, whatever.

This is way more important than that.

I'm sorry, I want to address this even though it's a bit off topic... You have no idea what's more important to whom when it comes to identity. For all you know, my brother changing his name from Billy to Bill could have been a major thing in building his identity, just as what B is doing.

I'm not making excuses, and I'm not saying that I won't try. Of course I'll try. My children are very important to me and I would never do anything to openly insult or hurt them. And saying things like this:

Don't pussyfoot around the issue, don't do cutesy little things like you're doing here, putting 'him' in scare quotes, "My daughter wants to be my son", no. If he's your son, he's your son and there's no wanting about it.

Doesn't help a bit. Jeez. B has been my daughter for 22 years. B still looks like my daughter, still goes by my daughter's name, still dresses like my daughter, and for all intents and purposes, is still my daughter other than in her psyche. The metamorphosis that will change B from my daughter to my son hasn't begun (for me - which is why I asked the question in the first place) How else am I supposed to phrase a question like this. It's not cutesy, it's a serious question!

And please, B knows that the body she wears now is hot. It's not the body B wants, and we've already talked about breast reduction and binding and not once have I ever said, "but you look good as a woman" because how would that help B pass as a man? What I *did* say was, "I wonder if testosterone will change the shape of your hips, because those aren't manly hips." Probably not the most helpful thing in the world to say, but if B is gonna pass as a man, something's gotta be done about the curves (I think).
posted by patheral at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2010

patheral, did you check out the videos to which Wossname linked? (And wow, Wossname, they're awesome) and scroll back through their transitions? I think they provide really amazingly clear examples of how someone transitioning still looks like themselves.

Framing this as "I have to understand that my daughter is now my son" is maybe kind of a daunting starting place. You're gonna have to get there eventually, but part of your identity has been rooted in being mom to a daughter for longer than B has been aware of the concept of gender. You can treat B as male before your head is totally on board with it.
posted by desuetude at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2010

Response by poster: So, I talked to B this morning... The conversation went pretty much as expected. B said that the pronoun confusion is understandable since her coming out is fairly recent. B mentioned this in passing two years ago, but only started seriously discussing it a few weeks ago. B and I promised to be patient with each other - and I forwarded the links for binders to his facebook.

So, it'll be a slow process, but we're working on it.

Thanks for your support everyone. I truly appreciate it. ^_^
posted by patheral at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: patheral, you're being an awesome mom and yes, this can be overwhelming, even when you're totally on board for your kid.

Wrong pronouns/names can be a hell of a sore spot with trans people because the gut reaction is that a slip = "not trying" or "purposely disrespectful". No, sometimes it's just a slip. Habits can be hard to break. You can help yourself by increasing your awareness.

Start taking a look at how often your gender plays a role in your day-to-day routine. How many times was a door held open for you today? Did you show your ID? Go to a public bathroom? Go to a gym? Try on clothes? Fill out any applications/forms? Etc.

On the flip side, I think some people forget that not only is transitioning a very public thing (you can't really opt to keep it private, like disclosing one's sexuality), but the burdern of disclosure is shared by the trans person and those who know him/her. Sure, I had to come out. But then my mom had to tell her family and friends, my boss had to tell people who knew me from before, etc. These people had only days, weeks to prepare, when I've had years and years.

It can be overwhelming, but again, remember that this is a process. Take steps. You'll have only partial successes for starters, but they will accumulate over time, trust me. I can still remember every day I did not pass, all the evil eyes I've gotten... but now that I've been passing 100% now, it seems so very long ago.

As for your concerns about your kid passing: it's very interesting how masculine cues tend to have priority over feminine cues when being read as a particular gender. And these cues can even override the glaringly obvious. For example, my ID still has my female middle name and "F" as the gender marker, but only once* has anyone seemed to notice.

Passing, especially when undergoing hormones, is all about the gradual accumulation of hundreds of tiny (and a few not so tiny) social and physical indicators. I think my physical transition has been mostly subtle, but it all adds up. (And as a data point for you, I went from 125 to 150 pounds, yet lost 2 inches off my waist. Girl hips are totally gone.)

In short, you're gonna fuck up, your kid is gonna get mis-red, but don't let that get your spirits down. It gets better, be educated, YouTube is an awesome resource (lots of folks have posted 1 year montages on testosterone). Once the ball gets rolling, the first few months suck, but a year itself goes by amazingly fast.

* When getting my 6-month blood test to check my testosterone levels:
"I'm so sorry sir, I'm so embarassed to ask this but... you are male, right?"
"I'm female-to-male trans. I'm still legally female."
"Oh, thank god. I thought my computer was messed up again. It's been giving me problems all damn week. Here's your paperwork, sir. Have a good day."

posted by Wossname at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

I don't have any advice for you on your question in particular, but I do want to give you a big ol' hug for this: I'm always supportive of my kids (unless what they're doing is illegal). I'm asking about how to change *my* way of thinking...

My coming-out was fairly traumatic, and if this is how you're already dealing with your son, then that's just all kinds of awesome. All I ever wanted was for my parents to love and accept me without telling me I'm going to hell or throwing Focus on the Family DVDs at me.

From square one, you are already making a decision to be loving and supportive and change your thinking so you can do just that, and well... If that's your natural response to this situation, I think you're already doing just fine. :)
posted by xedrik at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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