Transgender 101
November 28, 2016 11:42 AM   Subscribe

My (niece) nephew came out as transgendered shortly before Thanksgiving. The extended family is accepting and wants to support him, but a lot of us don't really know much about transgendered folk. Is there a basic guide/introduction to this, somewhere online?. Nephew is quite introverted, so talking to him about it is not the best option.
posted by sarajane to Human Relations (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Age of nephew?
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

As in adult or child?
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2016

Best answer: (Not speaking from experience so I may be entirely off base.)

I would suspect that a lot of the "support" comes from not making a big deal of it and just acting like nothing has changed, apart from the use of some gendered words (his/hers, neice/nephew, etc). Maybe clarify with his parents to see what his preferred pronoun is, and if he is going by a different name. But really, I'd thing the most supportive thing you can do ESPECIALLY if he is introverted is to just... be normal.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:47 AM on November 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Mostly be normal, but maybe offer a word of support and an offer of help if you're willing to help. Chris, transitioning must be a big step. I'm not current on the issue, so if I say the wrong thing, I hope you'll let me know. I'm on your team, and will help if I can.
posted by theora55 at 11:50 AM on November 28, 2016 [37 favorites]

Our local youth LGBT+ does regular trainings for the community called "Trans 101" as well as other presentations.

You wouldn't do wrong to start with PFLAG and go from there (our priorities, diverse and inclusive world, and then click "Trans Ally 101")
posted by raccoon409 at 11:56 AM on November 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: PFLAG (what raccoon409 is referring to above) and the direct link to our priorities, diverse and inclusive world, and then click "Trans Ally 101" is here.
posted by andrewcooke at 12:07 PM on November 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Scarleteen's Trans Summer School is a pretty good diving-in point. It's targeted at teens, but I'm 44 and when I need to start from the beginning on something, that's exactly the reading level I want to start from.

And while advice like "just be supportive" is okay, keep in mind that teens and young adults who are questioning have the entire internet at their disposal. They are informed. They are not just guessing how to do this. They know what microaggressions are and they know what misgendering is and they are often activists from the early jump so you need to know those things also because you have no excuse. Don't be the source of entirely avoidable pain and sometimes even abuse that my older friends went/are going through with their families of origin.

If this is a sub-teen child, that territory is less well-explored still but there are resources out there for parents of trans children.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:10 PM on November 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This is part of the goal of The Gender Book ( )
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:11 PM on November 28, 2016

Here's another resource (human rights campaign) - Supporting and caring for transgender children
posted by typecloud at 12:21 PM on November 28, 2016

Best answer: Hey! Non-cis person here. Its really great of you to try and help your nephew. The best thing you and your family can do, though it's probably one of the hardest, is to change the way you think about trans folk. Your nephew is a boy. Has always been a boy. It's not that he was a boy trapped in a girls body, it's that he was born a boy. And because humans are confused beings who really like labels, all of society called him a girl, and forced him to fit in.

I know it says "trans" but try and dissociate that from "transition" as much as possible. For a lot of trans folk, it has nothing to do with changing yourself, it's just accepting who you really are, and demanding people see you that way.

So, some advice. Please never refer to him as "neice". It's not that he was your niece and then changed, he was already a boy, but people were using the wrong label. If you met someone who was "Benny's son", and then 3 months later you found out he was actually "Jenny's son", you'd never refer to him as "the guy who used to be jenny's son", because that was a mistake on your part. The same goes for trans folk-they're their own gender from the beginning, it was society that made the mistake.

I know you mean no harm, but transgendered is a bit offensive. It's the "ed" that makes the difference. You wouldn't say that someone had browned skin, this is the same. Or, for example, yellow paper. Yellow paper is yellow. Yellowed paper is paper that was another color, and then became yellow through a process. Trans folk are not trans through something being done to them. That's just how we are, naturally.

The best search term for you do to extra googling is "trans 101". **Start out with Trans People Speak, it's always good to get it from the source. Everday Feminism has their own breakdown, as well as Glaad, and many others.

**When you do your own research, try to think critically and use the advice I gave you. A lot of places try and simplify it by just saying that a person's feelings don't match with their body, and that's tricky way to phrase it because it's comes from a place that assumes society is right in their belief of the gender binary, and that trans people "just don't fit into it".
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:30 PM on November 28, 2016 [80 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding FirstMateKate and Lynn Never's suggestions.

One of the most concrete ways you can show support is by using the right name and pronouns for your nephew. This is probably something you'll need to work on and practice even when your nephew's not around in order to get in the habit, and getting to a point where you're getting his pronouns right at least most of the time will demonstrate to him that you're not just on his side in theory but actually willing to put a bit of work in. When I transitioned, one thing that really helped my partner get the hang of my new pronouns was keeping a journal where she used them to write about me. (There are also pronoun practice games online, but she says the journal thing was more helpful for her.)

Also: If you have specific questions, or just want advice from more actual young trans people, consider asking in the /r/asktransgender or /r/ftm subreddits, both of which tend to be really gracious about helping families and allies find resources. (Generally people there are pretty excited to see that someone's family is trying to get this stuff right at all!) I know reddit has a bad reputation on here, but those subreddits are generally good and well-moderated, and attract a much younger and less-cis audience than AskMe does.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:50 PM on November 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all, we are working on the pronouns and trying to remain normal. He is 18.
posted by sarajane at 1:03 PM on November 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

(I am a trans man.) First, as everyone else said, refer to him with his chosen name and pronouns. This is of crucial importance because it shows him that you respect him for who he is. Do not use the excuse that you can't remember or it's hard. Maybe it is hard, but if you respect someone you will figure it out. Slips are inevitable; correct yourself and apologize. Or if you are corrected, politely apologize and then move on.

Otherwise, I would totally take it at his pace. Don't make a huge deal of things unless he does. Just talk to him about whatever you talked to him about before. Maybe he's really excited that he is going to the doctor to get hormones. Be excited for him! Maybe he's going to get a legal name change. Get him a congratulations card! Once he's taking testosterone, compliment him (sincerely) on masculine changes (e.g. increased muscle, facial hair). The thing that has hurt me the most from my family is that they have not been excited for me.

If you are also male, let him know that you're available to answer questions about shaving, bathroom etiquette, and other things that aren't imparted to kids raised as female. If you don't have experience with these things, enlist another family member. But be casual and natural. Be patient with any moodiness - this can be caused by hormonal shifts, and/or by the fact that he's now a targeted minority in this political climate. (Doubly so if he's gay.)

If he's a kid, he probably doesn't have money to get things like binders and packers. These are important to many trans men. If you can't bring up the subject to him (it may be too awkward), give him a [Visa, Mastercard] gift card for birthday/holiday so he can buy one online.
posted by AFABulous at 1:05 PM on November 28, 2016 [14 favorites]

If he would be open to it, you could consider buying him a chest binder as a gift. Trans guys sometimes bind their chests with Ace bandages, which is really dangerous and can actually deform bones, or else with several layers of sports bras, which is just really annoying to deal with.

He might not even be interested in this, or he might think it's too weird to talk about boobs with his aunt, but there's a good chance he would really really appreciate this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:15 PM on November 28, 2016

Oh, a couple more things: don't out him to other family members or friends without clearing it with him first.

If he really doesn't care who knows, and is the type who doesn't mind attention being drawn to him, this story about a "birth announcement retraction" always makes me choke up. For me it would be the ultimate acknowledgment of acceptance, but these things vary widely among people.
posted by AFABulous at 1:20 PM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

showbiz_liz, I disagree and I'd definitely just give him money to buy his own. There's a lot of personal preference that goes into it, and a lot of personal reviews within trans masc circles that an outsider won't be privy to. It's not like buying a pair of gym shorts.
posted by AFABulous at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This thread contains so much wonderful advice that I cannot possibly improve on, except to say that it might be nice to write some words of encouragement in a card: firstly because you can take your time and get it exactly right, and also because your nephew can have something with him he can refer back to when things are tough to remind him that he has the support of his family.
posted by matthew.alexander at 1:31 PM on November 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you follow your nephew on Facebook, you might see him share examples of support that he finds really moving or thoughtful. That might give you some ideas into what might be meaningful for him.
posted by bunderful at 2:05 PM on November 28, 2016

Best answer: [pronoun] slips are inevitable; correct yourself and apologize. Or if you are corrected, politely apologize and then move on.

One suggestion that I've heard and like is, after making a mistake, don't just quickly correct the incorrect word or name, but repeat the entire corrected sentence. So like instead of "Is that Bruce's car out front? Oops! Sorry, I mean Anne", "Is that Bruce's car out front? Oops! Sorry. Is that Anne's car out front?" Using the correct words in context is a more effective way to practice them than hanging them off the end. It's a little more work, but I think that actually helps convey that you think this stuff is important.
posted by aubilenon at 2:46 PM on November 28, 2016 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Sit him down.

"I want to support you but I feel like I have a lot to learn. Is there anything you'd like me to know so I can be there for you?"
posted by Amy93 at 5:48 PM on November 28, 2016

Best answer: Oh! If you celebrate the upcoming holidays, it would be most excellent to buy a traditional men's gift with his new name/initials. For example, a leather shaving kit with a monogram that includes his new first & middle initial. If he hasn't decided on a name, then the shaving kit would be enough. Doesn't matter if he has anything to shave yet; it's definitely the thought that counts. I wouldn't buy men's underwear, that's too creepy from a relative, but neckties, men's cologne, or some "club of the month" thing targeted at men would be cool. Yes, it's ridiculous to put the same damn shampoo in a black tube and label it XTREME HAIR JUST FOR MANLY MEN, but psychologically it can help a lot to feel like you are choosing things consistent with your gender.

Be aware that Kids These Days are a lot more fluid in their gender expression. He may tell you he's a man and wear nail polish. One doesn't cancel out the other and it doesn't mean he's necessarily having second thoughts, or going through a phase, or that he's gay. He will figure out "how to be a man" in his own way and it may not necessarily be what you'd expect, especially if he was never the sports-watching, car-fixing, deer-hunting type to begin with.

Sorry for the firehose, but I have so many thoughts on this because my family fucked this all up, but your attitude is going to be a lot more important than the correct Approved Liberal terminology. Give him space - he's at the tail end of "regular" puberty and if he starts testosterone, he's going to be going through a second one. If he lives with his parents you might want to forewarn them that he may slip back into sullen, irritable teenager mode. This does end though, as he learns to manage his emotions and physical symptoms. For more details on how testosterone affects the body, and what future possible surgeries are like, see, but don't play Dr. Google and scare yourself or his parents.

He may be scared to death to go into men's rooms in public places (though I have never, ever had anything happen beyond a raised eyebrow). If he appears masculine, it's safer for him to go into the men's room than the women's even if he's scared. Now's a good time for you and your family to educate yourself on legal issues facing the trans community, especially if he's still in school. Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, Trans Equality, Lamdba Legal and TLDEF (Trans Legal Defense Fund) all keep track of current and upcoming legislation and court cases. These will be crucially important during the incoming administration because no one knows exactly what they're going to do (but it won't be good). Depending on where you live, he likely has no protection against discrimination. (This always surprises people for some reason, but it's true. There is no national right, enshrined in law, to employment, housing, healthcare, etc.) So make sure to read up on what rights he does have.
posted by AFABulous at 7:07 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

This affirmation deck, created by queer and trans youth in Toronto, is pretty awesome. You can check it out and download the PDF here.
posted by twill at 7:34 PM on November 29, 2016

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