Respect For Friends Who Transition

I’ve found it challenging as an aging baby boomer to confront gender transitions. I posted some of my own “lessons learned” during the Transgender Day of Visibility. My suggestions won’t necessarily help traditional cisgendered people understand, but it might help minimize blunders.

Here are some things I’ve learned about gender transition:

  • It’s not about me, my expectations, or my confusion. And believe me, confusion can reign.
  • A transition doesn’t mean the person is going to fulfill any particular stereotype I might carry about the chosen gender. (See above).
  • A person transitions for compelling personal reasons that I don’t need to understand and have no right to question. (See above).
  • Out of friendship and (at least) courtesy I don’t generally treat one’s transition as a topic of conversation.

No one in my immediate family transitioned, but my children have certainly surprised me with life choices. There’s a temptation to lean on one’s presumed rights as a parent to be intrusive and even thoughtless. Resist temptation. Be the parent – or friend – they need.

It has taken me a long time to understand how to say these things. I hope subsequent generations catch on more efficiently than I.

Gender stereotypes

My earliest expectations of a gender transition anticipated a swing from being one gender to being an exemplar of the other gender. Transitioned men emphasize their maleness, women their femininity. The idea probably arose from over-watching Victor/Victoria and a tabloid-style familiarity with transvestitism.

When you remember that people transition, you must accept there’s no specific way to act male or female. We all find our own way.

Why transition?

While I’ve wanted to ask that question, I was courteous enough to refrain.

After a lot of reflection I’ve concluded it’s like many personal matters: the answer can’t necessarily be shaped into words. Even if things can be explained, I can’t demand an explanation. It crosses a personal boundary, like touching someone without leave. Some questions even a parent can’t ask.

Role of parents

Be the parent your child needs. It’s hard to respect a decision you don’t understand. Do it anyway. Avoid unanswerable questions, no matter how much you yearn for an answer. The child you love is still there and is stronger with you than alone.

If we’re lucky, we develop self-confidence about our choices sooner in life instead of later. Any sort of “coming out” requires a strong sense of self identity and a good deal of courage. Honor the courage and cling tightly to the love.

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