Monday, November 7, 2011

Quoting The Wizard of Oz

Are you considering telling your family about your true gender identity, but are scared?  Is it possible that you may be wrong about their reaction?  Far be it for me to assume I know anyone's family better than they do, but it might be worth taking some time to consider if you might be more fearful than you need to be.

If your reaction is an immediate one of, "If I tell my loved ones, I will be certain to face:  physical or emotional harm, or being evicted from my home, then perhaps you are wise to refrain.  BUT, and this is a big BUT, if you are feeling even a bit uncertain about how your loved ones will take the news, perhaps there is more potential for acceptance than you've considered.  Perhaps the possible, but maybe not probable fear of rejection is guiding your decision making process more than it should.  I say "perhaps" because, at least intellectually, I understand the very real fear of being cast out from your family.  But if we let fear make all of our decisions for us, our lives will not be as full as they could be.

If you want to come out to your loved ones, but don't know how, perhaps breaking the process down into baby steps would be helpful.  Think long and hard about your family members.  Is there even one family member who is open minded and supportive that you are close to?  Is that family member well accepted by other family members?  It doesn't have to be your parents.  A sibling, an aunt, a cousin, a close family friend-any of them will suffice.  You break the news to the safest person first-IF you can trust that they won't blab before you are ready.  Then, once you have even one person in your corner, you bring that person with you to tell the other family members.  You DO NOT have to inform everyone but keep in mind that whomever you do tell your news to must be trustworthy enough to keep your news private until such time you decide to share with more people.

You could put "feelers" out first.  For instance, you could broach the subject with something like:  "I was watching this show the other day about transgendered people.  It was really interesting and I really felt for people who feel like they are stuck in the wrong body."  Then, watch the person's reaction.  If they react only slightly like, "You mean transvestites?  I thought they were kinda sick," don't give up yet.  This person just might need more education.  You could respond with something like, "Actually, it's not the same thing.  Transvestites just like to "pretend" if you will.  Transgender is a gender identity issue that even science is saying is valid."  If the person seems interested, or even not freaked out completely, believe it or not, there may be hope.

Let's be realistic-this is going to be strange news to hear.  But it's only strange because it's something we're not expecting or used to dealing with.  So, that being said, a person is going to react at first.  That alone is not reason enough for you to stay closeted.  It's the size of the reaction, or the nature of the reaction that can guide your decision.  A significantly angry, explosive or offended reaction might be your warning that this person is not a safe person with whom you can share your truth.  However, a denying kind of response, a "you've got to be kidding" reaction, or even a "is this a sick joke" reaction might just be the listener's knee jerk reaction to some unusual news but may not indicate that the person will reject you outright.

Only you can decide what will make you happy.  How you live your truth is a very personal and individual decision.  That are so many shades of grey here.  If you feel happy and content with whatever measures you've taken to feel comfortable with who you are, then that may be enough for you.  But, if you feel closeted and it's making you incredibly unhappy and the only reason you haven't shared your struggles is simple fear, not a fear that you have investigated and found to be real and not imagined, then perhaps you might consider inching towards telling that one safe person, to start.

Either way, admittedly, you're going to have to be a real tough cookie.  That's where a good therapist is worth his/her weight in gold.  And maybe that would be a better place to start.  Find a therapist first before you start breaking the news.  Your therapist will be your support as you take on this challenge.  You must have someone you know you can count on before you make this leap.  You must have someone who will affirm your worth as a person, regardless of what you wear or how you act.  If your family wants to know why you want to see a therapist, you are not being untruthful if you tell them you are feeling anxious and stressed and need to work through it.

Maybe that's the best place to start-find one person who will support you.  Maybe that person will be a penpal, or someone you meet in a chat room on the net, a therapist, or a family friend-as long as it's someone who can say to you, "I may not understand right away, but I WANT to understand.  More importantly, I want you to be happy because I care."  Find that person-examine your life, your relationships for him or her.  If he/she doesn't exist in your personal life, go to Laura's Playground website and join a support group.  Look up support groups in your area.  As proof that many families will support their transgender, gender queer, and homosexual children, go to  It's possible your loved one may come around like these folks did.

Yes, if you are considering sharing your truth, you must don your big girl panties or big boy briefs.  It's not easy.  But self-care is key.  We all must learn to care for ourselves properly-in that way you're just like the rest of us schmoes who share the planet.  Believing in yourself, caring for your self-it takes courage, or as the cowardly lion put it, "The NOYVE."