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Talking About It

One of the most traumatic experiences for any transsexual person is to tell family, friends and colleagues about your feelings. The overriding worry is always that someone you care for will reject you as a result.

However, no matter what you fear their reactions may be, the worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself and suffer silently. Doing so (as I did for about 28 years) just seems to put off the moment when it all comes crashing down and you can't handle it anymore.

With that in mind (and if you're reading this you've already got as far as looking for help) the best thing you can usually do is to be open and honest with those you love and care for. You may well (as I was) be surprised at how accepting and supportive they will be.

One very important little tip - don't give people you talk to more detail than they need unless they ask for it or you're really sure they'll be OK with it. Remember that you may have had years to come to terms with who you are, but for them it's almost certainly going to be a big surprise and they'll need some time to come to terms with it all.
 

Friends

A close friend is almost certainly the best person to talk to first. The first time you do, don't be surprised if you spend absolutely ages waffling around the subject, without actually telling them anything (the first time I talked to a friend it took me over 20 minutes to get to the point - but when I did she was wonderful).

With time (and hopefully support) your confidence will rise, and before you know it you'll be able to talk openly and honestly about what you're going through without any difficulty.

[Update, August 2003]
I can only say that my own experience with friends has been absolutely stunning - with the exception of (all but two of) those I knew through my old church, all of my friends have been totally supportive and accepted me without question. If you have a browse through my photo album, particularly those of the reunion I went to in February 2003 and my trip to Tewkesbury in July 2003, you'll see what I mean.

True friends will almost certainly stick by you. Don't be afraid to trust them, but always be aware that some friends may not be as true as you thought, or may have their own issues to deal with and may not be able to cope with yours.
 

Partners

Unfortunately, talking to a partner is much, much harder. Don't be at all surprised if their first reaction is anger and hostility - remember that they are effectively being told that the person they love isn't the real you. Give it time and understanding, and maybe you'll be able to salvage at least a special friendship from your relationship. I even know several people whose relationships have survived transition, so that's not impossible either - but I'm afraid it is unlikely.

Sadly, my own case followed a rather typical pattern, and as a result we divorced and although I tried to obtain access to my children through the Family Courts, I eventually gave up. Although during the early stages of the divorce it looked as if my ex and I would remain friends (and indeed at one stage it looked like the kids might be staying with me), sadly that's not how it turned out.

I hope that in time I will see my children again, but regardless I really do wish my ex all the best in her new life.
 

Parents and Immediate Family

Parents also deserve a special mention. When told, they are likely to feel that your suffering is at least partly their fault, so do try to reassure them.

I told my parents about my feelings on 12th February 2002 - just after my wife and I had started divorce proceedings, and 5 months after I talked to a friend about it all for the first time. After reading the experiences of others, I decided that the best way would be to write a letter explaining what I was feeling and why, together with what was likely to happen.

Once I'd written the letter (in the form of an email) I called them and told them that I had something I needed them to read, and to please call me back after they'd read it. I sent the email after calling them, and then waited - very nervously. When they rang back I was overjoyed when they told me that it didn't matter - they loved me regardless. Subsequently, my mum expressed some reservations (actually, she said it was the worst decision I'd ever made - but I know she's wrong), but despite that I believed they would not reject me.

Sadly, although they appeared to initially be supportive, as my transition progressed I began to get the impression from them that they couldn't handle who I was and didn't wish to discuss it with me.

Rather than us all endure the awkward conversations that were becoming the norm, I eventually stopped calling - and I'm sad to say that they never called back. I later learnt from a relative that shortly afterwards they had moved house without telling me, which was a pretty unambiguous sign of which way the wind was blowing.

Although that hurt, they made their choice - and there is nothing I can do about that. When I later learnt that my mum passed away in April 2011, no one in the family thought to tell me (let alone invite me to the funeral), which really says everything.

It's a real shame - not only did they never get to really know me, but by shutting me out they never gave themselves the chance to meet my new family (Beth's family, our godson etc.). Oh well. 

Children

I honestly don't know where to begin on this topic. My own experience has been that young children are incredibly accepting, but that merely because they are so young transsexual parents often have difficulty in gaining access to them. A transsexual parent being awarded custody of a child is very rare, but it does happen (I know of several cases in the UK).

Older children (particularly teenagers) will probably have a lot more difficulty accepting the transition of a parent. This makes a lot of sense, when you consider the emotional and hormonal upheaval they are going through at the time.

If you have children in your family the Resources for Transsexual Parents section on Anne Lawrence's site is well worth a visit.
 

Churches and Fellowship Groups

Although what I'm going to say here particularly relates to the Christian Faith, the same can be said for other Faiths.

The sad fact is that many churches don't even begin to accept transsexualism, so you would be wise to be prepared for the possibility of losing your Fellowship. This seems to be most common in Evangelical, Baptist and Pentacostal Churches which often have a very literal interpretation of scripture. The rhetoric of Christian groups such as the Evangelical Alliance doesn't help in this regard, although things are changing gradually.

By way of contrast, MCC, the Unitarian Church and Quakers openly welcome us, and some Anglican Churches will too. When you're ready, don't be afraid to seek out local Churches and ask them - or contact Inclusive Church to see if you can find an inclusive ministry nearby.

Finally, if you find yourself without a Fellowship, please try to remember that you're still loved by the Lord and there are many of us whose Churches would welcome you with open arms if only the opportunity arose. Don't let those who judge dampen your Faith!
 

Colleagues

Firstly, and most importantly - don't expect to transition with little or no notice at work. Attempting to do so will almost certainly just confuse people - give them time to adjust to the idea.

Unless you feel your management is going to be hostile or unsupportive I'd suggest that you talk it through with someone in authority within your company before talking to any colleagues. That way you should be able to get the company's support and backing for your transition before news of it becomes public knowledge. Furthermore, if a colleague does react badly to the news there's someone who can deal with it.

Be realistic about the likely outcomes. The chances are there will be some bewilderment or confusion (hopefully not hostility, but that can't be ruled out either), as a result of which some people may avoid you for a while. Be patient, and (assuming you have the company's support) with time it will hopefully sort itself out.

I suspect it's a bad idea to make a company-wide announcement until your transition is fairly close - especially if (as I did) you need time to really "look the part".

By way of example, I told my Director about my impending divorce and transition in February 2002, started hormone therapy at the end of May, and intend to start my real-life-test at Christmas. He briefed my project team in August (the day before I went on holiday), and the rest of the company was briefed in late November.

As far as the "big announcement" goes, my plan was to bring in a counsellor from the Gender Trust to make a presentation to the staff (and maybe take a day or three off to give the gossip a chance to die down). In the event, the company did a brilliant job of explaining it to everyone (the counsellor wasn't needed) and I didn't take any time off either!

I worked in the male role until the end of the year, and came back as Anna after the Christmas break. Although it felt surreal at first (and yes, I was nervous that first day!) within a few days it just felt natural - almost as if nothing had changed.

Finally, if your company turns out to be hostile (these days it's less likely, but sadly it does happen), above all remember that in the UK you have legal protection - you cannot be dismissed for undertaking a Gender Transition. Know your rights and stick by them.

Good luck!