Parents: Why we’re way too hard on them

So I’ve found my biggest issue with transpeople is how we react to our parents.  There are a million other things that also drive me nuts (particularly when it comes to transmen), but the parents issue is one that always grinds on me more than the others.

It’s this horrible thing where we seem to assume that our parents should automatically accept us, that they should be able to look past their own personal experiences and welcome our transitions with open arms.  In reality our parents are human beings just like everyone else and they’re going to need some time to adjust to the idea that their daughter is really their son or vice-versa.

It’s worst with transpeople whose parents are honestly trying.  You’ll get the transpeople whose parents love and accept them and always will, but when they first come out they say things like “That’s my bo–girl…um…son.  You’ll always be my son.”  Now, they obviously mean “you are my child and this isn’t going to change that,” but because we’re so overly sensitive we hear it as the world’s biggest insult.  We act like these parents are as cruel as the ones who throw their teenage children out of the house when they try to come out to them.  In reality they’re just being human and taking some time to adjust.  We have to respect their need for time because it’s the only way they’ll be able to respect our need for immediate change.

What gets me even more are the parents of idiotic genderqueer kids who you can tell are just trying to be assholes.  When your mother comes up to you after reading a book on gender and asks “so…you’re a boy…in a girl’s body?” the correct response is not to go on about how on Monday you’re a boy and on Tuesday you’re a girl, on Wednesday you’re both, Thursday neither, and Friday through Sunday you prefer to identify as a Cherry Coke.  Your mother is trying to understand you and you are purposely being a dick simply because she didn’t use the right word.  It’s not her fault she didn’t use the right word, she doesn’t know what it is becuase you haven’t taken the time to explain things to her.  Instead you tell her you identify as a high-fructose corn syrup infused beverage.

It’s also not fair to expect your poor parents to understand that you see yourself as a transman in a biological male’s body.  I don’t understand that and I am trans, your parents are going to be even more confused.

I just think we need to give our parents a break.  They’re transitioning right along with us, but they don’t have the 15+ years of experiencing what it’s like to feel like your body is against you to help them understand.  They can’t read our minds, they don’t know what it’s like for us.  To them we were just their quirky little kids, maybe a bit different from the other boys/girls, but not enough to cause concern.  Sure, we were moody and depressed when puberty hit, but aren’t all teenagers?  They’ve tried so hard to protect us for so long that to hear that they’ve failed in such a hugely fundamental way is heart breaking.  It’s not their fault, there’s nothing they could have done to make us feel any better, but they’re our parents so they still feel guilty.

Then you add in the fact that we tend not to tell our parents until we’re ready to physically transition and that adds another level of shock to things.  It’s hard enough for them to get used to the idea of calling us by the opposite pronouns and a different name, but now we’re also saying we’re going to change how we look.  Different clothes might be ok, at least we still have the same face (complete with Daddy’s eyes and Mama’s nose), but now we’re taking that away from them too?  It’s too much for them to take in at once, they just can’t handle it.  Some will manage with more grace than others, but in reality it’s a huge leap for our parents to make.  We’re asking them to jump across the Grand Canyon when they can’t even walk yet.

So often we forget that we’re not transitioning nearly as much as the people around us.  We forget that our transition affects them just as much as it affects us — sometimes more than it affects us.  We’re so focused on finally making ourselves happy that we lose sight of everyone else’s happiness.  I’m not saying we should give up what we want to please others, we’ve all tried that and it doesn’t work.  I am saying that we need to give them a little more room to mess up because even though they love us, it’s still going to take them more time than we’d like.

11 Replies to “Parents: Why we’re way too hard on them”

  1. Hmm, someone left me a link to this site because I’d put up the exact quote about the cherry coke on a blog for a project I’m doing for class. The funny thing is, someone else had given me that quote, so I’d assumed they came up with it on their own. Interesting.

    And I think your post was well-written. I mean, we’re just people, but our parents are just people too. They’re not superheroes.

    • I know that I got the Cherry Coke comment from a friend who was ranting about another friend ranting about another friend…or something like that. It was one of those six degrees of separation things. I can see if I can track down the original commenter if you like.

  2. What I think isn’t fair is that parents expect their children to be cis-until-declared-otherwise. Without that assumption, they would not have these problems.

    • Of course parents expect their children to be cis-until-declared-otherwise. They also expect their children to be healthy, creative, funny, and well adjusted. Parents expect their children to be like the vast majority of children in whatever area they happen to be in. If they didn’t they’d go crazy with worry. Considering a child is more likely to be autistic than trans, I don’t think it’s all that horrible of an assumption to make.

  3. I think you’re right but what about parents who emotionally and physically abuse their kids when they came out?

    I’ve gone through hell and it would be interesting to talk to you and get your point of view on it. Can you please talk to me?

    • Oh, I put those parents in an entirely different category. Those parents I think should have all children in their care taken away because *clearly* they don’t know how to love unconditionally. Probably should also have to pay for all the therapy we need thanks to their sorry asses.

      (BTW, I replied here instead of emailing because I wasn’t sure if that was your actual email. If you’d like to switch it over just email notaiden[at]gmail[dot]com)

  4. Thank you very much for this blog entry. Each trans person should read this before coming out to their parents.

    This is just one of the things which many trans people with understanding parents get wrong. They cringe whenever the old name or pronoun gets out of their parents’ mouth and think it’s an offense. But if you were called by one name for say, 20 or 30 years, and then by the other, it takes a lot of time to adapt to it.

    I first went by a male name for one year and then found out that for peculiar reasons (I’m torn between 3 countries who each have their own set of rules of what names I can adopt and it was not clear which country is responsible for my case) I had to switch to a neutral name. For the trans people I had become friends with, it was difficult to switch from the male to the neutral name, and they got it wrong a lot for a couple of months. This helped them understand their parents better.

    My parents still get my name and pronouns wrong occasionally, after a couple of years. They are of the understanding category, but it’s just difficult for them to adapt. They apologize for it, but I don’t make their lives miserable for it. Try to unlearn something you have done for 30 years…

  5. I’m glad I read this blog post and others like it before I came out to my parents. We haven’t had time to discuss anything in-depth yet (as I came out yesterday–huge relief!) but I can already see hurdles we’ll have to jump over together.
    Some days, I’ll probably be really frustrated and make snarky comments but overall, I want this to go well so patience is an excellent reminder. Thanks. 🙂

    “Different clothes might be ok, at least we still have the same face (complete with Daddy’s eyes and Mama’s nose), but now we’re taking that away from them too?”

    I find it reassuring that my eye colour will stay the same. I don’t know what I’m going to look like, despite being able to examine family resemblances, so knowing that some things will stay the same is extremely comforting for me.

    • I, uh, wouldn’t be too sure about eye colour staying *exactly* the same. Mine went from chocolate brown to honey brown about six months into T. I’m not sure if it was the T or something else (eye colour can sometimes shift based on diet, age, health, etc.), but it was pretty startling to realise.

  6. I’ll just start off by saying that I absolutely love your blog and that you’re amazing for writing about the stuff you do!
    Its so nice to see a fellow gay transman, you have no idea 🙂
    On the topic of parents, I can’t say I have much experience with the ‘trying their best’ type you portrayed. Even when I first started binding, my mother (a cis, hetero and homophobic woman) told me that I was just ‘confused’ and that I’d come to ‘love what I had been given’. When I quite naturally didn’t, I was not given support (not that I was expecting it instantly) but instead I was told that ‘there is more to life than having a penis’ and that if ‘this’ was the path I had chosen to take, she didn’t want to be a part of it.
    So while I agree that we shouldn’t expect instant acceptance from our parents, I do believe that we deserve some because we haven’t truly changed. Yes, we may want to be called by different pronouns or names, or even have different parts, but underneath it all, we are still the same kid our parents spent 15+ years raising and I don’t believe our gender should have any sway in how we’re seen or treated.
    But that’s just my opinion, of course.

    • This for some reason did not get sent to my email the way it should have so I’m sorry for the late approval and reply.

      This post is more for the ridiculous number of trans guys I’ve met (and continue to meet) who throw temper tantrums because their parents still stumble over pronouns and names than those who actually face real resistance. My own parents tried to send me to anti-gay camp and disowned me when I came out so I definitely get that not all are anything close to accepting. I just have no patience for the guys who expect their parents to catch on the second they come out with absolutely no time to adjust. Give the parents who try some credit, it’s not like this is easy for them either.

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