Talking to Family

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#1
Family can be such a pain, am I right? Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.


I feel like I'm always at odds with my family. They're split into various groups: most of my mom's side, my dad and stepmom, my sister's family, my stepdad's family, my aunt and her wife and kids, my aunt's wife's family. I interact differently with each one. Most would probably say they know a quiet, reserved person. This has essentially been me keeping my head down until I'm no longer around them. I hardly see or speak with most of them. Every few weeks I'll talk to my parents on the phone, try to talk with my aunts and the twins more, and my siblings it's every few months. Most, been years.

Either way, the picture they have is so tiny that it feels like talking to them, being more open with them, shouldn't be relevant. I should be able to keep my head down any time we interact, rare occasions those are. But eventually I'm going to see them again, and eventually that's going to be far enough along that they're going to notice things are different about me. And also it's probably immature to think hiding myself is a long-term plan.

But where do I even start? I mean, did they even realize I was unhappy? I feel like I was good at keeping things from them, better than with people I interact with more frequently. I've seen people whose families came around because they saw how much happier and psychologically healthy the person is after they've stopped hiding themselves, but I don't know if that's the case. I've kept so many of them at arm's length.

So I'm like, do I start by seeding out that things are wrong? Do I say "I'm starting to look into therapy about gender, anxiety, (insert whatever else)", essentially pretending I'm earlier along than I am? Blasting it across Facebook is probably a bad idea, but I've seen people do that. I just don't know where to start. I'm sure a letter going "I knew something was wrong back when ..." It comes off as a dear john letter. I don't want to approach them remorseful about this, but I feel like much forwardness is going to have blowback. Or that any approach is going to go poorly, weeeeeee.

tl;dr I don't know how to come out to my family in a way that can be amicable to both myself and the people I'm talking to, but not doing so is giving me increased anxiety.
 
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#2
I've taken a 100% honesty approach with my family, though that mostly involves telling the members of my family I don't like that I don't like them, and why.

But ultimately, I still think honesty is the way to go. This is your life and you are doing the best you can, so tell them that. Tell them how much its helping, and remember that if they react poorly, it doesn't matter. They may take time to accept it, they may never accept it, but what is important is that you are doing what you need.
 
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#3
if they react poorly, it doesn't matter. They may take time to accept it, they may never accept it, but what is important is that you are doing what you need.
Or to put this a slightly different way, it doesn't matter when the ones who don't want to accept what you're doing find out, they weren't ready to accept it anyway. Now I'm not gonna be all "You didn't need those losers anyway!" about it because that kind of sour grapes attitude makes just as little sense for this as it does right after a breakup, but if they're not willing to accept you, then you need to accept that it's they who don't want to accept you for some reason (even if they're not willing to tell you what it is).

That said, no matter how immutable anyone you know might seem, there's always the chance they might blow your mind and... well, change in the future.

--Patrick
 
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#4
Consider their feelings. I know, you're the one going through the stressful and (probably?) dramatic changes in your life. But, whenever you're going to give anyone news, you'd better think about them. You already know how you feel about it!

I know if either of my siblings (we are closer than you and yours seem, but for example) were to tell me they were struggling with gender it would come as a bombshell and I would probably not know what to say for a day or two, beyond quietly thanking them for trusting me. If either one were to tell me they were struggling with anxiety or mental health, though, I'd be like, "Well. Yeah. Obviously." So there could be a broad range.

I would broadly recommend honesty, patience, and though it may seem strange because you feel distant or alienated, compassion, for their reaction. Let compliments and insults (or rejoicing and -phobia perhaps) alike roll off your back, secure in the knowledge that you are not doing this for/against them, but for yourself. Give them time to have a balanced reaction.

And take comfort in the values and structures you have in your life apart from them.

And good luck.
 

Dave

Staff member
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#5
I still have never understood why anyone gives a shit about anyone else's gander/sexuality. Unless it's my wife, nobody else has any practical effect on my life.

I'd go 100% honesty as well, but be willing to let go of anyone who gives you shit until they come to terms with it. If they don't accept you as you are then you're better off cutting them out until such time as they come back in on their own accord. But I know it's a lot easier to say to just let go and a lot harder to just do it.
 
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#8
I've taken a 100% honesty approach with my family, though that mostly involves telling the members of my family I don't like that I don't like them, and why.

But ultimately, I still think honesty is the way to go. This is your life and you are doing the best you can, so tell them that. Tell them how much its helping, and remember that if they react poorly, it doesn't matter. They may take time to accept it, they may never accept it, but what is important is that you are doing what you need.
It's hard to approach that way when people are so different. My mom and sister with their "boys are like this, girls are like that, and that's that" mentality, my dad's "I don't have a problem with LGBTXYZ's, I just don't want anything to do with them," my blatantly transphobic aunt, my aunts who should be the first people I can tell since they're gay except they seem iffy on transgender people. I feel like I need to tailor the approach for each of them.

That said, no matter how immutable anyone you know might seem, there's always the chance they might blow your mind and... well, change in the future.

--Patrick
If only they saw things that way!

Consider their feelings. I know, you're the one going through the stressful and (probably?) dramatic changes in your life. But, whenever you're going to give anyone news, you'd better think about them. You already know how you feel about it!

I know if either of my siblings (we are closer than you and yours seem, but for example) were to tell me they were struggling with gender it would come as a bombshell and I would probably not know what to say for a day or two, beyond quietly thanking them for trusting me. If either one were to tell me they were struggling with anxiety or mental health, though, I'd be like, "Well. Yeah. Obviously." So there could be a broad range.

I would broadly recommend honesty, patience, and though it may seem strange because you feel distant or alienated, compassion, for their reaction. Let compliments and insults (or rejoicing and -phobia perhaps) alike roll off your back, secure in the knowledge that you are not doing this for/against them, but for yourself. Give them time to have a balanced reaction.

And take comfort in the values and structures you have in your life apart from them.

And good luck.
I think compassion is a narrow line, particularly for me. My attitude for sooo long was based on how much I felt I was in people's way and how swiftly I could get out of their way. Physically, emotionally, etc. It's not like that now. I do my own things without apology. I've worked on not feeling like I'm doing something wrong by existing down to coming up with mantras to repeat in mind in a grocery store. I've even told off Julie's parents, individually, something I could never do before, and they've both been well-behaved toward her since.

There are times I feel my family liked having me around, always asked when I'd be visiting and such, because I was exceedingly agreeable. So I'm not only uncertain how they'll handle my gender situation, but also my finally feeling good about myself. So being compassionate toward their difficulty is going to mean balancing between a pride parade and John Mulaney's bit about entering every room with an apology.

I still have never understood why anyone gives a shit about anyone else's gender/sexuality. Unless it's my wife, nobody else has any practical effect on my life.
This was me even before I was 16 when all this started. Some people have no lives? :p

That's another thing. Are they going to be "I can't believe you hid this since you were 16" or "I'm sorry you felt the need to hide this since you were 16" or ... who the hell knows.

I'd go 100% honesty as well, but be willing to let go of anyone who gives you shit until they come to terms with it. If they don't accept you as you are then you're better off cutting them out until such time as they come back in on their own accord. But I know it's a lot easier to say to just let go and a lot harder to just do it.
I don't want to be cut off from some people, especially not my cousins, nieces, and nephew, but you're right, it's something I'll have to be prepared for.

I see that a lot of my responses are just "but it's harrrrd!"
 
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#9
I don't want to be cut off from some people, especially not my cousins, nieces, and nephew, but you're right, it's something I'll have to be prepared for.

I see that a lot of my responses are just "but it's harrrrd!"
Another anecdote that you may use to draw your own conclusions.

A good friend of mine is gay. He’s known that he is gay a looooong time. I won’t go into anything about how he found out (because that’s his story to tell), but he tells a story about coming out to one of his coworkers when they went out to lunch one day at work. He broke the news, she got all offended and wouldn’t talk to him afterwards. But he lost no sleep over it because, as he puts it, he was the same person when he left the restaurant as he was went he went in, she was the one who decided to change after the reveal. It’s not his job to change her mind, that’s something she’ll have to do someday on her own, IF she decides to.

—Patrick
 
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#10
Another anecdote that you may use to draw your own conclusions.

A good friend of mine is gay. He’s known that he is gay a looooong time. I won’t go into anything about how he found out (because that’s his story to tell), but he tells a story about coming out to one of his coworkers when they went out to lunch one day at work. He broke the news, she got all offended and wouldn’t talk to him afterwards. But he lost no sleep over it because, as he puts it, he was the same person when he left the restaurant as he was went he went in, she was the one who decided to change after the reveal. It’s not his job to change her mind, that’s something she’ll have to do someday on her own, IF she decides to.

—Patrick
That makes sense. I suppose looking at it that way makes more sense than bombarding Facebook with relevant articles and hoping they take the hint.

Aside, I did come out to a coworker a couple weeks ago and not only was she supportive, but our relationship has improved a lot.
 
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#11
The absolute wrong way is to be confrontational or forceful. I saw that happen and I can tell you it backfired.

Key things are being understanding of their opinions and feelings - including that something is "wrong" or "icky" or whatever. Another is to point out your existing relationships, and that that doesn't change (mom's still your mom, dad's still your dad, etc.). Try to point out similarities or commonalities, things you agree on. Focusing on the negative is rarely productive.
 
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#12
Key things are being understanding of their opinions and feelings - including that something is "wrong" or "icky" or whatever.
Is there a way to do this without giving heed to suggestions that "you're just confused" or "you aren't getting the right help" or tactics like that? I know there's a mourning period some go through when a family member comes out and denial/bargaining are going to be parts of that. I have to be gracious about their feelings, but firm about mine, I guess?

Another is to point out your existing relationships, and that that doesn't change (mom's still your mom, dad's still your dad, etc.)
I hope so.

EDIT: The other thing here is, I don't think I can this alone unless I do it online/phone/letter. I don't want to do it when I visit though because A. I'm afraid I'll be ruining an occasion and B. Julie will be with me and Julie doesn't take any shit. She will go on a verbal rampage if anyone says boo to me, so ... maybe I need to find a way to do this remotely. Which is easy since I don't live near anyone anymore, not for hundreds of miles, but still.

I don't know when's the right time, if I'll be ruining their holiday season by saying something soon, or if it's better to open up about it because I'd rather they didn't send us cards and then be like "I wouldn't have had I known."
 
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#13
I wrote a two and a half page rundown of this element of my life since I was a kid, trying to throw some humor here and there.

Times like this, it must be nice to be someone who gets drunk or high, because that sure would make future steps easier!
 
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#14
I think compassion is a narrow line, particularly for me. My attitude for sooo long was based on how much I felt I was in people's way and how swiftly I could get out of their way. Physically, emotionally, etc. It's not like that now. I do my own things without apology. I've worked on not feeling like I'm doing something wrong by existing down to coming up with mantras to repeat in mind in a grocery store. I've even told off Julie's parents, individually, something I could never do before, and they've both been well-behaved toward her since.

There are times I feel my family liked having me around, always asked when I'd be visiting and such, because I was exceedingly agreeable. So I'm not only uncertain how they'll handle my gender situation, but also my finally feeling good about myself. So being compassionate toward their difficulty is going to mean balancing between a pride parade and John Mulaney's bit about entering every room with an apology.
I suppose compassion does have to be narrowly defined. I see compassion as less "accommodating others feelings and needs" and more "I see your problem/pain/issue but I also see your responsibility for it. I care, but your pain isn't a good reason for me to suffer. I will help you, when you want it." In this case, if they want to accept your news, but find it surprising/challenging/painful/confusing, you might be willing to work with them, provide them information, talk openly - depending on your level of comfort and closeness of course.
 
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#15
I suppose compassion does have to be narrowly defined. I see compassion as less "accommodating others feelings and needs" and more "I see your problem/pain/issue but I also see your responsibility for it. I care, but your pain isn't a good reason for me to suffer. I will help you, when you want it." In this case, if they want to accept your news, but find it surprising/challenging/painful/confusing, you might be willing to work with them, provide them information, talk openly - depending on your level of comfort and closeness of course.
I'll have to train my brain a little for that.

I should definitely find some kind of written information I can point them towards so their knowledge isn't only myself and whatever they hear over media.
 
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#16
It's a fine line to walk, I think. Not letting them walk over your feelings, but also not being too aggressively defensive as to push them away and force them into a position they can't easily come back from.
Even if they would be supportive or understanding, it's normal for them to be shocked/surprised/etc if they're caught unaware. I mean, obviously, some people will never be accepting. Others might be (become) if given the time and space to be surprised, shocked, inquisitive. I'm sure they'll make stupid suggestions - is it a phase, are you sure, don't you just need some counseling, etc etc.
Biting off their nose won't help them "come over to your side", it'll push them away. If they're asking such questions our making such suggestions, I think it's important to try and answer them without feeling attacked yourself so that you don't strike back in anger...
But it's always a gamble and terrifying.
 
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#17
Another anecdote that you may use to draw your own conclusions.

A good friend of mine is gay. He’s known that he is gay a looooong time. I won’t go into anything about how he found out (because that’s his story to tell), but he tells a story about coming out to one of his coworkers when they went out to lunch one day at work. He broke the news, she got all offended and wouldn’t talk to him afterwards. But he lost no sleep over it because, as he puts it, he was the same person when he left the restaurant as he was went he went in, she was the one who decided to change after the reveal. It’s not his job to change her mind, that’s something she’ll have to do someday on her own, IF she decides to.

—Patrick
I'd disagree that she changed. She was always that person, he just didn't know it.
 
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#18
I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. I hope that when you’re ready, that everything goes as well as it can.
 
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#19
It's a fine line to walk, I think. Not letting them walk over your feelings, but also not being too aggressively defensive as to push them away and force them into a position they can't easily come back from.
Even if they would be supportive or understanding, it's normal for them to be shocked/surprised/etc if they're caught unaware. I mean, obviously, some people will never be accepting. Others might be (become) if given the time and space to be surprised, shocked, inquisitive. I'm sure they'll make stupid suggestions - is it a phase, are you sure, don't you just need some counseling, etc etc.
Biting off their nose won't help them "come over to your side", it'll push them away. If they're asking such questions our making such suggestions, I think it's important to try and answer them without feeling attacked yourself so that you don't strike back in anger...
But it's always a gamble and terrifying.
Which is why I want to do it remotely and by the couple pages I wrote. It will give time on both sides to be less aggressive.

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. I hope that when you’re ready, that everything goes as well as it can.
Thanks :)

I almost sent it via email/Facebook yesterday, but Julie warned me "be ready for everything" and that kinda scared be back from doing it. We established that there's no good time for this and I also cannot plan around other people since I can't know what's going on with them day to day.

I really wish I was still in therapy right now. My prior therapist had an insurance issue and went on maternity leave. Finding a new one willing to get involved in these issues and who takes our insurance AND isn't too far away has been hell.
 
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#20
Okeeeey, coming down to the line now.

My current outlook is that the sense of having to hide myself from family is childish, like I broke a vase and have been keeping the pieces under the bed. Except I've done nothing wrong.

So I'm writing short letters to them that essentially say I'm trans, been hiding it a long time, has taken counseling to bring me where I could tell now, and if they have any questions or concerns, they know how to reach me.

If they don't want anything to do with me, it's their mistake to make. I've done nothing wrong.
 
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#21
Took out the "or concerns" part because implications.

Mailing tomorrow evening after next therapy session. This is one of those times where my annoying "stick to the plan" fixation that I'm trying to grow from comes in handy. I know I can tune out my brain long enough to shove those envelopes into the mail slot, no turning back.
 
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#22
Took out the "or concerns" part because implications.

Mailing tomorrow evening after next therapy session. This is one of those times where my annoying "stick to the plan" fixation that I'm trying to grow from comes in handy. I know I can tune out my brain long enough to shove those envelopes into the mail slot, no turning back.
And that's how Hailey zero mission got arrested breaking into a public mailbox
 
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#24
I mean, keep in mind that anyone who wasn’t going to be OK with it before isn’t going to be any more OK with it if you waited longer. Your letters are no doubt going to inspire a sort of “coming out” among the recipients as well.

—Patrick
 

Dave

Staff member
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#25
I'm hoping this turns out to be one of those times where the parents turn to each other and say, "Pay up!"
 
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#26
I mean, keep in mind that anyone who wasn’t going to be OK with it before isn’t going to be any more OK with it if you waited longer. Your letters are no doubt going to inspire a sort of “coming out” among the recipients as well.

—Patrick
That's where I'm coming from now. I've been on HRT for nine months now. Waiting isn't going to make it suddenly better.

And it's unfair to me to continue the anxiety. Let's find out who my family members are.
 
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#28
If that number somehow ends up smaller than you were hoping, feel free to sub in some of us.

—Patrick
Because deep down, you know you've always wanted a crazy ferret lady aunt living somewhere in the Frozen Wastes, and an angry Ewok uncle with far-out political views but who's still fun at parties.
 
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#30
Because deep down, you know you've always wanted a crazy ferret lady aunt living somewhere in the Frozen Wastes, and an angry Ewok uncle with far-out political views but who's still fun at parties.
If I could only scoop out the views of my Trump supporter relatives and replace them with Gas's. Seriously.

Anyway, my therapist cancelled today's appointment, so that sucks, but I sent the letters anyway. Mail just came, so they could reach their destinations Wednesday. I need to message my youngest sister and my aunts before that so they have a headsup as they aren't getting letters.

"Shield up" is my mantra any time I get anxious. I'll be whispering it a lot to myself these next few days, I'm sure.
 
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#32
End of day total: 5/5, my stepsister, both aunts that matter, and my twin cousins are with me. I let myself get to a guarded place, so I'm not really feeling the impact of that yet, but it'll probably hit me tomorrow.
:)
 
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#33
I should probably give an update.

My mom and sister both called, made sure I know they love me no matter what. We talked, I answered some questions. This is already leading to funny stories, like my aunt asked "So how do you want us to tell the twins?"
"I already talked to them. They didn't tell you?"
"No. Okay, good, I don't have to worry about it!"


Haven't heard from my dad. He only lives 15 minutes from my mom, so I know he received the letter. Not sure what that's about. My hope is that he's chosen to write a letter back and that's why I haven't heard from him.
 
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#34
Another update.

Dad stuff was a series of misunderstanding. I think from some things I said to Julie and my therapist, it's clear I have some unrelated, unaddressed issues with him, but that's stuff that can wait for sometime later, or forever. He wanted me to know he loves me no matter what ... and thus didn't really have questions. I think he's setting himself up for some surprise later, but if he feels it's not important, I'm not going to make him hear about it. ```\_:awesome:_/```

So everyone who matters is on my side. I'm glad that's done; I feel so much better.
 
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