Celebrate Your Kid’s Transition. Don’t Grieve It.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/opinion/sunday/gender-transition-death-grief.html

We didn’t die.


Shortly before my gender assignment surgery in 2002, my father told me that he was grieving the loss of his first-born son. My first impulse was to comfort him. We talked about his feelings one afternoon and I reassured him that he wasn’t losing me. I thought this was my duty; after all, he had supported my transition, defending me against bigoted relatives (even as he stumbled over my pronouns and told me I needed to be less argumentative if I planned to live as a woman).

Still, I counted myself lucky that he and other members of my immediate family didn’t reject me, which an estimated 50 percent of trans people have experienced. So I listened, even as his words were tough for me to hear. He lamented that I could no longer bring honor to our Filipino family or be his rightful heir — gender expectations I couldn’t fulfill and had grown to resent.

It was also hard to listen to because I was dealing with the losses of real relationships of my own: my then-partner, close friends, work colleagues. But I couldn’t tell him or the rest of my family this because I didn’t want to lose their tenuous support.

I’ve heard other trans people tell similar stories of absorbing their loved ones’ grief, of seeing the depiction of such grief in media, of having the eerie feeling that they are providing solace to people who mourned as though they had died.

There was the trans man whose parents continued to display pictures of him as a beautiful girl all around their house, or the trans woman who described how her transition was a celebration for her but was a funeral for her wife. There are personal essays, podcast episodes and articles that focus on the reactions of spouses, partners and family members of trans people grieving over their transitions.

What is often left unspoken is that a trans person is expected to provide emotional support through this grieving process. My father has repeatedly said I should always be grateful he supported me when other parents wouldn’t. Yet I’ve come to find it deeply unfair that trans people are often left with the burden of assuaging their loved ones’ grief.

Not only does this expectation posit that being transgender is a trans person’s fault, but it also fails to account for the fact that transitioning is likely to be many times more difficult for the trans person than for any loved one. Most important, grief as a reaction to transition is a form of transphobia; it reduces a person’s very being to their gender, and reveals that a loved one cares more about a phantom image than for the trans person they supposedly love, who is right in front of them.

We often have to tolerate these expressions of grief, knowing well that we would not receive the same level of empathy for our struggles, because we live in a world that affirms the feelings of cisgender people while rejecting our own.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/opinion/sunday/gender-transition-death-grief.html

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