This piece is cross-posted at In Our Times, an awesome blog collecting various queer Chicago writers and viewpoints. I’ve just started writing with them, and can’t speak highly enough of the work they’re doing.
When I first came out to my parents as transgender, at around fourteen, I had a lot of unspoken questions: What did wanting to be a girl mean, when the whole world thought I was a boy? Could I ever be happy? How would this change our relationships? And, perhaps most important of all, how would transitioning from being a boy to being a girl work? What would that process be like?
I was lucky in some ways. I didn’t wonder whether my parents would kick me out of the house, or stop supporting me, or beat me, or any of the horrible things that happen all-too-often when trans youth come out to the adults in their lives. And when I said those terrifying words, “I think I want to be a girl,” my parents responded with love and compassion. My mom said, “We will love you, no matter what.” My dad said, “We’ll love you, whatever you are. As long as you’re not a Republican.” (The source of my own sense of humor was never a big mystery.) However, they didn’t know how to address my unspoken questions — or even know that those questions existed.
I tell this story a lot, and I do so for two reasons: First, to highlight a way in which my parents were awesome, by responding to my coming out by reiterating their love for me. But also to highlight a way in which they fell short, to highlight their ignorance around what it meant to be trans, to have a trans child. I tell the story of my coming out to focus on the difference between tolerance and acceptance, which my parents absolutely displayed, and support, which they didn’t know how to provide. Continue reading 'How to Be a Better Ally to Trans Folks in Four Steps'»