#812: “Coming out as transgender at the holidays.”

Ahoy, Captain,

So, the holidays are coming, and there are some issues which I am pretty well obligated to deal with, but have not yet (being a weenie, largely), here’s a list of facts:

– I am transgender
– I have started hormone therapy (testosterone), my voice has dropped noticeably, I should probably shave, and an awful lot of people in the community call me by a different name, and he/his pronouns
– I am closeted to one rather conservative maternal vulcan uncle
– I am closeted to both my maternal and paternal grandmothers.
– I am known to be transgender to my other uncle, and his wife and children
– both grandmas live within a kilometre of me
– I am 24

My maternal grandma is essentially the matriarch of the family. It is considered unspeakably rude to point out when she is wrong. She doesn’t know. I’ve tried to tell her, she lives very close and I see her at least once a week, but she’s very conservative, likes being in denial about things she doesn’t like, and is starting to develop Alzheimer’s. Either she ‘forgot’ or she forgot. So, how do I tell all of these people? How do I deal with this at the holidays? Should I just shave, put on drag, and count on everyone around me to ignore the obvious? Being trans is an obligate coming-out, so I know I can’t put this off forever. If not this year, I have to deal with it next year, and short of moving overseas, I don’t know how I’d avoid that.

– A Transponder

Dear Transponder,

It’s profoundly not fair that you feel like you need to do all this work in order to live safely and happily in your body in the world and in your family, so try to remind yourself that you have nothing to apologize for and that not rushing out to explain your body to people so far doesn’t make you “a weenie.”

If you’re not ready, then you’re not ready, and you know what to do. If you are ready to be around your family in a more masculine presentation, one strategy is to come as you are and let people draw their own conclusions. Another strategy is to write a letter or email* to the people who matter most to you, to lay the groundwork. Include things like:

  • “If you didn’t already know, I’m transgender, and I’ve started hormone therapy, so when you see me next I will look and sound more masculine. It might be jarring if you haven’t seen me in a while, so I wanted to give you a heads’ up.”
  • “Coming out and moving toward a more masculine body & presentation feels really good right now, and I feel like what I’ve been sharing with everyone through this process counts as very good news.”
  • “My preferred name is _____ and I’d like it if you called me that and used he/his pronouns from now on.”
  • “Here are some websites/articles/books that can tell you more about this if you want to know more.”
  • It might be helpful to have your family members spread the word for you, right? But you might not want them to talk about it and prefer to do it yourself. Whichever you want, tell people about that in the letter. “I’ve told x, y, and z so far, and I’d prefer to keep it just among us for now.” or “One way you can help is to spread this news far and wide among the family.”
  • “What I need from you now is what I’ve always needed: Love. I’m really looking forward to seeing you and hearing about (new thing in your life).”

Another strategy is to find someone in the family – like the aunt & uncle who know already, and their kids – to both deliver the news ahead of time for you to other relatives AND to be your buddies at gatherings, and to help remind people of their manners with “__________ is ______’s name, not ______.” “Enough questions right now, let’s eat!” Ask them to help you create a little bubble of safety around yourself.

Put in exit and self-care strategies if things do get icky. Hopefully you won’t need them, but knowing that one of your party buddies will jump in to talk to Conservative Vulcan Uncle and another one get you out of there can relieve some anxiety. Have a friend or two at the ready for a phone call or texting if you need some words of comfort and also have a safe, comforting place you can go. It sounds like you have some LGBTQ-community friends around you, and they will be a great sounding board/mutual support & admiration society for you right about now.

This lovely guest post from Lt. Trans* (who suggested the letter first strategy to me) about coming out to parents might give you some helpful framing:

Relationship essence can be boiled down to three qualities: presence, support, and approval. I think we often seek approval first, or even second, but the reality is it almost always comes last, if it all. With my parents, I learned I didn’t need their approval to have a relationship with them: we can still learn to accept each others’ presence and support.”

This past guest post about coming out as queer to consersative relatives who make offensive jokes might also be helpful, too. It has notes about safety and also about honestly telling your family about your worries in coming out to them. You see your one Grandma all the time and you’ve told her, so on one level, she knows already, even if she’s not ready to acknowledge it. You’ve done your job and you don’t have to make her understand or feel a certain way about it, and in the meantime, you have each other’s presence and support. If Alzheimer’s/Dementia are in bloom, she’s gonna need gentle correcting about lots of things, so “Call me _________, Grandma!” will become just one of them.

I hope these are very happy holidays for you.

—————————————

Commenters/Readers: 

IF you have had the experience of coming out about being transgender or queer to relatives (or, if this is something you are personally planning to do/wrestling with), we want to hear from you in the comments! The LW would benefit from knowing that he is not alone and knowing about what has worked for other people.

If you have not personally had this experience, please refrain from offering your opinions or recommendations at this time. I obviously can’t see you or know for sure or check those credentials, so we’re on the honor system to prioritize non-cis, non-straight input today. FYI, this includes well-wishes! I’ve deleted some comments even though they were sweetly meant  – it’s actually more important to this discussion to respect the ‘no cis/straight comments please’ than it is to add your voice, even if it is expressing good cheer. FYI, I’m opening two more Holiday Open threads for general chitchat this week, and the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com are available to you.

 

 

 

 

 

141 comments
  1. QQ said:

    Good luck LW! Family is hard, and sometimes they never stop with the denial. That doesn’t make your identity any less valid, nor does it mean your feelings are less important. ❤

    When I had to come out to my relatives right before graduation due to a different name on my diploma, I wrote them an email ahead of time and also sent them the PFLAG booklet "Our Trans Loved Ones" which saved me the trouble of having to try and explain Trans 101 and let them come to me with slightly more informed questions in their own time. I definitely recommend it as a resource.

  2. Alice_Fraggle said:

    Nothing to add; just wanted to send some Jedi Hugs if you’d like them. I’ll be thinking of you, and will be hoping everything goes well for you.

  3. cellphonetyper said:

    I think the e-mail idea is great bc its in writing/permanet record. Its not bulletproof, but it might help avoid situations like where my dad just pretends that phone call never happened. (or, yeah, he couldve just deleted the email.) Its hard to tell people who really dont want to accept the reality. 😦

    hope things go well with your family!

  4. My big tip, from personal experience, is that if you decide you *do* want to just not get into coming out right now and just try to fly under the radar and hope for the best, it’s still a good idea to have a backup plan for what to say/how to handle things if someone pulls you aside and says “hey something’s obviously up, why is your voice like that” or something similar.
    Coming out to my family was a disaster, because I went to a family reunion ~5 weeks on T with a suspiciously scratchy voice, wearing layers of t-shirts over a sports bra to swim, trying to get my family to use my chosen name, etc. with NO plan. I was going to tell my parents by letter after I got home, but my dad cornered me one day and basically badgered me until I came out – and because I wasn’t prepared the entire conversation was disjointed with a lot of crying on my part, and then HE insisted on telling my mom about it. I was so shaken up that I didn’t really push back against that, which I regret.
    I’d been agonizing over how to come out to my family, especially because I knew it would be a huge shock to everyone (I really did not have the sort of girlhood anyone would look at and think “hmm maybe my child is not my daughter after all”), but my avoidance really bit me in the ass there.

    I think the advice here is spot, on – coming out in writing can be easier because you don’t have to worry about saying the right thing in a stressful situation. I’m mostly estranged from the one family member who was a total jerk after I came out, but even other folks who didn’t react super well at first have come around. Even if things go poorly this year, you may find that things have cooled off by next year, but of course you’re under no obligation to sit through people being jerks on their way to learning how to NOT be jerks to you.

    Best of luck to you, LW!

    • Yeah, I ended up coming out as bi when my mom said some random biphobic thing at a family event and I lost my damn mind and started screaming.

      F- way to come out would not do again

      • ^^Good advice. Staying closeted takes active work, and it’s easy to slip up something you say, have a family member call you by your real name & pronouns by accident (even if you ask for their help staying closeted), or find out the hard way T is working a little better than you realized when Grandma sees you in drag.

        For me, it was a lot easier to dispatch my closer, more supportive family members to out me to the people I rarely see. That way I could skip working up the nerve and dealing with their reactions & questions, and get straight to correcting them when need be. YMMV, ofc, but having one-on-one coming out conversations with every second cousin was not a thing I had the strength or desire to do, and I think it was also easier on *them* to have the ‘trans-what-now? what’s that?’ convo with a peer than with me.

        Good luck and godspeed, no matter what you decide this year.

        • Emma said:

          Yeah, this. I hope this isn’t something LW experiences, but when my partner came out she got a lot of “you must speak to every family member individually and make yourself available for their questions and comments” stuff from her parents, and a lot of implied “you’re asking so much of us by expecting us to accept you and be supportive, there is essentially no limit to the emotional labour we can fairly demand in return”. This is complete bullshit.

          (It is complete bullshit which resurfaces every time Partner expresses aversion to visiting the family home where she will be constantly misgendered, and the response is “we’re trying, just be patient” – as if putting up with it for two years already isn’t “being patient”)

          Partner complied with her family’s wishes, and spent a whole afternoon phoning different relatives, so no-one would have time to find out via gossip. Under the circumstances, it went remarkably well. But it was exhausting for Partner, and she would have been entirely within her rights to say “no, I’m sending a family email”

          So if you do get any of that pressure, LW, please feel entirely justified in pushing back against it if you so desire.

          • @Emma: “a lot of implied “you’re asking so much of us by expecting us to accept you and be supportive, there is essentially no limit to the emotional labour we can fairly demand in return”.”

            Many thanks for making this point. I have never seen anyone spell it out so clearly before. My issues are to do with abuse rather than sexuality (although I would identify nowadays as demisexual/objectum sexual) but the same thing has applied to me. It’s the idea that “we have had to listen to you say your awful stuff, and now it’s PAYBACK TIME…” and “payback time” (i.e. the emotional labour that you mention) can last forever.

      • Oh nooo, I can only imagine the awkwardness there.

        • it was pretty awkward! let’s have a club for super-awkward coming-outs!

          • I’ll join! I came out to my mom by accident in college. She phoned me at a time I couldn’t talk; I was on my way out the door. When I said so, she asked the fairly typical parental next question (which I had totally not been expecting because my mind was already on the party I was headed for): “Oh? Where are you going?” And I realized that 1) the true answer was that I was heading to a party thrown by the university’s bisexual students’ club; and 2) I didn’t have a good lie ready.

            So I told the truth. It was a horrendously awkward few minutes, mercifully cut short by the fact that I really did have to get to my party. But she took it adequately well for something I’m sure was totally unexpected, and I got to tell all my friends at the party what had happened, and look for support. They not only supported me, they turned the entire event, on the spot, into my coming-out party, which felt really kind of awesome. 🙂

      • Anisoptera said:

        Ah yes. Like the fun way I just randomly came out as Bi to my workplace because someone at a team dinner said one too many times how weird it was there there was only one gay person in our company, and there are normally more in our industry. And instead of saying “that you know of” and moving on I pulled such a weird face someone asked me if I was OK and then I just blurted out “I’m Bi”. Because even though I didn’t actually intend to be out at work I suddenly just *couldn’t* sit there like I didn’t exist one more time. So uh, yeah. I’m not sure this is advice, just, be prepared to suddenly out yourself without planning and then spend an entire dinner with your hands shaking so much you can barely pick up the fork. Or at least, be prepared to choke on a lot of desires to be yourself and not be invisible if you intend to stay quiet for a bit longer.

        • basically, yeah — I strongly second the suggestion to go in with a plan, LW, even if you decide that you’re going to not come out this year. Because, well, traumatic/awkward/unexpected outing happens, and I wish I’d know that was a thing, and had a plan to take care of myself afterwards.

      • Myrin said:

        Oh man. I really hope that isn’t how I’ll come out as asexual to my extended family although I have a lingering feeling it might be. I’ve been officially out to my immediate family (mum and sister) for several years now and as I’d already known beforehand – because I’m blessed with these two awesome people – they reacted fabulously (i. e. not at all, really; just “oh, cool” and acknowledgement and that was that). “Officially”, because they’ve suspected something along those lines for a lot of time before that already although probably not in those terms – I’ve found that asexuality as a concept is generally not widely known yet, so people mostly just realise that you haven’t ever had a significant other and don’t seem interested in one, either, without really connecting that to a lack of sexual feelings and attraction.

        This is where my extended family comes in. My mum’s parents and brother are great people and I’m pretty sure they’d react similarly to my mum and sister (my grandma would probably react the most open-minded of all of them because she’s cool but she’s also the one who always wants to learn new things so she’d probably also be the one to ask what exactly that means and whatnot) – in fact, I suspect that both my mum and grandpa are kind of in the grey-ace zone as well.

        The only problem is my aunt (uncle’s wife) who… is nice enough but it’s so often very obvious that she comes from a much more conservative background than my own family, and who also likes teasing people in a supposedly fun way that isn’t really fun for those on the receiving end at all (she is also really mean to and about my grandma but always disguising it as good-natured picking). She is also the one who got me in a bit of an uncomfortable situation last year. Sister and I visited the family and had lunch with my uncle, aunt, and their kids, and they’d also invited my grandparents. And all of a sudden, aunt started probing me about my non-existent relationships. I usually go the road of cheerfully declaring myself happy with everything but, I don’t know, it was still very uncomfortable. But before I could really even say anything, my uncle and sister simultaneously piped up and completely changed the topic (it was kinda hilarious to watch, actually).

        I was so relieved but yeah, I don’t think that’s over and I’m fairly sure that sometimes during the next time I’ll visit there my aunt will say something ignorant and/or annoying again and I’ll just come out in a fit of rage. Ugh, I cringe just writing that. But yeah, having a buddy at those gatherings is great – for me, it’s usually my sister (who is bi herself but has only ever had relationships with guys so people probably assume she’s straight), someone whom I trust to have my back and it has really made my aunt’s presence much more enjoyable over time. I really hope LW will find someone like this, too, it really is a sanity-saver.

        • Blue Meeple said:

          Argh, yeah. I just try not to talk about it (relationships, etc) with my parents, but I almost outed myself to someone else the other day because they were saying a bunch of acephobic stuff (like how we apparently don’t exist) and it was hard to not, as you say, come out in a fit of rage. So hard to hold back, but so not the right place to come forward. Gah.

          • Myrin said:

            Ooooh, friend, you have an amazing amount of self-control. I totally wouldn’t be able to hold back the coming-out fest if I were to hear something like this, if only to see them completely mortified (I mean, with my luck, they’d go into Attack The Ace mode immediately but I’d like to think that if they were an otherwise decent person who cares about me they’d much rather be embarrassed).

        • onyx said:

          If your family is like mine they’ll probably just assume you’re gay. My parents thought I was a lesbian for the entirety of high school and most of college. Which baffles me to this day–if that were the case, wouldn’t I be dating girls instead of…. no one?

          I’m not aromantic though, and discovered I lean slightly into the grays (I’m engaged and sexually active now) so now the concern is that my family has written off the asexuality thing completely. Because, you know, behavior dictates sexual identity. But at least relatives don’t badger me any more about why I’m single.

          I usually just say I’m queer now, to avoid long-winded explanation/justification to people that want to go “Oh, asexual–you must have been abused!” or “But how come you’re getting married?” And then comes the jerk corner of the LGBT+ community that gets mad when ace people refer to themselves as queer, because we’re not ‘queer enough’. *table flips*

          • Myrin said:

            I hadn’t considered this (which is weird because I think about this topic pretty often) but now that you’ve mentioned it, I can totally imagine my aunt thinking I’m actually a lesbian! As I said, the rest of my family is very cool and open-minded and I’m pretty sure that if they know that asexuality is a thing that exists they’ll think that’s what I am – I’ve literally told all of them “I’m not interested in relationships”, so if they know there’s a specific sexual orientation of that kind, they’ll probably connect that with me.

            And ugh, I feel you because I actually identify as grey myself. I use “asexual” as kind of a “shortcut”/an umbrella term and only get into specifics when I’m talking to people who really know about different kind of orientations because “asexual” is kind of easy to explain as a concept, whereas “Well, I do have a sex drive but that can be satisfied by reading erotic fanfiction and I don’t masturbate and I’m romantically attracted to guys and can generally imagine to have The Sex but also not really and I don’t really feel this strongly enough to actually pursue it and it happens very, very rarely anyway and I don’t have a problem with imagining myself never having sex but at the same time I think it would be cool to be with someone” is, well, not.

            Writing this, I feel like this is kind of the reason I haven’t officially come out to anyone but my mum and sister – I don’t want to contribute to people thinking asexuality is not real after all should I someday end up dating someone. (Which is kind of a weird reasoning since I’m not the Protector of Asexuality or anything but ugh.)

            I also really like queer as a term for myself! As I said, I’m greysexual and heteroromantic, so I’m about as close to straight as you can get but I absolutely don’t feel like “straight” is a term that fits me. I thankfully haven’t personally encountered this jerky side of the queer community yet but I do know of them and it makes me mad and sad at the same time! Also, English isn’t my native language so “queer” isn’t actually a word here but I’ve made up my own word for it which is also kind of a pun and I’m content with that for the time being.

          • Yep. Apparently not being in a relationship with anyone, male or female, and not desiring one = gay. Someone explain to me how that works?

          • I hear you, onyx! I don’t understand the distrust of aces in the queer community. I would have thought the LGBTQ folks would have been crying out for vowel people, but what would I know…

          • Myrin said:

            @nottakennotavailable – I’ve always thought the “logic” was something like these people thinking you’re just really deep in the closet or something? Or that you actually have (had) a homosexual relationship but just don’t feel comfortable doing so? Which is so weird because if I’m gay and the other person already suspects I’m gay and doesn’t think it’s horrible I might as well come out? As well as just a general lack of knowledge around asexuality in particular.

            (I’ll forever cherish my good friend I came out to over dinner two or three years ago – we were talking about a mutual friend who’d just come out as gay and I though “Why not say it now?” and my friend was like “Oh… um, nothing’s changed on my end? Sorry?” [I feel like this is kind of unclear in English – she didn’t mean she doesn’t view me any differently but that she’s still straight.] It was adorable and just so nice and “normal”.)

          • BarlowGirl said:

            I suspect my doctor thinks I’m a lesbian. A lesbian with a very boring social life, apparently, though.

            I don’t want to have to explain asexuality to my doctor so I’m kind of just running with it. I barely have this whole deal figured out myself.

          • T. said:

            I guess I will represent “the jerk corner of lgbt”? Queer is a term with history, used by non-cishet people to identify themselves and other non-cishet people. When queer people object to cishet asexual ppl co-opting the term, it is not the asexual part they are objecting to. Queer aces are more than welcome to take part in queer communities, discussions, etc. Cishet aces are not. Queer people have to protect the term “queer” to combat the centering of cishet voices, such as, frankly, has happened in some of these comments. Like the captain wrote: “no cis/straight comments please”.

        • Evil One said:

          Blah! People are the worst about asexuality. My mom doesn’t believe I am, because I’m fairly young and I’ve had a boyfriend – who I broke up with because of pressure to have sex. A lot of my friends know, though, and are cool with it. A pansexual friend of mine is super surprised at how sex-positive I am, even though I’m ace.

          It also makes finding a romantic relationship hard, because people tend to change their mind about me when I’ve come out as ace. Either that, or they believe that they can change me, that I’m secretly the wild girl, or that I just haven’t found the right guy yet (and that they’re it!).

          Unfortunately, that last bit is what a lot of people seem to believe about me. I’m likely not going to really change, but unfortunately people don’t believe that it’s perfectly okay not to want sex. Plus erasure is another big issue, but I won’t get into that.

          • “They believe that they can change me, that I’m secretly the wild girl, or that I just haven’t the right guy yet (and that they’re it)!”

            Ugh. Apparently you’ve also met a few of my male now-ex-friends, who apparently didn’t believe in asexuality or strictly platonic male-female friendships that didn’t have some ulterior motive, which was getting in each other’s pants.

          • Hannahbelle said:

            Seconded. I don’t know whether I’m ace, bi, or gay, but it’s somewhere around there in the “definitely not straight and not especially interested in a sexual relationship” category. (Mauve?) Anyway, I hate the aggression of “No you’re not, you’re the same as ME! And/or interested in ME!” that inevitably comes up whenever the subject does. Which it hasn’t in years for that very reason. (Advice welcome.)

          • @nottakennotavailable: Yeah, apparently. People are shitty about it. I was telling my best friend that I want to have kids someday and she was like, “Well, how are you going to have kids without having sex?” and I got all defensive and flustered. She tends to sound criticizing or whatever without meaning to, and me being terrified of criticism and not really being sure about anything, have backed away from her now due to this. It makes me sad, but I’m scared! I really only have a few friends who I can be open about it with, and they just listen and don’t say anything. Most of my friends are guys, though, which somehow mysteriously happened, and although I tend to crush/friend-crush all the time, they thankfully stay platonic. 🙂

            @Hannahbelle: Actually, hey, you sound a lot like me! I’m fairly open about my asexuality and I’ll joke about it to random people, and I think it’s pretty well-known among my friends by now (they hear “I’m not wired that way” a lot), but yeah, dealing with the bad reactions really sucks. :< I'm fairly sure I'm ace, but more gray-a. Saying that I'm fully asexual is not entirely true, but at the same time saying I'm allosexual and "normal" (which isn't a thing, but you know what I mean in this context, surely, I hope?), would be a lie.

            Keep being awesome, you two! Acceptance of asexuality is only growing, and one day maybe we won't have to deal with horrible comments. ^_^

          • Hannahbelle said:

            @Amberleaf le Haunt: Haha, that’s probably the most welcoming of the “just like me” responses I’ve gotten so far! 🙂 And hey, according to CA, we are legion…

        • Rattatatosk said:

          I think I accidentally came out as ace to my mom this holiday. I was relaying the news that my friend just had a baby, so naturally talk turned to pregnancy and whether I and my sisters wanted kids of our own. I said “I’m not having kids,” but my mom pressed if that meant I didn’t want them, and I admitted that well, I’m not interested in sex, so that makes the getting pregnant part difficult. My sisters already knew I’m ace (and bi) but I’m not out to anyone else but my roommate/best friend.

          Mom didn’t say anything, but I do wonder if the family thinks I may be gay. I did have a long-term relationship with a guy before, but have otherwise shown no interest in dating. Mom also asked some weird questions a few months back about whether “this situation” of my living with said roommate was going to last for the foreseeable future. Couldn’t figure that one out.

          Mostly I avoid the topic as relatives beside my mom and sisters mostly ignore me anyway, and are conservative too. Not sure its worth potential drama to come out, but I won’t lie to a direct question. No one ever asks directly though, and like I said, I’m mostly ignored at family gatherings.

  5. Mary Sue said:

    I showed up at the annual Fourth of July family reunion with my wife, when only three people of the 100+ attending knew I was bi and our wedding was private and non-legal.
    In hindsight, I should have done some more prep work ensuring I had a Team Me if not present at the reunion, then easily accessible via telecommunication devices. And maybe let folks know about the wedding so they freaked out privately when they got their mail, not when I’m standing there with my bride.
    That was, hm. *counts on fingers* fourteen years ago. I found out two years ago that my mother and my father resolved that if anyone in the family was shitty about my sexuality, they would just stop talking to that person. In my family, that’s not something that happens, you don’t freeze out people no matter how toxic they are, so that my parents had planned to do that in case of emergency, well, it means a lot. Especially since my marriage didn’t make it to Labor Day and my mom believed bisexuals were “just sluts”.
    Anyway, the moral of the long story is identify your allies within the family and get them firmly on Team You even if they’re not on Team We Accept And Understand All Aspects of Our Beloved Family Member Being Trans. This won’t make the whole thing easy, but it’ll make it easier.
    Jedi Hugs to the LW if you want them.

    • HeyNonnyNonnyMous said:

      my mom believed bisexuals were “just sluts”.
      Hey, I’m not *just* a slut. I’m a fabulous one.

  6. Alas, I can only offer loving support rather than any useful advice. You have my best wishes for a peaceful and pleasant holiday season.

  7. I’m planning on introducing my gf to some family members for the first time this Christmas (this week! yikes). I had my mother tell my aunt a couple of weeks ago, in the hopes that Aunt would tell the other family members first, and give it time to sink in. I’m not expecting Aunt or other family members to be happy about this, all I want is for us to be nice to each other during the limited amount of time we have each year to see each other. Even though I’m not sure if Aunt did tell the other family members, just knowing that she knows and that the other family members COULD know has lifted some of the burden from me, and I don’t feel as scared/nervous about telling them as I did before my aunt knew.

  8. Elder Grantaire said:

    This was pretty much me for the last year (except I’m not on hormones yet). Coming out to extended family is exhausting and incredibly daunting, so I hope some of this helps:

    -I want to highlight what the Captain said about getting someone to spread the word. My family is huge, and the thought of having this exhausting, terrifying conversation with every one of them was way, way too much to even contemplate. If coming out to certain people yourself is important to you, do it, but do not for a second think that you are obligated to tell every single person yourself. My dad told a lot of people on my behalf, and asked certain of those people (people I like and trust) to pass the information on to more extended family (second cousins, etc.)

    -On a similar note, if you can, prioritise. Consider how likely you are to see people in the near future, and prioritise telling them, directly or through someone else. Do not feel like you have to tell everyone at once.

    -Decide what you will and won’t put up with. In the case of your grandmother, and potentially other people as well, it is unfortunately quite likely that people will tell you you need to be ‘patient’ or ‘understanding’ or that it’s unreasonable to expect her to learn, or that you shouldn’t call her out if she messes up. Fuck those people. If you have that patience and want to give it, that is your decision. If being in a room with someone who persistently misgenders you is not something you can tolerate, that is also your decision.

    -You might feel guilty because she has Alzheimer’s and therefore it might not be her ‘fault’, but ultimately it doesn’t change how it affects you. My mother has MS and struggles with her memory. I’ve been out to her for two years and she still birthnames and misgenders me all the time. I’ve had a very difficult time with anger and guilt, since I’ve no way of knowing how much is beyond her control and how much is to some degree because she doesn’t want to remember. She seems to misgender me much more frequently when we’re out in public than at home, and it always seems to happen just as, for instance, the waiter gets within hearing distance. I will never know how much it is or isn’t in her power to change, and one of the hardest things to learn is that ultimately, it can’t really change my feelings. Your feelings of anger are still legitimate, even if she can’t help it. Her behaviour might not be her fault, but if you can’t tolerate it, then you can’t tolerate it and you do not have to feel bad about that. And it might be that leaving the room, or not being around her, is the kindest thing you can do when otherwise you might not be able to stop yourself from snapping at her.

    -You don’t have to have the same standards for everyone, either. Some people you might just like more than others, and holding a conversation with them might feel worth a slip-up here and there. Obviously don’t telegraph this, but it’s perfectly fine to be willing to put up with things from Cool Cousin Jane because you were in the middle of an interesting conversation about Jessica Jones when you wouldn’t put up with it from Racist Uncle Steve.

    -Om the same note, not everyone is entitled to the same amount of information, discussion, questioning, or meticulous Pronoun 101 Charts. Some people are worth the energy of explaining, some aren’t.

    -Be really, really gentle with yourself. I am one of the most outspoken people I know, but when someone misgenders me or uses my birth name, 80% of the time I still freeze and don’t say a thing. Not correcting people is not allowing them to misgender you or failing to stick up for yourself and it doesn’t make you any less trans.

    -If your Racist Uncle Steve, or anyone else, comes away from whatever family event you might encounter them at still thinking that all this trans nonsense is just a silly fad, you HAVE NOT FAILED. Your job is not to transform your entire extended family into educated trans allies, it is to get through the holiday season without serious damage to your mental health in whatever way that entails.

    -Be prepared to be surprised. Of all the people I’ve come out to, not just family members but probably my entire social circle, my 84-year-old grandfather has had (to me) the best response.

    • Oh yes, being gentle with yourself is so important. I don’t know that I *ever* managed, in the moment, to correct someone who misgendered me; I always froze up and had a “well obviously I’m not doing this right if they’re getting it wrong” moment, especially if the person in question was someone I was out to and not a stranger, and I’d always beat myself up for it afterward. It’s easy to look back later and feel like you handled a situation “wrong” but whatever it takes to get through in the moment is ok.

      • Elder Grantaire said:

        I think this situation is kind of the ultimate example of the ‘don’t want to make it awkward’ fallacy. There isn’t really a smooth, easy way of saying ‘I think you meant Gerald, not Geraldine’, or if there is, I haven’t found one. It probably will be at least momentarily awkward, but it is NOT you who made it that way. It might be best to think of the awkwardness as a way to help them remember, if only because they remember the momentary uncomfortable silence from last time.

  9. Lee said:

    I came out to my family as trans (nonbinary) last year, beginning around thanksgiving. My twin is basically team captain of Team Me and she was a great supporter, I asked her to spread the word before I got home. It went…alright, but not exactly as I expected. I would advise anyone coming out for people to react in ways you don’t expect. A couple of my favorite aunts were extremely difficult about my pronouns, and one was downright abusive. But, what I took comfort in is realizing that it wasn’t that I damaged our relationship by demanding my identity be respected. They damaged it by not respecting me, and I gained valuable information about who I could trust and who, unfortunately, valued their idea of me more than the person I actually was. It’s hard to face harsh truths like that that can be catalyzed by coming out, but in the end I think it was definitely worth it. Theres no guaranteed right way to come out, so dont beat yourself up for not preventing other peoples shittiness. Good luck, whatever you decide!

    • Withans said:

      By coincidence, I am also a nonbinary Lee! Hello!

      I strongly second all the people saying to prerehearse your coming out, or do it in writing. I didn’t, until my third attempt, which was probably why it took three attempts – my first two, I don’t know if I was unclear or if I left enough wiggle room for my mum to pretend it had never happened, but it just didn’t take at all. Third time round, I wrote an email to my mum, my dad and my sister (the only family I see regularly and the only people I really cared about being misgendered by) and explained what was going on, what I needed from them, and how miserable it felt to be misgendered (I don’t necessarily recommend this last bit, but I was kind of hurt and angry by then that attempts 1 and 2 hadn’t had any effect). So far…it seems to be OK. Christmas will be the real test because I haven’t really seen them in person since I sent the email.

      Solidarity, OP. Coming out to family is fucking terrifying, even when you’re reasonably confident they’ll be OK about it.

  10. B. said:

    Hi, Transponder! Mostly-cis Lesbian here, in case my perspective is of any help to you 🙂

    So… so. I really feel you. I’m out to a good portion of the important people in my life, but my grandparents are sadly not part of that bunch. I also have a Conservative Vulcan Uncle. The time I came out to my dad, I had a night bag and bus tickets packed away just in case I had to make a run for it (I’m still grateful/confused/surprised that it didn’t come to that).

    It used to make me feel really bad, this half-in half-out business, like I was lying to my grandparents about an important part of myself. Occasionally, it still does. What I did about that was post on my Facebook wall that I was a Lesbian for all my computer-savvy acquaintances to see and not checking it again in a week. From that moment on, I considered myself “out” an acted as such, correcting my family member’s wrong assumptions about my love life status as they arose. Every year, at some family gathering or another, a new relative gets the memo, but I act as if they all already knew and, as such, there has been no drama so far. When you deliver new information as if it was the most normal thing in the world, most people go “uh, ok, [awkward mumbling]” and drop it.

    I want to say that the Cap’s advice sounds like solid gold to me. As you can see, I’m currently taking route “come as you are”, but I’ve used e-mails, letters, Facebook and face-to-face conversation with other people in other times. It all depends on what’d make you most comfortable with each given situation. I’m going to list some possible scenarios for Christmas (mix and mesh as needed):

    – You, shaven and in drag, having a quiet dinner with your family and spending most of your time with the relatives who understand.
    – You, shaven and in drag, with a binder or some other unseen object that makes you feel strong and good about yourself, taking little breaks from transphobia with the help of your preferred media or cuteness/humor/friendship fix.
    – You, unshaven and wearing clothes you love, having somewhat awkward dinner with your family and insisting on your preferred pronouns with the help of a friend and/or your relatives who understand.
    – You, shaven and wearing androginous clothes you like, acting as if everyone sitting on the table already knew about your being a man and answering rude questions with puzzlement till they get dropped.
    – You, skipping Christmas as a whole and dropping in for quick visits to your most loved relatives, sending cards to everyone else.

    Does any of these feel better or less fraught? Anything you’d like to try? All these, and any other you can think of, are equally valid as long as they’re valid for you. I’ve spent whole dinners biting my tongue against *phobia ’cause that’s what I needed to do at the moment. Now, I need to quietly but firmly assert myself. Sometime in the future, I’ll probably need to engage in a shouting match and slam a door.

    Transponder, people’s views of you are incredibly coloured by their own perceived status-quo. You could go to Christmas dinner in your preferred presentation and they might still chose to ignore the elephant in the room. I know, it seems far-fetched. It is! But, well, it’ll never cease to amaze me how willing people are to turn a blind eye to what they don’t want to see. So, if you want to go for a non-confrontation route, you can pull it off without a skirt and make up. You can certainly pull it off with bound breasts (if you have those): I have, on numerous occasions. Heck, I’ve worn and washed my binder in front of my mom and she has yet to comment on it.

    It’s true, however, that if someone (like Vulcan Uncle) chooses to pick a fight, they will… no matter if you’re in heels and a lacy dress. So I second the Captain’s idea for having a escape route prepared, just in case.

    In short, Transponder: you can tell them, or not, or not all of them. You can do it by letter, phone, social media, interpretative dance or face-to-face conversation. It can go well, or not. You deserve for it to go well. If it doesn’t, it won’t ever be your fault. However it goes, you’re gonna survive this. You’re gonna be alright. You rock, and you deserve the fucking best Christmas of all time. I’m cheering for you.

    Love,
    B.

    PS: Also (and please, Captain, feel free to remove this if it counts as spam), here’s a site that always gets a laugh out of me: http://everyoneisgay.com/advice/ Check their categories and FAQ, they’ve got advice specially geared toward trans people. For instance: http://everyoneisgay.com/dealing-with-anxiety-and-new-trans-identity/

  11. Oh man, yeah, I know this feel. (I’m a lesbian with a very very religious family.)

    Being in charge of my own transportation has made a big difference for me. Even if I don’t leave early, knowing that I *could* and that I am choosing to be there helps me stay calm. Like the Captain said, have an exit strategy and a safe place to go after the family event is over. And if you do have to bail, please don’t blame yourself. Your safety is important.

    I hope that everything goes well for you, LW.

  12. All the Jedi Hugs LW if they would help!

    It sounds like, despite the conservatism, your family cares for you, so although it might be rough, it will eventually settle. I’m out as Bi to my whole conservative family technically (I say technically, as due to the fact that I am a mostly cis woman married to a cis man, literally no one but my parents and brother believe that I am bi, which is a fun bundle of erasure). But my cousin is out as gay to everyone but my grandparents via the ‘being himself without explaining or warning people’ method (his parents have forbidden him from being more explicitly out until after my grandparents are dead :/), so everyone knows even though nothing has been said. The first year or so had a lot of whispering and aunts and uncles coming to me as the cousin that knows him most whispering with wierd fascinating “is D…. *gaaay*????!!!” to which I rolled my eyes and told them to ask him, but after that everything is normal again and no one really thinks or worries about it.

    Tl;dr, it’s gonna be a little wierd, and then people will move on, even if they’re not transformed into perfect understanding allies. Hang in there and come say hi if you need extra moral support!

  13. levmirov said:

    LW, I came out to my family by email a week before I was going to visit them. I thought they knew; I thought everyone would be able to tell bc I had cut all my hair off and wore binders to the house and my older brother, who has always been on Team Me, uses my real name in front of them. They were shocked111 and while for a year they pretended nothing was happening, in the end it has broken the family apart when I invited them to my wedding and they refused to come because Jesus Hates Me. I no longer speak to my parents and while individual aunts and cousins have reached out to me, only those people who accept I am trans and married a Jewish woman are on my contact list. I tell you this bc I am much happier now than I ever was trying to play cis at family gatherings, being deadnamed by people who couldn’t accept me as I really am. It was worth it to find out the truth, cut my losses, and move on — but it hurt a lot.

    What your family does or doesn’t do isn’t your fault. I was lucky; team me included people who have only known me as myself, and who were pocket-present for emotional support, as well as bodies on the ground in the form of my wife and brother. Find your allies. Tap people to be on call for you, ready to listen and provide emergency support. If your uncle is supportive, ask for his back up as you assert yourself in family spaces. Expect push back if you say people need to use your name. This will hurt a lot. But you have every right to be called by your Real Name, the one you chose, and people who can’t do that don’t respect or love you. Sorry, but they don’t, and you should seriously evaluate how to minimise interaction with them going forward. They are the assholes. Not you. You aren’t rude for insisting on your real name. They are rude for calling you something you don’t like, and there are no excuses for doing something just to deliberately hurt someone else that are valid.

    Remember that the most important thing is you survive this holiday with your sense of self in tact. Your coming out will not “ruin the holiday” for any reasonable person, and if someone tries to tell you that your happiness at being yourself ruins their fun, accept this is a person you will need to run far away from even if they are blood kin. You deserve a holiday where people interact with YOU. Not the fantasy of your parents’ child that they have concocted over the years — you, the flesh and blood human at the table. If they can’t, it’s not your fault, and you should not feel responsible for it.

    Safety and self care first. Hoping your family surprises you — but trust your gut, and focus on making sure you will get through this. Hugs and solidarity. I survived coming out to evangelical Baptists as an adult, and you’ll survive your family too.

  14. Letyourlifesing said:

    I’m out to my extended family as genderqueer and trans. I came out as bi 11 years ago and as trans about 8 years ago.

    My family’s reaction/treatment of me has changed over time and varies dramatically from person to person. So, if you decide to come out and things don’t go well, that doesn’t mean things will always be that difficult.

    Things that help(ed) me:

    1) Maintaining compact with the queer contingent of Team Me (lots of mutual messenging of the ‘oh gawd, you’ll never believe what Uncle Really-Not-Getting-It just said’ variety)

    2) Working out which members of the family have got my back on this and asking them to field some of the tricky moments for me.

    3) Queer media – reading a book/watching a film, or spending time in a queer online space helped boost my mood/confidence

    4) Mentally congratulations to myself for not blowing up when relatives did/said dodgy things.

    5) Working out some scripts to respond to likely scenarios.

    Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that my boundaries/expectations/behaviour has changed over time. For example, I used to let it slide when relatives used gendered terms about me, but now I correct them. Nowadays my family designs activities to deliberately avoid ‘after dinner, men will do x and women will do y’ type arrangements.

    • Jenna said:

      I have always hated the “after dinner, men will do X and women will do y” type things. For some reason, it always happens at mandatory events, or events that one is heavily pressured to attend.

      • NorahMancer said:

        Is this a chore thing, like the women will wash dishes and the men will dig a drainage ditch*, or more like different fun after-dinner activities? I’ve heard of the former but not the latter.

        *Apparently this actually happened one year at my grandparents’ farm at Christmas. The ditch needed digging and my mother and her sisters had all brought their husbands over, so my ever-practical Grandpa saw no reason why it shouldn’t get done.

        • In my family, it’s halfway a chore thing. The women do all the cleanup and the men sit around and chat.

          • Emma said:

            Oh lovely, no sexist BS there whatsoever, definitely not…

        • Letyourlifesing said:

          It’s more a ‘men will play chess’ and women will watch a film’ than chores. Or ‘men will go to the pub and women will stay home’

          There’s been many years of feminist pushback as well as non-binary resistance to gendered activity expectations.

          Although literally, last Christmas my dad and I cleared/dug a ditch and fetched firewood and did other heavy outdoor tasks while my male and female cousins did the washing up.

  15. BennDragon said:

    I’m just gonna leave my own story of coming out to my folks here.

    I came out to my mom and dad as a trans guy over the phone less than a week before I started T, September of last year. I’d told everyone in my life except for my extended family nearly 6 months previously via Facebook, starting with a post just asking for he/him/his pronouns, then I made a filter to talk about my process (things like deciding to take on my new name, deciding to go on T, etc.). I chose that because I was going to hit about 3 months on T by the holidays and I wanted to give them time to adjust before having to choose between lying about having a cold during Christmas or revealing everything all at once (especially my mom, having previously come out to her as polyamorous and bi I had some idea what to expect).

    Well, my mom did seem to deal with it fine while we were talking. . . and then she woke me up at 7 AM to insist that I wait before starting T, similar to when she woke me up to demand that I not sleep with married men at 7 AM the day after I told her I was poly. So at least I wasn’t too startled by it this time – I explained that I’d been thinking this through for over a year, that I was going to go through with it despite the risks that I understood far better than she did (e.g. my heart disease risk now matches that of cis guys), and I had the support of my life partner in doing this. She tried a few more times to talk me out of it, but I recognized that was part of her adjusting to this new reality and deflected more or less gently (I’m not perfect ;P). She slowly got more comfortable with it over time, although I’ll be honest, she’s still adjusting – she gets my gender wrong more often than not, but she’s trying.

    As for my dad, as I expected, he took in the new information and rolled with it. He has the advantage of having long since concluded I was an adult and was going to live my own life (he gave me a letter saying as much the day I started college at 18, which is half my life ago). I had gathered some links, e.g the PFLAG trans pamphlet (http://community.pflag.org/Document.Doc?id=202), which I sent to him (I also had a hard copy of that pamphlet sent to their house, since my mom doesn’t do computers). I don’t know if it helped, although he appreciated having them. Ge gets my new name and gender right, and helps correct my mom when she doesn’t manage to catch herself.

    Incidentally, we ended up not visiting my Mormon relatives (my uncle converted as an adult, he and my mom were raised Catholic) who we usually spend Christmas with that year (my folks had just moved to PA and were still settling in; at least, that’s what we said about it, and if there was anything else going on no one told me). So this week will be the first time I’ve seen them since I started transitioning. Not gonna lie, I’m terrified about how they’re going to respond to me. Actually, I’m less worried about my blood relatives and more worried about my cousin’s husband, who is exactly what you’d expect of a white libertarian computer security expert. But hey, probably won’t be any worse than him mansplaining FL’s Stand Your Ground law to my brother who was a public defender in Miami at the time, right? ;P

  16. craniest said:

    no first or second hand experience, ergo no advice, just fuzzy warm solidarity thoughts to LW during an already stressful time, personally and calenderically (is that even a word lol). Strength and joy to you LW. Also everyone else obv.

    • craniest said:

      oh wow I forgot my icon is a flailing tree 😀 that’s pretty much me this next week or two!

  17. LegalBeagle said:

    Poly pansexual cislady here.

    Just wanted pull out something others have mentioned and something that has saved my sanity when dealing with people being disrespectful or shitty.

    Their reaction is theirs. There is no “perfect” way to come out, when shitty people suddenly understand. Those that want to, will try. Those that don’t even try have shown you that they aren’t worth your time.

    No matter how it goes. It is not your fault. You are brave and awesome, no matter how and when or if you decide to come out. The best way to come out is whatever is the best way for you, not some arbitrary standard.

    Do what you need for your own mental heath and safety. Good luck and internet hugs if you want them!

    • Hannahbelle said:

      That’s awesome. 🙂 Adding more internet hugs to the pile if welcome.

  18. Vicki said:

    [Bi cis person here] I just want to second the Captain’s point about explicitly asking the people you’re out to whether you want them to pass the word,and to whomt: don’t assume they will (or won’t). Well after my mother had gotten used to the fact that I have both a girlfriend and a husband, it turned out she hadn’t passed that information on to the relatives she sees/talks to more than I do, because she thought it might be intruding on my privacy. It hadn’t occurred to me that my mother would think of this as something to keep quiet about, after I’d been burbling about my girlfriend on LiveJournal, and taken her to meet my mother.

    • toniprufrock said:

      Everyone is different and huge Jedi hugs to you LW for your bravery, however you want to handle this. If I’m allowed, I wanted to add in to what Vicky said that it may be surprising how many people don’t share the information unless explicitly told so. It may be a cultural thing, but when my friend came out as genderless my understanding was that it was privileged information and that they would indicate whether they were happy with it being complexity public knowledge or not. The last thing our friendship group wanted to do was mess up their plans for how to appropriately come out. Before they came fully out officially but already started indicating by wearing skirts and whatnot we still kept complexity quiet because it was disrespectful to ask or assume unless you’d been explicitly told. (Like pregnancy I suppose). So if you get people who seem to ‘ignore’ any hints it may not necessarily always be vindictive and they are just waiting to see if they are allowed to mention it.
      Following the official talk with us and As soon as they started to change their name on Facebook and make it obviously more public we took it as a signal that we were alright to be public too, so use the right pronouns and names when talking about them in general etc.

      • MizzMaryMack said:

        This! I’m a cis-bi-lady married to a man and I once had? forced? a co-worker to come out to me. She’d been referring to her girlfriend (now wife) as her ‘roommate,’ and even though I was certain they were more I wasn’t going to be the one to escalate it in the workplace. So yeah, very short stilted conversation (“Mary, I’m a lesbian and Anastasia is my girlfriend” “OK”) and everything was cool.

        Not to say you have to give Racist-Uncle-Steve the benefit of the doubt, but I was trying to respect what I though was a co-worker’s wish for privacy/being closeted at work, and instead I made it more awkward for months.

    • Beth B said:

      My family has generally been excellent about my (cis ace lady) queerness — and I’m lucky; I never expected otherwise — but the occasional weirdness does crop up even so with the older generation. This summer my dad told me, “I told Family Friend about your business.”

      “…My business…?” I said, fully expecting that this was 70-something Earnest Liberal Man code for “your girlfriend,” but wanting to make him spell it out. Sure enough! He did indeed mean the fact that I have a girlfriend! So I got to tell him for at least the third time that yes, he should feel free to mention that to whoever he likes, it is completely valid gossip, he is welcome to mention it the same way he mentions my brothers’ girlfriends, and as a matter of fact it’s kind of nice to not have the burden of mentioning that always be on me, thanks. My mom put my girlfriend in the Christmas letter as “Beth’s friend is coming with her to Cousin’s wedding” the first year, and emailed her siblings separately to give them the heads-up, and I had to explain to her why even though I sympathize with her desire to avoid awkwardness with Tea Party Paternal Uncle, I was really really not happy with that.

      Obviously not everyone wants those in the know to tell everyone, and there are all kinds of reasons for that, and they’re all valid. However you want to handle your coming out with any given context or group of people is up to you, at every point. But yeah, the Captain is totally right about explicitly spelling out to people you’re out to how you want them to handle the communication issue. It’ll spare everyone some awkward guesswork at the least.

      • Beth B said:

        Also, because I meant to say this: Jedi hugs to you, LW. I don’t have a lot of advice, because I’m cis and all the family I’m in any kind of visiting-type communication with is supportive and all of that makes for a very different ballgame, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for everything to go well for you. Either way, there are a whole lot of people on the internet rooting for you.

  19. Vicki said:

    Sorry, that got garbled: it should be “explicitly telling the people you’re out to whether you want them to pass the word, and to whom”

  20. clodia said:

    No advice, just support! I hope it goes as smooth as possible for you and for everyone in similar situations this holiday season.

  21. Aurora_Belle said:

    Although I have come out as queer, it was a pretty laid-back experience, so I don’t have anything to add except take care of yourself and your needs first, LW, in whatever way that might be.

    A relevant experience I do have is with changing my name. Before I legally changed my name, there was a LOT of friction in getting people to use my chosen name and not my given one (in social situations with people who knew me before). One thing that helped was insisting with decreasing amounts of politeness and increasing amounts of of firmness that my name was . Stubborn people got ignored for as long as possible until I was forced to acknowledge them, and then it was “oh, were you talking to me? My name is .”

    Most people were good about it. The grandma with dementia might be a challenge (mine was – she only remembered about half the time), so it may help to prepare yourself to have to correct her every time, and only use those strategies if/when she is clearly “forgetting.”

    • mmjustus said:

      My now 91-year-old mother still calls me by my birth name (I changed it 28 years ago). Everyone else calls me by my chosen name now, but some people, I have discovered, you just have to outlive.

    • Hollis said:

      Oh yes some people are jerks about changing of the names. I’ve had a few “friends” who refused to use my real name, even after mutual friends Explained things to them. Once one of them was informed that I had legally changed my name, he told me “Well I guess I might start respecting that.”

      Most reasonable people are really good about it–I’ve been really pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have gone “Why didn’t you say so??? Of course I’d call you by what you want to be called!” that I thought might be jerks about it.

  22. fancifculscientist said:

    I really, really like the strategy of enlisting your already-in-the-know relatives as your support team, here. Part of what’s exhausting about interacting with my clueless conservative relatives (and I fully acknowledge that other people’s relatives may vary) is having to constantly remind them about my lack of straightness and respond to their weirdness about my cis-but-masculine-presenting wife. It feels very erasing and personal to me, but I believe that some of them may just be taking a long time to learn/absorb – so it would be lovely if they could do that with people for whom it would not be so draining. This seems hugely useful for name and pronoun preference, as well as general redirection: “LW is a he, remember!” and “LW already explained that, and I think he just wants some pie now. How is your chinchilla farm going?”

    The other advantage to that – which is a sad advantage, but a real one – is that you have a buffer for their processing, which is often fraught with insensitivity. In my family gatherings, this sometimes looked like people asking me if my partner was a boy or a girl, and I would much, much rather they asked that super awkward question to my sister, and that she was able to say something bland and reassuring like, “[Wife] is a girl. Isn’t it interesting/great that people feel comfortable expressing themselves in so many ways now? I think Wife looks great in a tie!” I have done this for trans friends, when they were coming out to shared communities with people who had never even encountered the idea before, and it was relatively easy for me to affirm the newness for them and reaffirm that I think it’s important to trust people about their identity, even if it seems unfamiliar. Your savvy relatives can share their reaction and support, as a foregone narrative, and give your other relatives a clear, well-trod path to being on your team.

    (Very special relatives will resist this path; you can give zero fucks about these people who think it is more important to enforce their opinions about you than listen to you about yourself. In my family, this is several of my wife’s relatives who are still waiting for her to grow her hair out and meet a nice dude. We know about these opinions, and we do not engage with or challenge them, because it’s a waste of time and hey, pie!)

    There are also some relatives who I just have not come out to or introduced to my wife – and as a result, who I have not seen more than once a year for the last four years. That’s because there is major-league jerkiness going on, along the lines of potentially writing my (awesomesauce) mom out of the will for raising a queer kid, and the price is just too damn high. The only reason I see them at all is because my cousins on that side are actually pretty all right, and because feelings are complicated (the will-writer, while a class-A jerk, is still my grandpa). But it’s okay to also set boundaries and not engage with things that will hurt you. There’s this narrative that being universally out-and-proud is the ideal here, but sometimes families are not great environments for your beautiful self and your beautiful life, and it’s okay to stay safe. That is way, way more complicated for you, LW, than for me – I just take off my wedding ring and bite my tongue – but it’s also an okay way to go.

    And grandparents CAN be shocking(ly great). My wife’s grandad is a preacher, and he sent me the most beautiful letter when we got married saying that he was grateful for the opportunity to challenge his assumptions about God’s love (whattt) and overjoyed to welcome me to the family. Her grandmother, also with some dementia complications, is charmingly and consistently surprised that my wife locked down such a nice lady.

    (Full disclosure: I kind of want you to go to Christmas dinner, if that’s what your holiday is, and announce that Jesus isn’t the only surprise son we’re celebrating this season! Maybe that’s a helpful secret sassiness for you?)

    • My Word Kraken Means Well. Really. said:

      “Her grandmother, also with some dementia complications, is charmingly and consistently surprised that my wife locked down such a nice lady.” Aw, yes. This made my night.”

    • Cricket said:

      I heartily second the suggestion to work in a joke/pun in some way, if possible. I announced my girlfriend’s new name/the fact that she is my girlfriend and not my boyfriend to my family by email this week (I am also trans but not out to many relatives), and managed to work in a joke about how her new name forms a cute acronym along with my and my parents’ names. Beginning/ending on a humorous note can give relatives something simple and funny to hang onto even if they find something about the situation awkward.

  23. CommanderBanana said:

    As someone who has come out to relatives before, let me just throw out something here – it is not your responsibility to educate your relatives on the intricacies of being trans/trans issues if you do not want to or do not have the emotional bandwidth to do so, and you are in no way obligated to entertain or answer questions about your sexuality, sex life, genitalia, status of your surgery/what surgery you plan to get/not get/whatever, etc. unless you want to.

    A couple of the other commenters have suggested the PFLAG brochure, which is a great idea. I would also practice a few lines to shut down inquiries you don’t want to respond to (“I’m not comfortable discussing that right now/with you/at the dinner table.” is a good one.)

    I do not have the emotional bandwidth to be the Bisexual Explainer, I am not the Ambassador of the Bisexual People, and just because I introduce someone to relatives as my girlfriend does not mean I’m obligated to answer questions about how, exactly, our sex life works. It has been my experience that the people who ask the most intrusive questions tend to be the ones who are going to use every answer as a jumping-off point to start a debate with you (about your life, how lovely of them to know more about it than you do!) so after a few negative interactions too many, I just shut that shit down when it happens.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      This! So much this. It’s not anybody’s job to ambassador for their new (to others) group, even if those others are inquisitive or awkward. I’d also vouch that it’s good to have a clear-ish sense beforehand how much info you want to share and what you’d really rather keep private. Sometimes the whole internal buildup to coming out creates this sense of “now I must condense all the learning and growing and personal evolution I’ve experienced over the past [lifetime] into some kind of Q and A for beginners.” And then feel like you messed up your presentation if the beginners don’t react in a validating way, or ask intrusive questions you didn’t see coming and don’t want to answer. I love all the advice people are giving about not judging yourself by the reactions of others… Good luck!

      • smidgenofthesea said:

        This feeling! I know this feeling! Oy, the buildup to coming out. I felt like I was building a grand jury case the way I tried to lay out all the supporting facts.

  24. Mary said:

    Cis but queer – one thing that is definitely worth doing is figuring out what you want ideally from your family, what you will accept graciously even if you’re wincing a little inside, and what your hardline-No-Ways are. And remember that you aren’t making these decisions forever, you are making them for the next two weeks, and if you want to move somethings from Category A to Category B at some point in the future, that is A-OK.

    You get to decide, for you, yourself, for this occasion only, what goes in each category when. You don’t have to let things slide just because some other people might do, but equally, you don’t have to go in to the room representing All Trans People Everywhere and feeling like you’ve let someone down if Conservative Uncle makes a vile joke and you just let it slide rather than confronting him. You also don’t have to decide right now what behaviour you will or won’t accept ten years in the future. You can take it a day at a time, and you are totally entitled to turn around in five years time and say, “I know I said Christmas 2015 that X wasn’t a big deal. Things have changed. Please stop.”

    It’s good to mentally practise and prepare yourself for the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario and somewhere-in-the-middle scenario, and perhaps figure out some strategies for the stuff that you’d find totally unacceptable. Maybe get in touch with the Team You people and tell them some of the situations where you might want them to support you in being assertive and drawing a line, and the situations where you might be OK with a little selective non-hearing? But even just having thought through some of the possibilities for yourself can help live through them.

    And lastly, take a little pressure off yourself. Your coming-out is about you: it’s up to you, on your timescale, how you want to do it. You don’t owe it to anyone to do it in a particular way or at a particular time, and you aren’t cheating or deceiving anyone if you decide not to do it right now. The obligation to come out is a burden placed on queer and trans people by a hetero- and cisnormative society, and it is 100% up to you how you deal with that burden in respect of your relationship with your own family.

    Masses of luck negotiating it, and I hope you enjoy your holidays.

  25. trotula said:

    This turned out to be such a long comment! So sorry!

    I agree with Captain’s advice, and also seconding the PFLAG pamphlet mentioned above—it’s the only thing I’ve ever seen where I was like, “Wow, I could give this to someone and be like ‘read this'” without a thousand qualifiers and caveats. If I ever come out to my family I will probably use that.

    Instead, I (on testosterone, noticeable/noticed changes but not “passing,” not out to any of my family) am just taking the *truly* weenie route of just never going home, not talking to family as much as I can, and basically just not wanting to deal with it, so let me reassure you that you are NOT being a weenie. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. You are doing so much more and so much better than you realize. As far as I can tell, you are actually being extremely straightforward and brave about this. So, my whole comment is very do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do advice; apologies for the hypocrisy.

    Whenever I am terrified of crossing another new transition threshold, I become convinced that THIS is the step that I really won’t make it through, so I might as well just give up now. When that happens, I try to ground myself and look at where I am and all the things I’ve had to do to get here. They were all terrifying, right? Coming out to that first person? Asking for different pronouns? New name? Going on hormones? I thought I couldn’t do *any* of those things, but I made it through them. It wasn’t always elegant, and sometimes there was truly really hard shit about it, but I got through them and am so grateful now that I didn’t stop then. And I know that, whatever I am afraid of right now, I will be able to look back on it one day with the same perspective.

    My main advice would be to NOT shave and try to hide things.(I wouldn’t say this advice across the board—to other trans people reading this, if you need to hide things completely, that is so real. Your safety and wellbeing are the most important thing and you are the best judge of how to take care of yourself.) But in your case, LW, it seems like you’ve come this far, you’re out to a fair number of members of your family, and you’re dreading what are kind of like the last 10 yards of your 400 yard race. If you absolutely have to hide this time around, trust me, that is so real, but the fact that you refer to it as “dragging things out” sounds like you know you’re ready for it and just need a push.

    My therapist, who works with a lot of trans people, once said this really helpful thing to me when I was freaking out about something. She said, “Transitioning is kind of like having to jump off the world’s scariest high-dive. You stare at it from the bottom, and it seems utterly impossible that you could EVER possibly do it. You know other people have, but you think there is no way *you* could because you’re not brave enough. I talk to people who are standing at the bottom, trying to decide whether they can even start climbing, and I talk to people who are about half-way up the ladder and panicking, and I talk to people who are standing at the edge of the board staring over. But talking to you is like talking to someone who has already jumped and is about a foot away from the water and is still doubting themself.” It seems like you are kind of in that place too, LW. You are so close to hitting the water. Do what you need to do, and trust yourself, and give yourself credit for how far you have come and how small the remaining obstacles actually are in comparison.

    I agree with Captain to ask your uncle to be your buffer. At the same time, know that he won’t always do it perfectly—because he isn’t trans and so will never entirely get it—so be gently prepared for the betrayal you might feel if he does fuck up so that it doesn’t feel like such a crushing blow. Try to stay present enough to be able to talk with him about it later without giving up on him entirely. (Not saying this to apologize for any potential cissexism, but because working things out with him, if possible, will keep him as an asset to your cause, thus benefitting you.) As far as your maternal grandma, I would say let that one go as much as possible. Correct her consistently and without emotion if you feel like it, or don’t, but don’t ever expect approval or consistency from her and don’t base any of your coming-out success on her response. Your grandma sounds exactly like mine, so my deepest sympathies.

    As far as logistics and details, a lot of my friends have had success with the email technique ahead of time so people aren’t on the spot. People’s on-the-spot responses are rarely as good as the ones they would give after they’ve had a second to think about it. I’d also advise sending each person individual emails rather than having this turn into Family Group Email Thread Where We Decide Whether We Will Accept LW’s Strange New Decision. I think it will bring out their compassion better to be spoken to as an individual with a relationship with you. If you’re worried about any responses, have a trusted friend screen all replies for you, or at least read them with a friend there.

    Also, be very, very specific about what you do want, and make it about behaviors. Cis people, especially cis people who don’t have any kind of anti-oppression framework to work within, are rarely good at basing appropriate behaviors on abstraction. “Please refer to me by this name and this pronoun. Please read this pamphlet. If you have any questions, please direct them to Uncle Marquis,” etc. When someone fucks up, again, be behavior-specific. “Please do not do [specific thing].” The Captain’s broken-record technique is good here: don’t get sucked into the trap of trying to explain if they are doing that But Whyyyyy song and dance. Bring extra paper copies of the PFLAG pamphlet for you or your uncle to discreetly give to them later under the guise of, “It seems like you have a lot of questions and I want to help you get that information.”

    In that vein, one of my friends gave me really great advice when I was getting ready to change my name, which is that generally non-shitty people are way more likely to respond better and more quickly if you act like you are letting them in on this cool info about you and they are *lucky* to hear about it. Most people will sort of reflect how you deliver the news: if you act like it is a huge extremely intense deal, they will probably respond in kind by being freaked out. Being casual and conversational and treating them like *of course* they would respect your wishes because it’s not a big thing to ask, and you are telling them because they are important to you, has worked surprisingly well for me. It takes a fair level of emotional detachment to deliver, though, so YMMV. (As a corollary, there’s no right way to come out to shitty people that will make them non-shitty, so prioritize protecting yourself.)

    TL;DR : You have already done so much hard stuff in your transition and made it through those things, you can totally make it through this too. Don’t drag it out if you don’t need to. Be direct, specific, and as casual as possible. Best of luck.

  26. accessdenied said:

    the holidays are one of the few times i count myself LUCKY that i & my immediate family basically have no contact with the extended family. as it is, the only person who’ll be attending this christmas who DOESN’T know i’m queer is my 89yo grandmother who has really stopped giving a damn about a lot of things and has rarely, if ever, done the whole “ooooh when are you gonna bring a nice BOY home so you can get MARRIED and have LOTS OF BABIES” thing.

    but my transness, ugh, that’s a different story. i’m only out to my younger sibling/best friend (who is also questioning her gender atm) and my parents’ and other sister’s constant use of “she” & “daughter” & “woman” & “pretty/beautiful/etc” is really wearing me down. i can’t really give you any advice about this situation, since i’m not in touch with my extended family & since my preferred presentation is still within the bounds of “plausibly feminine” most of the time, but i can give you a fistbump of solidarity. if you decide to go in drag this year, you’re DEFINITELY not the only one in the world who’s doing that, and it doesn’t make you a weenie or anything.

    maybe you can go in drag this holiday season, and then at a later time when there’s less social pressure to Gather The Whole Family In One Place And Be Really Fucking Merry you can come out to your extended family however you see fit? that’ll give all of them some time before the next holiday season/family get-together to get used to the idea of you as a dude, and it’ll give YOU some time before the next holiday season/family get-together to identify the people who are gonna be obstinate assholes so you can strategically avoid them and/or be emotionally prepared for the assholery. (the people you THINK are gonna be obstinate assholes are not always the ones who actually ARE obstinate assholes. to my total shock, my dad accepted my queerness right away, but my baby sister who has always been outspoken about lgb rights has been much colder since i came out.)

    if you do decide to go in drag, i’d suggest having a backup script already prepared just in case somebody decides to be really intrusive and pushy like what happened to accidentalbeard up there.

    but hell! you know your family and your own limits/feelings much better than any of us do. so whether you avoid the issue or come out to everyone, regardless of their reactions, you will have made the right choice. there is no wrong course of action here. you can handle whatever is thrown at you. 🙂

  27. LdyEkt said:

    My best advice is to take the long view. It’s pretty common for people to initially react poorly to information that doesn’t fit into their worldview and take some time to integrate it. It doesn’t necessarily predict that person’s behavior forever. My parents did not react well when I came out as bi and poly (to say the least). I insisted on them treating me and my partners kindly, *and if your family won’t do that, they don’t deserve to have you around now OR later,* but at the same time I didn’t force them to talk about it. I was very surprised both by how much their acceptance improved over time, and also by just how much time it took (years).

    One thing to consider is, what do you want people to do if they have questions? If you mention this in your letter it could help avoid a holiday featurette of Rude Questions Cis People Should Not Be Asking You At All (But Especially Not At the Dinner Table). If you point them to an online resource, or a clued-in family member willing to do 101, that can help. I’ve also had some success with, “I’m willing to hear any questions you have about this in six weeks/months, until then let’s just try to just sit with this and enjoy being together.” By the time that comes around people with frivolous questions will probably have found something else to frivol about, and kind people with real questions will probably have figured out some tactful ways to ask, or people other than you to ask them of. (Not much we can do about the real jerks, of course, but that was always true.)

    You have a right to be yourself, and to be seen as the person you really are by the people in your life. Congratulations on taking another step in that direction – it is courageous and worthy of praise.

  28. Hoppy said:

    Dear letter writer,
    Back in 2010, just before Christmas my brother wanted to Skype. I was working in France, hadn’t seen my family in 2 years but it was…odd. We typically just skyped, or wrote comments on Skype and the receipient would respond when they were online.
    He wanted to tell me first – to sound me out as he thought I would be most receptive.
    I will never forget the fear in his voice. I wanted to reach through the computer and just hold him close. We talked and I asked his permission to tell our other brother (brother2). When he agreed I did so.
    So when we all went home for Christmas we had a plan. I’m easy going, but brother2 (B2) is very much a resolute person. The world is either accepting, or he cuts you off. B2 told our brother that if our parents were not accepting, then he (B2) had no parents.
    It went….much better than I anticipated.
    Our Mum took a little adjusting, but my dad – told while reading the paper, paper down, I know, I love you, paper up – nothing more.
    As other people have said; identify your allies, they can help lay the groundwork, if necessary break the news to some famil members.
    Team You may be some family, it may be close friends, but they can help take some of burden.
    Last point (after talking to my brother) – You Decide! If you’re not ready don’t try and force yourself. The holidays are very stressful regardless. If you want to wait or blend then do that. If you want to email people do that.
    Do whatever makes the smallest potato mountain of the inquisition of the holidays.
    I wish you all the very best and future happiness. You are very brave.

  29. Fish said:

    I’m running on the assumption that my family will sit deep in denial, and that I’ll continue to have only 1:1 interactions with them, so they will have minimal opportunity to dead name or dead pronoun me. Things already had exploded beyond saving before I decided to start transitioning. I still talk to my dad on the phone, and at some point he’ll perhaps notice that my voice has dropped, but I expect he’ll not say anything. There is a cultural baseline where we are from, where its weird to comment on things if you don’t want to hear about it (i.e. talk about the weather and we’ll be doing fine). He’s indicated in the past that he doesn’t want to know about trans people (in general), so, if he asks about my voice, I think I’ll just say “its weird of you to mention that” and hopefully change the topic.

    I’m… glad to know that things didn’t work with my family for reasons beyond me being trans. It makes it feel like my trans-ness hasn’t actually cost me anything. It sounds true in your case too, LW. Mr. Conservative and Madam Never-Wrong might just never gonna be your people, even if you were a cis dude. Perhaps just cut your losses? Don’t answer if they call out for a person who doesn’t exist, don’t bother to tell them anything about your transition outside of your new name and pronouns, and make an effort to migrate to groups of people at the party which don’t include those people. Genetic similarity doesn’t imply that you owe them your time, and effort to train people is only worth spending on the trainable. Hell, its okay to tell them that this is what you’re doing. “Uncle. I know you have questions because you care about me, but I don’t think I can explain this to you. Why don’t we talk to other people for the rest of the evening, and you can do your own research tonight, when we’re not at a party?” And if he says no, he wants answers now, you can say “Well, lots of us want many things. I’m going to go talk to someone else now. Have a good night.”

    That is all super hard to do if you’re not feeling confident, of course. I find that right after I take my T, I’m much more confident and care a lot less about other people’s feelings. If your T has the same effect on you, and if you can time it right, take your dose right before the social event? That is, if you decide to go the classy-badass route.

  30. pip said:

    LW, I came out last year in a “holiday letter” to everyone all at once, and then I stayed in my apartment with my dog and had a quiet, stress-free holiday of ignoring all invitations and un-invitations to various gatherings. That’s what worked for me, but you’re seeing family, and that’s great, too! I just hope that you make sure to remember it is your choice! If you don’t feel safe, know that I fully support you choosing not to spend time with family. You come first.

    I do have a bit of advice based off my family members’ reactions to my letter, if that is helpful to you (or others):

    1. Emphasize what you still are (cousin, sibling, child/offspring) rather than what you aren’t anymore (the gendered relationship-words people are accustomed to using). I’m nonbinary, so I wasn’t trying to use the “opposite” words, so no specific advice there. My sister in particular said that she felt better when I emphasized “You’re still my sister” and “I’m still your sibling” than when I said “I’m your sibling, not your sister.” (I so, so appreciate her feedback after the fact on this. I hope it helps others.)

    2. Leave room for mistakes. I mean honest “oops, I’m sorry, I forgot or used the words I’m used to after 24 years” mistakes, not the “OH SILLY ME HAHAHA” fake mistakes. They hurt; I know that. People who love you and really do accept you can slip up in their language, and it still hurts a lot. But they’ll accept correction, they’ll take responsibility for their words and the pain they unintentionally caused, and they’ll work at getting it right. Those are the people you want to hold on to. My strongest supporters and best allies are not those who loudly and publicly proclaimed “I SUPPORT YOU!” and then started saying things like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to excuse complete lack of effort in pronouns and name changes. My biggest supports are instead those who wince and correct themselves, those who wince and correct others, those who stumble and say “My sis-sibling” when introducing me. Those who send random out-of-the-blue texts saying “I love my family” and “I appreciate my sibling-in-law.” Those who have an index card on their refrigerator reminding themselves of my pronouns.

    3. Make a reminder card! I’m not sure how people would take this in your family dynamic, of course, but my siblings each have an index card of pronoun reference (though of course, I don’t use he or she pronouns; you may not need that specific a reminder). A couple more distant relatives whom I see less often have an index card with my name of choice and pronouns and reminders to use “sister’s child” instead of “niece”. I always approach this as, “Hey, Aunt X, I made a couple reminder cards that some other people have found really useful. I brought one in case you thought you might find it helpful, but I’m not as familiar with how your brain processes information as I am with my brother’s brain, so no worries if you don’t think it will work for you!”

    4. Self care, support network, and everything else the Captain recommends. For me, that was holing up with just my dog and letting the storm fly over my head while I worked a jigsaw puzzle and sipped tea. I don’t know you, but I offer my services! I’m here to support and encourage you if you need it. I’ll be thinking of you and wishing all the best for you.

    • +1000 to number one. Partner and I are working on getting our 5 and 7 year old kids to understand that we’re both agender. 7yo seems to be okay with it; 5yo was upset at first, but seems to be okay with it now that we’ve explained that we aren’t any different than we were before, that we are still going to read bedtime stories and play Pokémon together. Reminding people that yes, *this* is changing, but *that* is not, will hopefully help some of them.

  31. Poly pansexual ciswoman married to a bi transwoman here: I 100% agree with identifying your personal Team You. Cousin(s), sibling(s), friend(s), parent(s)…whoever that might be. And remember that you don’t have to take care of anyone else’s feelings. What matters is you: your safety and comfort level through all of this. Everyone else will be alright and make it through, no matter what happens.

    Otherwise, I don’t have a whole lot else to add to what all of these lovely people have already stated. Take care of yourself, and I hope your holiday goes as smoothly and happily as possible.

  32. In my family we’ve had two experiences. Background: I live in a major East Coast city. My partner’s sibling and spouse live about 45 minutes away in one direction, and my sibling and spouse live about 45 minutes away in the other direction. My parents live about 45 minutes south of me. My teenage child has been transitioning for a little over a year and has just started hormone therapy.

    First, my partner’s sibling and spouse were profoundly against my child’s visiting their home while my child was undergoing their “gender identity crisis” (their words) over Christmas 2014. We had been invited for dinner, but we called ahead of time and said, “OK, so Child is no longer identifying as Gender A, but rather is identifying as Gender B, and would like to be addressed by New Name C and the opposite pronouns you were using before.” The sibling and spouse bristled and didn’t want their own kids “exposed” (their word) to my child’s gender change. So we did not attend Christmas, and my child and I have not seen them since. We never had a fight or argument. I just haven’t spoken to them since last year, and I won’t until or unless they apologize. Also I have told my child that they don’t ever need to see or talk to them ever again if they don’t want to. Their choice. My partner has visited them a handful of times since then, for very short visits, for the sake of their kids. At this point, though, I’m 100% estranged from them; they are not invited to our wedding celebration; and I will likely never see them again. It’s a shame for the kids, who are about 10 years old, because this could have been a learning opportunity and a chance to expand their worldviews, not that it’s my child’s job to do that, of course. They’re going to be in for a world of shock and surprise when they leave home. It’s all too bad. That said, life is too short for me and my child to bang our head against their views and beg them to include us as members of their family. Their loss!

    Second, on my side of the family, we’ve basically let the grapevine work. We let the news kind of unfold with my parents as it happened. My child wasn’t completely sure that they were actually transgender for a few years. As we got counseling and therapy, it became clearer. I haven’t had full conversations with my sibling, but I’ve explained everything to my parents, which keeps them in the loop and lets information get to my sibling without my having to have the conversation more than once. My family is accepting and welcoming and loving, and if they have had very negative reactions, they’ve kept it from me and my child. While they mess up my child’s new name and pronouns some percentage of the time, it’s not in bad faith and it’s simply because my child was the first grandchild and spent a long time using a different name and pronouns.

    I think it helps that my family is very, very small. There are my parents, myself and my partner, my sibling and spouse, and my and my sibling’s kids. That’s actually it — no cousins or other relatives in this country. So my parents and sibling, all socially conservative people otherwise, seem to understand that they would lose a quarter of our immediate family if they were to shun my child and me because of the transgender issue. I’ve had a ton of problems with my family but it’s seriously been a “love wins” situation so far.

    So, to summarize for LW, I hope I can assure that it will be OK. If someone doesn’t want to accept you, then that’s awful and it’s difficult, but you’ll survive. And their loss. Do what you gotta do to fulfill yourself.

  33. HOBBITS! The Musical said:

    Not my situation, no personal experience, just a thought: you had the strength to ask for help & advice; part of the payback is finding support coming from strangers across the internet and around the world. We’re all on Team You in spirit. Hopefully it doesn’t sound too *fluffy* to say there’s a comfort cloud of love and Jedi hugs from all of us; hang on to that thought when it gets tough – you are a good person, others care about you, and many people wish you well.

    • HOBBITS! The Musical said:

      Um… Common sense just hit my ego over the head. Captain, if you get a sec can you delete mine too please? More room for relevant advice. Thanks and sorry LW.

  34. Darcy said:

    I just wanted to comment and say that I hope all of you who are planning to come out or who will otherwise be navigating difficult family situations this season are able to have a safe and happy and warm holiday with your Teams You!

  35. I’m cisgender, but have had to come out as bisexual and poly to extended family… more or less both at once, since I had to explain why my marriage had changed from including one man and myself to including two women, two men and myself. I am blessed with some pretty awesome relatives, so it went better than it does for many people; but scary and awkward, without doubt.

    Captain Awkward has given you some really good practical advice; the only thing I would add would be to expect a LOT of questions, and plan out in advance how you’d prefer to handle questions (both in general, and some of the most likely specific questions). This doesn’t mean you have to ANSWER the questions… answer if you wish, or change the subject and divert their attention if you wish, or pre-arrange with someone else to rescue you if you signal them with distress call (if you’re going to use this, plan a specific code, in word or gesture, ahead of time) if you wish, or a bunch of other options. But one thing gay people usually don’t face to quite the extent that transgender or poly people do, I think, is the sheer amount of educating most people *don’t* have about the subject. If you give them reason to want to learn — either because they really care about you and want to understand who you are and what’s going on in your life or because they are simply curious and see an opportunity in the form of a convenient relative who Must Know All About It (amirite?) — they are all too likely to unload all their questions on you all at once. Whether you would prefer to take the opportunity to teach them what *you* want them to know about you in particular and transitioning in general, or whether you’d prefer to have a way to avoid answering and perhaps even shut down the flood and get to chat with your family about SOMETHING ELSE, you probably want to think about a Question-Related Game Plan ahead of time. If you’re not the sort of person who can be your most articulate on the spin of a dime and while under stress, you may even want to ask a supportive friend to roleplay some of your game plan for practice! I did that with a couple of my spouses, and it really helped; there was far less than usual of the “Oh, why didn’t I think to say that while I was still there?” ideas hitting me on the way home. 😉

    Try to make sure there is at least one person who’s there, and at least one person who *isn’t* there, who are willing to be on standby for you if you need them. Even well-meaning relatives who aren’t used to thinking of you as you’re now presenting yourself may find they don’t know what to say to you. A friendly person who *isn’t* surprised by the information (either one of those who know already, or someone you tell in preparation) can either step in with a ready topic to get people going, or simply start chatting with you on their own, so you have at least one person you can count on, not only to be friendly, but simply not to be weirded out by the unexpected change in someone they thought they knew.

    The someone on the outside should be a friend who is already well educated about what transitioning is and who you are; you want them as an oasis. They’re so you can either text, phone, or flee to their house (depending on how much it’s getting to you) and be with someone who treats you *completely normally*, when you are feeling that if one more person looks as you as if you’ve grown a second head instead of just a beard, you will bite their own head right off. With luck you won’t need to use them, but they’re a very good ace in the hole to have.

    Best wishes for a smooth process and an accepting family! It sounds as if yours will likely be OK once they’ve assimilated the idea, but there may be weirdness to go through before you get to that stage. This, too, shall pass! Courage. 🙂

  36. As someone who wrote the Christmas card to their mother just today, this chimes. I put a side note explaining that for future, to note I use Mx and They. We arent close, and I dont know how she will take t.

    So I feel for you.

    There will never be a perfect time, but if you feel that wearing female-assigned clothes would for you be “drag” then hell no – dress how youre comfortable and be you. Either you can tackle questions as they arise, or ahead of time. I favour a heads up – maybe a note in the christmas card – and treating it as a given and as the most natural thing in the world. You cant take responsibility for people’s opinions or responses, but you can give them a lead by putting them at ease.

    I’d also have a few phrases in your back pocket, such as “actually, I go by x now. Please dont call me y anymore” and then “delberately usng an old name, when youve been told the new one, thats called deadnamng and ts very hurtful.” Depends f they mean to hurt or just dropped nto old habits of course, tho.

    Dont be afrad to be you, be comfortable n your own skn and defend yourself.

  37. SMK said:

    Sending you lots of jedi hugs and supportive fist bumps, LW.

    I’ve been out-ish as non binary for about 10 months now. My presentation varies widely according to season and weight and emotional needs. I think I pulled off a pretty convincing Jim Morrison/Lord Byron look for my 30th birthday!

    In my experience, coming out happens again and again. I made one big announcement, and I’ve been reminding people ever since. “Yep, it’s Sullie now, not ___” and “Try calling me your sibling instead of your sister,” etc. I keep writing 101 flyers and giving them to people. They read them and get incrementally better, mostly.

    Unfortunately, as you probably already know, there’s no magic script to make people *not* transphobic. Only you can decide what you’re willing to tolerate, and for how long, and from who. Alzheimer Grandma might warrant a bit more patience than Deliberate Jerk Uncle. Younglings sometimes respond better to new ideas than their parents.

    You’re not alone, LW. Come on by the forums if you need more jedi hugs and an imaginary blanket fort.

  38. Same here! Jedi hugs and my sincere admiration for the strength you have to make this huge step toward your happiness. But in terms of dealing with someone with Alzheimers, I would gently advise to be more forgiving of the grandma if/when you can tell it’s the disease that is forgetting your transition, rather than her stubbornness. She may “forget” as many times as she truly forgets, but when it’s the latter, be gentle. Declining grandparents – even without the added complications of a gender switch and Alzheimers – can blank out on their grandchildrens’ names or revert to childhood nicknames because that’s the last anchor to the memory of that child they can get their fingers on. I’ve stayed my gender the whole time but still toward the end I sometimes went by the cat’s name. I know she loved and knew me, she just couldn’t find the word MyName in her mouth. Don’t be a doormat, but please be gentle with the confusion there. Best of luck and happy holidays!

  39. Dykotomy said:

    Cis lesbian here… coming out is hard, & having to come out because we live in a society that assumes we’re cis & straight unless we announce otherwise isn’t fair. Whatever you choose to do this Christmas- coming out to everyone, some people or no-one – is right. If you don’t feel safe & ready yet or if you write those notes & then don’t send them or start those sentences & can’t finish them, that’s just fine & definitely doesn’t make you a weenie.

    FWIW I used the ‘tell one person & then get them to tell other people’ strategy when coming out & it worked great. I wasn’t in a place where I could have coped with unintentionally-offensive questions so having eg my dad tell his parents meant they got to process their emotional reaction with/at him rather than me. Then when they next saw me they’d had a chance to adjust to the news & come to terms with having a lesbian granddaughter.
    I also have a Conservative Vulcan Uncle. He was one of the last to be told & since then he’s tended to avoid situations where he might be alone with me in case he catches gay, & generally we don’t have much of a relationship. However he can see that the rest of my extended family has accepted me so doesn’t cause me any trouble & is always superficially friendly at family gatherings, which I count as a win.
    My granny also has dementia, at a more advanced stage than your grandma, & sometimes can’t remember people’s names. So when I visit or phone her I make sure my first words are “Hi Granny, it’s Dykotomy!” Or “Hello, it’s your favourite granddaughter!” to help her remember (a) my name (b) how we’re related. Just mentioning this as when her dementia is more advanced this might help remind your grandma of your correct name & pronouns.
    Good luck with whatever you decide – & there may well be at least one other closeted LGBTQ person in your family who will have your back if you do decide to come out- I always remember a friend of mine who came out to her dad as bisexual, to which he replied “Oh, you’re bi too?”

    • Letyourlifesing said:

      When I came out to my parents as bi my mum said “oh, so’s your father” and that was that.

  40. I have no advice to offer, only solidarity. I’m actually wrestling with the question of whether or not to come out as non-binary to my family over the holidays myself. I’ve only come out to a couple close friends so far, and my strategy for dealing with my family was going to be just…not really saying anything unless it became necessary to do so. It still isn’t, really, but I had a sudden panicky feeling when my aunt texted me to suggest that I bring a dress for Formal Night, and I immediately sputtered (as much as one can by text) something about not having any dresses on hand and asking if slacks and a suit jacket would work. According to both my aunt and grandmother, that would be just fine. I don’t exactly know how much longer I can keep that excuse going, though, but similar to your situation, wearing a dress would be akin to going in drag for me these days.

    So I don’t really know. I’ve been the androgynous weirdo of the family for a while now, but unlike you, LW, I can be a true weenie (you’re totally not a weenie. At all) and keep sliding along without commentary. But I know my family is pretty open minded, so I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing a disservice to the entire community by not coming out in a situation in which the risks to my well-being are nonexistent? Again…I don’t know.

    Best wishes to you, Transporter, and Jedi hugs as well. Do whatever you have to do to keep your blood pressure within normal range at this fraught time of year.

    • kat said:

      I’m pretty closeted myself, when it comes to gender, but I still feel like I need to remind everyone that no one is obligated to come out. We don’t owe anyone that, and it doesn’t say anything about us. How much you disclose about yourself and who you disclose it to should always be about what you feel comfortable with. What you want. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here.

      LW, I hope it goes well, I wish you the very best of luck. I realize the above doesn’t feel like it applies when you are transitioning, but in many areas it does, or it will. What you tell people is entirely up to you, no one has a “right to know” and even the people you are comfortable sharing everything with can be told to google things. You don’t have to answer every question, you are not obligated to inform the masses.

      • I hope this response is as reassuring to Transponder as it was to me. Thank you.

  41. jellotheocracy said:

    I’m a transgender man. I came out in a variety of ways to different folks.

    The first thing I noticed is folks react in radically different ways. I simply cannot predict how people will react. Some of the most die hard conservatives I know, just rolled with it. Some of the more hippy free love folks I knew drew a line in the sand and had to scream they didn’t agree with the “transgendering”.

    If you are monetarily independent, it goes a lot easier. You have a much wider array of choices. If you are dependent on your family financially, do what you feel you need to in order to be safe.

    If you want to out yourself? Get your supportive family on your side. Let them be on your side, for the ones that aren’t. Hell, bring a dedicated friend, who’s sole job at the event is to correct misgendering, and name issues with a smile. Just having someone there validating your gender in a rough situation can really make things easier.

    Some folks will roll with it, and some folks will suck. If they suck, it’s not you. What you are asking is so small in the scheme of things. I mean, if you were a cat, and someone told them you were actually a boy cat, they’d switch pronouns right then, right? However, some folks make a big issue about it.

    You have value, and you don’t have to put up with crappy behavior. Remember you can always leave right in the middle of things if people are being terrible. Don’t be shy about exercising that option. Sometimes folks take a while to get around to being supportive. You are not under any obligation to sit through someone’s temper tantrum, misgendering, or abusive language. Sometimes leaving is a valid strategy.

    Good luck.

    • Ginger said:

      “I mean, if you were a cat, and someone told them you were actually a boy cat, they’d switch pronouns right then, right?” Thank you for this – I am absolutely going to begin using this line if/when I hit resistance explaining anyone’s gender to…anyone who gives some ridiculous argument about how this is not okay.

      To the LW: All the jedi hugs and best of luck with whichever path you choose to take.

  42. Garzia said:

    I began identifying as agender (but not trans) a few years ago. Then I stopped because I felt weird and just avoided thinking about gender altogether. Then I began identifying as agender again. Then I tried out a new, gender-neutral name with a selected group of people. Then a year ago I announced on Facebook (hiding the status my family) that this would be my new name from now on. Then I tried out they-pronouns with a selected group of people. Then I admitted to myself that maybe I’m a trans guy??? Or maybe something more like “femme trans boi”. Then I tried out he-pronouns with a selected group of people. A few days ago I came out re: he-pronouns on Facebook (again, hiding the status from my family), and also talked about some body changes I’m planning (top surgery and hysterectomy for sure, hormones maybe).

    When I say “my family” I mean my two younger brothers, my dad, and some relatives on my dad’s side I see or talk to on a regular basis (grandmother, grandfather, great-uncle and great-grandmother). I have no relationship with my ex-mother or her family, and while I see the rest of my dad’s relatives from time to time, they’re not really in my life and to be honest I don’t know most of their names.

    At this point I feel like I’m ready to ask them to call me by my new name and pronouns. But my great-grandmother is 105 and there’s no way I can ask her to change now, it would blow up her brains. And since I expect some resistance to these changes from the rest of the family (they REALLY hate change), I don’t think it’s a good idea to over-complicate things by asking them to call me “the old way” when great-grandma is around, and “the new way” when she’s not. I feel like it’s an “everybody or nobody” kind of coming-out situation.

    So I’m kinda just waiting until my great-grandmother passes away? The thing is, she’s in really good health (yay for her!), so unless something unexpected happens (like, falling down the stairs and breaking her hip, although she’s already fallen like 4 times in the past couple of years and hasn’t broken a thing) she might live to be… I don’t even know how long, but easily 5 more years. So maybe at some point, especially if I decided to start T, I won’t be able to wait anymore… and then I’ll have to figure something else out.

    So yeah, feeling for ya, buddy.

  43. Lots of love to you LW.

    My oldest niece is now my second-oldest nephew. He posted that he would now like to be known as **** on Facebook, with a request for male pronouns, without advance warning. That kind of threw me. But having been with him, I see that he is happy as he transitions. I can handle the deeper voice and the whiskers. I love and support him.

    The really big question I had was, do I use female pronouns when talking about him in the past tense? The answer I received was to use male pronouns, because that is who he has been all along.

    • Hey Angela,

      This is maybe not a great thread for asking questions about how to support a trans* relative, since this thread was designated as being focused on LW’s needs.

      That said–use your nephew’s name and pronouns that he’s asked you to use at all times unless he tells you he prefers something else.

      • I didn’t see a question asked of this group anywhere in Angela’s comment. I saw a mention of a question she had once had – past tense – and a statement of the answer she received to it (which is the same one you gave).

        I don’t know whether it was within the scope of this thread for Angela to post at all, since she describes herself as the relative to whom a family member came out, not as someone who came out to her family herself. That’s for the Captain and the LW to decide. But let’s not accuse her of using the thread as a place to get information when that isn’t what she did. She already had that information by the time she posted, and said so explicitly. As far as I can tell, the comment was not an attempt to gather information; it was an attempt to offer support and a perspective she thought might be of use to the LW in planning to deal with his own family.

    • Og said:

      There is a trans 101 thread in the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com, which is a much better place for a question like this. It can be very upsetting to see this kind of thing in a space where someone is asking for educated support.

  44. Karak said:

    Team You Assemble!!

    If Going Home may be a Really Shitty Thing then please, please, talk to some friends or acquaintances or people on a hotline to be ready for you to step away from the table and call them so they can rage, sympathize, or joke. So when you come home there are a few tiny presents with your real name on them. Never underestimate the value of someone in your corner during a stressful holiday.

  45. Man of trans experience said:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I negotiated transition and coming out years ago now. I think the more people who treat it as “no big deal” and can respect your boundaries, the better. So if you don’t want to have conversations about your transition, let that be known to people, and stick to a script about what you will talk about. Your name, your pronouns, and “hey, how about that fruitcake.”

    For what it’s worth, my extremely conservative Southern Baptist grandma met me years on in my transition, after my parents were dreading it, and I listened to them, delaying communication. But when we met, she didn’t blink, introduced me to the doctors (basically in her last dying weeks) as her “grandson” and didn’t get my name or pronouns wrong. My parents still slip (though it’s baffling if you were to look at me–it’s about how they remember me, I guess) but I gave them boundaries early on and told them that if they didn’t at least respect my name and pronouns, I wouldn’t engage with them.

    I guess, too, at this early stage, if you want to get through this holiday just “butching it up”–that is, being okay with people viewing you as a lesbian (you didn’t mention your sexual orientation, so that might be really uncomfortable if you are a gay man), people can assume what they want. I did that for a while at a workplace until it just got too difficult for me to manage. And as far as shaving, you could look at it as just cleaning up for a holiday party and enjoy the shave–get a nice razor, etc. (at least in my experience, until my own stubble came in really well, being clean-shaven just looked better).

    Anyway, hang in there. Holidays and family are tough. I write this while I’m visiting with my girlfriend’s family, none of whom know about my gender history. Hopefully a time will come for you where, if you don’t want to have these conversations, they won’t be foisted upon you, and you’ll be more comfortable in your body. Best wishes for a happy holiday!

  46. RobotBoy said:

    Hey LW;

    Trans guy here. Offering the following tips, (some of which might be obvious but I would have appreciated);

    Don’t come out to people when they’re / you’re engaged in something else (particularly not whilst they or you are driving).

    Do focus on what you want them to do with the information, if anything i.e. “I want you to call me ___”, “I would like you to refer to me as your grandson / grandchild from now on please” etc, and redirect to this as needed.
    Example:
    Relative: “Oh, ~Deadname~, can you pass the potatoes?”
    You: “Here, and also, it’s Jack now.”
    Relative: “But what about BIOLOGY / But I forgot / But why is it a big deal?”
    You: “Okay, but I’d like you to call me Jack please.”
    Relative: “But…”
    You: “Okay, but I’d still like you to call me Jack, please.”
    (When dealing with difficult people, remember you can ask them to change their behaviour but not their feelings, so focus on the former and let them process the latter. Don’t get drawn into arguments about the validity or existence of trans people that you’re not going to win – your attitude is very much “hmm, relative, that’s not cool. *Broken record behaviour request or exit*)

    Do remember transphobes going to be transphobic, but you don’t have to stick around for it.

    Do remember you’re not alone and your transness is not something you need to apologise for, however ‘difficult’ you might feel like you’re being.

  47. That is so cool that you rocked the Jim Morrison/Lord Byron look. Hair that length does not suit me, or maybe it’s just that my soul is more prosaic than poetic.

    And, uh, how much room do you have in that blanket fort? Because the more I think about it, the less I want to say, “Surprise! I think I’m a little bit of both, but not enough of either, gender-wise!” to my family, but I don’t know if I can keep that under wraps for, say, the rest of time. Especially since I would like to get a double mastectomy at some point. :/

    • SMK said:

      Oh dear. The blanket fort is grand and you are welcome in it. Jedi hugs offered.

  48. Twitchy said:

    I’m trans male, I’m out to my family, they’ve been a spectrum of awkward to kind-of-okay about it. I’m not sure I understand the distinction between support and approval. How much meaningful support can someone give me if they think I’m a girl and I’m wrong to live as a man?

    • I think of it as being like the differences between tolerating, accepting, and welcoming. I most often encounter those distinctions in religious congregations, where the first group are “We will not shun you, kick you out, or preach against you, but we don’t approve,” the second are “You are who you are and you love who you love, and it’s none of our business,” and the third do outreach at Pride and are involved in LGBTQ rights activism.

      In this case, I think support is more like “I don’t get it, but I love you and want you to be happy, so I’m going to trust you that this is who you are and are making the right choices for yourself,” while approval is closer to “Thank you for trusting me with this information, would you like me to tell other people/keep it to myself/be on pronoun patrol, and given that we both have Grandpa’s chin, do you want some shaving tips for navigating that dimple without cutting yourself?”

      My sister is dating a man of a different race and religion. My summary of “support” above is very close to what my Fox-News-Watching, The-Cato-Institute-Is-Too-Liberal stepfather said to her when she told him, although he opened with “It’s not what I would have chosen for you” rather than “I don’t get it.” He also said that whoever she wanted to bring home would always be welcome in his house, because he’d once been the one who (for reasons of class) had not been considered worthy of a beloved daughter and didn’t ever want to make anyone else that uncomfortable. He doesn’t entirely approve, but he supports her, and it’s more than either she or I were expecting.

    • Indywind said:

      It may be easier to understand the distinction between support (which is more about about behaviors, behavior of communication) and approval (which is more about about thoughts/feelings/attitudes, which are reveled through communication) if you think about an issue other than identity.

      For analogy, think of a young kid who is doing something their parent thinks is out of their scope or a bad idea and likely to end in frustration, disappointment, discomfort or minor hurt (but not serious certain harm that woudl oblige them to go all-out to prevent it). Say, being completely determined to keep up with much bigger kids in tough physical game/sport or competition.
      Support-but-not-approval would look something like, “Well, kid, I think that’s not a good idea, but since you’re determined, I’ve made you a good breakfast to give you plenty of energy for keeping up with the big kids, and I set out your sport shoes and safety gear, so what ever else happens at least you will be as safe as possible. I still don’t approve of what you’re doing, I wish you’d choose differently but it is your choice, and I’ll help *you* as best I can without helping you choose to do *that* instead of something wiser. I’ll be over here waiting in case you change your mind–it’s okay if you do.”
      Approval-but-not-support would look something like: “That sounds like a great idea, kid! I bet you’ll do well and have a great time all by yourself, and I’m proud of you. I’ll be over here clapping and taking pictures.”
      Support-plus-approval would look something like “That sounds like a great idea, kid! I made you a good breakfast so you’ll have lots of energy, and I set out your safety gear. I’m proud you chose to do this and glad I can help you do the best you can at whatever you choose to do.”

      It’s harder to see the difference when the issue is about identity, because around identity it’s harder-to-impossible to separate out what one does from who one is, and what is choice from what is essential or emergent. There are elements of all those things around issues of identity– most people feel like who they know themselves to be is completely not their choice (some feel differently), but how to communicate it or act on it involves some or a lot of choice, depending on circumstances. And for people responding to someone else’s identity, how to feel or believe about it–or about how it was communicated or enacted– may not involve much choice, but how to communicate and act in return involves lots of choice.

  49. maythehousecat said:

    Hi LW!

    Trans girl here, and wanted to share my coming out story. For me personally, and for my wife, who just recently came out as a transmasculine person, social media has been a WONDERFUL tool. I came out on facebook after telling my wife and my mom, and the resultant explosion of validation pretty much still sustains me. Plus word totally got around to all the relatives, which didn’t make it easier when my gramps blew his top at me later, but at least it let me know who was safe before I even got close to that drama.

    What I mean is, I feel like social pressure is a powerful force that can be harnessed for good. There aren’t a ton of transphobes who will wade into a huge outpouring of love and shit on you in that space. And then you’ll know who the drama llamas are by their conspicuous silence. 😀

    If you have this option available to you – not everyone does, I realize that – it can be a big de-stresser. All my best friends already knew, but they also knew to come in cheering when i made the post. Stacked that deck with positivity.

    The last benefit to something like this is that it’s a little less personal. For me, there was less existential dread going into the thing because I wasn’t addressing anyone one on one.

    I hope this goes really well for you! ❤

    -may

    • smidgenofthesea said:

      Are you my wife?
      Fairly sure you are. So I feel safe adding that I also used facebook to drop that long-awaited info. The only people I had any deep investment in I’d already told, either by phone or (in the case of my dad) via one very long drive back from the airport over thanksgiving break. That way I already knew I had a solid Team Me assembled.
      To be honest, I’d been putting off the Official Coming Out for quite a while. As in, literally everyone who sees me on a regular basis knew a) I am not a cislady, and b) my name is Wil, but extended family and out of town friends didn’t. I changed my facebook name, and then only weeks later when I finally got tired of people thinking I posted about trans rights all the time because I was an ally did I actually say “I’m a boy! Sort of!”
      I have so much sympathy and solidarity for you, LW. I am going to see my family for the first time tomorrow (today? oh god) since I officially Came Out(tm).
      Fist bumps of awesome trans dudeliness and jedi hugs all around.
      (plz forgive any rambling, I have a fever)

  50. BambiShots said:

    Hey LW,

    When I was preparing to come out as Trans to my family,I thought it would be a one time difficulty. Amusingly, over the course of two years I needed to come out twice to my father and at least five times to my mother! It was frustrating, but in my case, being patient with my parents and letting them catch up at their own pace helped. I think part of that had to do with being more honest about my like of opposite gendered stuff, but also not making all my interactions about that. That gave them an easy out to discuss my other interests.

    I had a lot of allies on my father’s side that helped him understand that I am more myself now than when I was pretending to be someone else. Mom was a little trickier because she was very stubborn and vocally transphobic. I was literally doing her make up, after an afternoon of clothes shopping and she did not believe me. I think what helped in her case was seeing how my friends, and people in public treated me. She got to see how people who love and respect me should act, and contrast that with those that would joke and snicker behind my back.

    Some one on one time with those you love ahead of the holiday gatherings could go a long way to helping them not feel blindsided by your journey. During discussion it will be difficult to not feel hurt, angry, and betrayed. Practice your ‘game face’, enlist your allies, and remember that this season is about togetherness, love, and over-spiked eggnog!

  51. Manattee said:

    Non-binary trans/queer person here. The advice about keeping in touch with your LGBTQ friends/support network is really important. For some people, even if their family is terrible to them they can hold to their own identity really strongly, but for me, I found it really difficult and the lack of family support and fear that I would lose them completely caused a lot of confusion about whether or not I wanted to transition. As this coincided with me losing my queer support network and a period of depression that caused me to isolate myself even further, I had no other influences to provide other perspectives/any sense that what I was doing was valid, and ultimately I stopped taking my hormones and started massively downplaying my trans/queer identity. Over a year on, I feel completely lost and am still trying to work out in therapy if I did this for me or for my family. This is perhaps extreme and nothing from your letter suggests that it would happen to you, but I just wanted to highlight that negative reactions from family can be confusing, and having friends you can call to help you reaffirm your chosen identity and decisions can be very valuable. I wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas. x

  52. smashishowyoudeal said:

    Hi, LW! I’m kind of in a similar situation – my wife and I live overseas, and she’s trans, been on hormones for over a year now. And this is the *first* Christmas where we’re out to the families. It was, um, rough in places. But I really want to chime in and add to a few voices above that people can surprise you.

    We came out to her family first, as they’re a mix of quasi-religious southern and… Japanese. Which was kind of a challenge. She sent a letter, along with some leaflets in Japanese about being trans that she got from a support group here, just in case her dad would feel better without the language barrier. The days waiting for them to receive it were excruciating. But when they did call, it was so that her mom could tell us that she knew my wife was always ‘different,’ that she always knew.

    Her dad said to “try your best and work hard, don’t give up,” which is Japanese old man for “I love you and support you.”

    This first burst of relief was then smashed a few days later with a surprise two-hour Skype session her mom insisted on, sobbing and repeating herself over and over as she insisted on talking to both of us, asking super personal questions and demanding intimate details that made the both of us uncomfortable, including how sex worked now. Also, she used it as an opportunity to remind us how she’s the only one of her siblings without grandchildren and how it’s so humiliating and lonely (I’m 28. Most of her nieces and nephews had kids at ~15). Also, she said things like she’d hoped my wife was ‘fixed’ when she married me, still presenting as male, and what a relief it had been at the time. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant conversation, and it left my wife a mess.

    Now she’s generally supportive, but still uses male names and pronouns for my wife, which makes my wife very reluctant to call.

    I told my family just after Thanksgiving, during our ‘what the hell do you want for Christmas’ Skype session. It was met with “eh, okay,” in general. My father actually congratulated my wife on figuring out things in her 20s when there were so many who didn’t transition until their 50s or 60s, losing so much time. I don’t think that things are as simple as that with my dad, though, because even as he’s an old hippie, he’s stubborn and overprotective and stews on things.

    My mother, who like most of her generation is about 25% Stevie Nicks, just wanted to know when to switch names/pronouns, as did my aunt and brother. Them, I’m not so worried about.

    But my mother’s side of the family. I – ugh. They are rude, loud, drama-drinking rednecks who, despite being well-meaning and welcoming in general, used the word ‘chink’ in front of my half-asian wife at the first Thanksgiving with them she ever went to. Not vicious, just… ignorant. 90% of them have never left the state and never will. That family, I want/need an asset to have on Team Me for any future interactions, and luckily, I have a cousin who was raised like my sister and is a dream on wheels. She is 110% supportive, and basically a cinnamon bun who can kill you. She’s volunteered to field a lot of the inevitable gross questions and shitty monikers for transpeople that said family will inevitably use, and I can see things either going extremely well or extremely poorly, but not all at once.

    It’s good now, but as for when/if we go back Stateside… we’ll see.

    tl;dr – From my coming out experience, people’s reactions come in sine waves, so first might not be good at face value. Time and Team You is good.

    I hope everything goes well!

    • Haflina said:

      The “sine wave” reactions were my experience too! My shitty folks especially (I have a pair of shitty parents and a pair of awesome parents, and sadly, I lived with the shitty parents when I came out) had “oh well we love you and support you always no matter what” reactions in the immediate moment, followed by my stepmother dragging me by my skin out of bed at 5am and forcing me to spend a whole day reading the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah over and over, and telling me that it was my Mom’s fault I “thought” I was gay because it’s awful mothers that make gay people and Stepmom was proud of herself for “rescuing” me from that.

      And now she and the sperm donor wonder why I cut contact with them. Hmm.

      • smashishowyoudeal said:

        Damn, that *sucks.* And I thought my ‘does your dick still work WHERE ARE MY GRANDCHILDREN’ sobfest was bad. Thank goodness that my MIL doesn’t cling to the bible, just knows that Christian is The Thing Good And Respectable People Are Supposed To Be.

        From what I hear, though, the sine-wave-style reactions are pretty normal as people process their feelings, so I guess time is the real indicator? That, and maybe some space so that they can’t treat you like garbage during the lows.

  53. Dear LW,
    Good wishes sent your way from a queer cis woman.

  54. I’ve not read the whole thread (in part because WHY do cis straight people always appear at the top like they don’t know what an honor system is), but all the advice I’ve seen is solid. A lot of us have been through this, and look, we’ve survived, and many of us have happy thriving relationships with some or all of our family 🙂

    First things – holidays are fraught times, especially if your family, like mine are Heavy With The Weight Of Tradition. So it’s not ideal coming-out time. I’ve previously tried to do it at quiet times where people will have a month or two to get their head round it before I see them. That said, there’s definitely something to be said for an occasion where there’s a social contract to Be Nice to each other.

    I’m a big fan of pre-informing. I have a mum, and I get her to run interference for me (hey, might as well harness it for good). She likes to be the one who knows things and she also loves being protective mama bear, so she’s the IDEAL person to come out to if you’d just prefer that ‘everyone knows now and I don’t have to come out again and again’ (sounds like you are going to have to do that with your grandma anyway, so maybe minimising the repeated coming out might help?). I think my mum has heard a lot of initial reactions that I’m very very glad not to have heard, on the basis that I like having a relationship with my family. So, thanks mama! Then I get to just walk in and be all like ‘oh brilliant, roast potatoes, yes partner and I are very happy, the decorations are beautiful.’ And I treat it like No Big and everyone else takes their cue from that. I’ve been super-lucky, I realise that, and I’ve said to possibly-difficult relations ‘I’m so lucky that the family have been so supportive and kind’ and then they can’t say anything mean or they’ll the be Unkind One.

    I have also, where the relationship is particularly important or delicate, come out to that person one-on-one. I’ve done phone conversations rather than letters, but there are absolutely pros and cons for both. In my case, when I first brought home a partner of my own gender, I decided to reach out to Racist Great-Aunt myself (because she has been know to say Horrendous Things if not pre-warned to be on good behaviour). She was very very keen on Capital-F-Family, so I took the following tack:
    a) I know you love me and I love you too
    b) I wanted to let you know because I didn’t want you to be blindsided, and perhaps this might be hard for you
    c) *generally appeal to best instincts*

    It worked a TREAT. She was actually delighted to have her feelings be treated as important, and took some time off from being racist to instead become very pro-queer (in her own old-lady way – gays are hilarious fun and lesbians will fix her washing machine therefore Must Be Treasured). I was more nervous about the phone call saying that the woman she liked so much was in fact a man, but actually, it went much the same way. So. People can surprise you!

    HOWEVER. Sometimes people will take time to come round. And time might be measured in months or years rather than weeks. And it doesn’t mean that the relationship is shattered forever, but it ALSO doesn’t mean that you need to put up with shit.

    So having a strong Team Me, and an Escape Plan (a code word for an impromptu pub trip with Awesome Cousin, a phone call from a friend that you have to go into another room to deal with, or hell, just saying “I’d rather not do this,” and leaving the room. I’ve used all of these at times.

    In short:
    Enlist help. Seriously.
    Have escape route planned
    Give your family room to react well – if you appeal to their best instincts, they can really rise to meet you. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s upsetting.

    Wishing you MILLIONS of luck. It’s not easy (being green), and it’s scary, and therefore coming out is BLOODY BRAVE. You’re bloody brave. Well done, and I wish you a happy and loving holiday season, and may the new year bring a loving relationship with your family, based in them knowing you as you really are.

    • JenniferP said:

      Nanoo nanooo, I cleared that “whyyyyyyy” problem up for you. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      Also…WHYYYYYYYY

  55. Preux said:

    I am in the Super Weenie Hut Jr. with you, LW. None of my extended family knows that I’m trans yet. Honestly I really don’t want to lose my relationship with my grandmother.

    So I have no useful advice, but I wish you good luck.

  56. Haflina said:

    I got lucky in having 3 opportunities to come out to my close family, and the first 2 were for the crappy family I cared less about, so by take 3 I’d gotten it more or less figured out.

    What I did with my Mom is a strategy that probably you won’t be able to use unless you fly under the radar this holiday, OP, but I’ll offer it up anyway, just in case you or another reader finds it useful. Essentially, I started dropping very subtle hints; over time I let them get less subtle, and when Mom (who is a lovely woman but a bit of an airhead) continued to fail to pick up the thread but also showed no hostility, I eventually just left a book of LBP women’s coming out stories on my bed where I knew she’d see it when she went to grab something for me. And I waited. She let it lie about a day, then came to me and asked to talk about it, and I came out to her officially and fielded all her questions and misunderstandings.

    Later on she thanked me for the approach, because she said it let her sort out her reactions on her own time and have the talk when both of us were prepared for it and calm. Since the first two comings out had ended with my shitty father and his wife giving me off-the-cuff “oh well of course we love and support you” responses in the moment but then turning around and punishing me extravagantly, it was also a lot better for me, because I got a genuine response from Mom and not the “this is what I *should* say” response.

    Now, what might actually be helpful – after I came out to Mom and answered all her questions and educated her a bit, she was the one who told the rest of the family on my behalf, so they could have all of the “wait, Haflina’s a WHAT?!?!” responses at her instead of at me. (Ftr, no one did, but apparently my grandparents needed a bit of extra talking-to.)

    If you have a family member you trust to handle that, it’s a good way to go. Tell them privately, talk it through, and then let them discuss it and field the immediate “wait, what?” responses.

    Basically, what all my advice comes down to is letting people have time to work out their responses and feelings without burdening you with their immediate knee-jerk reactions or off-the-cuff foot-in-mouthery. (Can you tell I come from a family that tends to just blurt things out?) Someone doesn’t have to be a bigot to be misinformed or ignorant, and having someone on Team You for whom the ignorance isn’t a profoundly personal slap in the face has a lot of value.

  57. Abbe Faria said:

    First, big jedi hugs to you. And also what Nanoo nanoo said. Lots of us wind up with amazing family relationships. I know a mom who re-created the family photo albums to remove pics where the kid was cross-dressed against their will. I know parents who’ve apologized for not respecting their children and who’ve helped underwrite costs for medication and surgery. I know family members and professors who’ve taken up social justice work so trans* people aren’t carrying the load alone. I had the privilege of working at the Haight Ashbury clinics back in the AIDS study days when the cis workers were advocating (and won!) the battle for the Tom Waddell clinic: the first clinic to say the Harry Benjamin standards were a bad case of the stupid gone viral. There are lots of success cases out there but success is not for you to win by saying magic words or following a certain spell.

    In the 10 years since I’ve transitioned and in the 30 years I’ve been out as gay the only thing you know ahead of coming out is that there is no predicting how anyone will react. Crazy conservative folks have turned super-supportive and way-left-of-center folks have gone violent. Planning for every scenario is impossible and crazy-making and a bad use of your valuable time. The only factor you can control is having a solid backup plan for love/support/recovery/getting out fast in response to whatever drama comes your way. I hope you have some great people who love you and who will tell you how awesome you are if people you love have a sudden case of the stupid.

    I haven’t found a good shield against cases of the stupid. It really, really hurts when people who’ve loved us all our lives say amazingly thoughtless things but the stupid isn’t necessarily terminal. There’s a good chance it will end, especially since it sounds like you have good allies in your family already. Good luck and know we’re all cheering for you.

  58. Micro said:

    So many Jedi hugs. I’m in a pretty weird coming out situation with my family. Because of the culture I was raised in, they see me as gender non-conforming. However, they’d never use that term(their favorite is “dramatic”). I also don’t identify that way, but they still try to “correct” my gender expression a lot. I’m out as Ace to a few family members, but I’m not sure I’ll tell my parents. They’d likely start frantically trying to set me up. One of my siblings has made it very clear they don’t think asexuality is real, and I’m worried I’ll also get to the point where I just can’t keep quiet anymore.

    In short, my immediate family consistently invalidates my gender expression and life choices, so if I ever do come out, I’ll doit with an exit plan, with a friend at my side, and after I’ve requested my workplace not allow unscheduled visitors or give I formation on when I’ll be in my office out to callers.

  59. Fisher said:

    I spent last fall coming out to my parents & sister (my brother already knew) and went to Thanksgiving festivities under BirthName and FemalePronouns. It sucked, I angsted, and then I told my parents and siblings I’d be coming out to the rest of the family, told my oldest Aunt (who was very politely floored but has not failed in using my new name since) and my favorite cousin (who was totally TEAM ME (her husband welcomed me to the man club and her kids were like, cool! I’m going to craft you things with your new name on it!). And then I came out on Facebook with a

    So I was OUT and Christmas was a lot of awkward remindings and corrections and the rest of it was NO ONE TALKING ABOUT ME OR MY NAME AT ALL (though perhaps they did when I hid outside for an hour (with my wife, thank glob for supportive spouse!)). And there was one cousin of my Dad’s who was ridiculously overwrought in an “Oh my God! I was there when you were born!” (she was the nurse on duty, actually–feel free to use the amusing I was born x lbs and x height, too, and a lot has changed since then if you get the whole but you were born female thing).

    And my clan’s Matriarch (96 years old) does not know. It took me a lot to come to this decision, but, dammit, she already gave her blessing for my (pre-transition) lesbian marriage, she’s Roman Catholic and thinks the new Pope is too liberal, she’s OLD, her hearing’s going, her eyesight is going, and well, she doesn’t need anymore to worry about and I know she’d worry because she’s like that. Whether you decide to push it with your family’s matriarch and try to get her to use your new name and pronouns is up to you, or, you can chalk it up to her growing Alzheimer’s. (I like reframing things like that because it helps me stay more positive about people.)

    I highly recommend having family members or family friends who will be team you if you decide to come out. I also recommend coming out to everyone else at once with an email or through social media and not a social gathering.

    If you decide not to come out right now, that’s a completely valid decision. And people can be very good at seeing or hearing what they think they will see, so don’t worry too much about the changes from T for this holiday.

  60. Elder Grantaire said:

    OH YEAH I HAVE ONE OTHER PIECE OF ADVICE.

    So this might work best in a family like mine (middle-class, liberal Guardian-readers with a strong desire to think of themselves as ~progressive~) but I found this sort of script particularly useful with my mother’s family. Might also work better over email or in letter form than face to face.

    ‘I’m telling you this because I know that you’re open-minded, accepting people….’
    ‘It’s difficult to talk about this, but family is so important to me and I know that you’ll love and accept me as I am.’

    If this feels too emotionally manipulative for you that’s totally fair enough. Maybe it is, but it made me feel a bit more secure about their responses because I was confident their desire to think of themselves as open-minded liberals would prevent them from being openly unsupportive.

    • Micro said:

      ‘I’m telling you this because I know that you’re open-minded, accepting people….’

      I did a version of this with my one sibling who’s supportive-ish. I really meant it, so I didn’t feel I was being manipulative, but I found it was a good strategy for two reasons: The one you mentioned, and because she was expecting actual bad news. I think she was relieved when I finished the speech. She’s still “Skeptical” about how I identify, but she doesn’t try to correct me like the rest of the family does and she seems to be really trying to understand and be supportive. I can work with that.

  61. firecatstef said:

    A counselor once gave me good advice about coming out: Also tell the person why you are coming out to them, and what reaction you want. So when I told my parents that I was queer and poly, I also told them I wanted them to know because didn’t want to keep secrets any more and because I wanted to give them an opportunity to ask questions. I also told them I wanted to be reassured that they still loved me.

    Of course these were things that weren’t obvious just by looking at me, which is different from coming out as trans after starting a medical transition.

    I hope it goes well.

  62. suspectclass said:

    I came out to my family when I’d been on hormones for a few months, my voice was changing, and I was scheduled for top surgery. I told my parents by phone, then wrote a letter to my mom’s extended family, who I’m historically close to.

    It was mixed, but four years later, it’s pretty positive. My family has a 99% success rate at correct name and pronoun these days, and while both my mom and dad were really upset, they calmed down eventually.

    What worked for me:
    *I decided what I wanted from my conversation with my parents and decided that (at that point) it wasn’t acceptance, just hearing the correct information. This was _incredibly_ freeing, because it meant as long as I got to put the essential facts out there, I could just repeat the same boundary-setting scripts as many times as needed while they fretted/got mad/demanded I wait/made wild and fantastical assertions about what was “making” me “do this.” It was also super hard, but frankly the whole thing was super hard.
    *I didn’t always answer the phone. If I was feeling particularly raw, I let it go to voicemail and called back.
    *I did call back. This was the beginning of demonstrating to my family that I was making a choice that would make me more available, happier, and more whole as a person. Eventually they saw it.
    *I told my family in writing the basic facts of what I was doing, why (I needed to after long contemplation), and what I needed. I didn’t go into detail about how unhappy I had been (very very a lot), or how much despair I felt when I contemplated a life without transitioning. I did tell them how to address me, and how I hoped our relationships wouldn’t really change.

    My extended family was fantastic. Also, when I told her family in writing, and copied her on it, it relieved my mom of having to figure out how to explain something she didn’t like or understand to people. In retrospect, I think that also made it easier for *her* to get appropriate support (ie from them and not me), because she didn’t have to tell them or ask to talk about it.

    I agree with the advice to get a couple family members in the know and in your corner ahead of time. One of my sisters did a lot of work shutting down my dad’s comments and dead-naming. I think my supportive extended family helped my mom see that I wasn’t ruining my life.

    I also agree with the advice to decide what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to fight about, or what you need to fight about, if people give you a hard time. I think having an alternate plan for the visit is also prudent. If things go sideways, or you don’t have the stamina for the full visit, can you plan an escape hatch? Finally, I totally believe you need to make your own decisions about how to present yourself, but I know I would have had such a hard time going in drag at that point in my transition, and it would have made everything harder. If the same is true for you, consider being kind to yourself and going as you are.

  63. sherrieps said:

    Coming out as trans to close family is a very personal thing and can be very difficult. If you are happy in your transition, mention that when you tell your family. Your happiness is the most important thing. I came out to my grown children last March, and since then I have come out to the rest of my family and friends. The most common thing I hear is “You look so much happier”. I even hear that from the few family members that are deeply religious, and having a difficult time wrapping their heads around the news.

    Good luck,
    Sherrie

  64. peridotfaceted said:

    I came out as trans to my family, good God, ten years ago or so. It’s not quite like your situation, as we’re not terribly close to my extended family (no living grandparents, sadly), but I was terrified. I talked to my sister first, and she was totally unfazed by it; she had a few trans friends and is generally awesome, so I was relieved but not surprised. I waited months longer to talk to my parents (we live in different cities, so this was the next time I saw them), and had to really nerve myself. I talked to some online trans friends, and I made a plan: I would tell them, answer any questions they had, and hand them a few books. Then I would go for a walk, to give us all time to digest the new knowledge and to change the subject. (We’re not so good at talking about feelings.) It went… okay. My father has Vulcan tendencies anyway, so he decided he didn’t understand, though he did see how shaky I was and didn’t press at the time. My mother worried about me but asked whether I could dress up to help them see better – a lovely thought, except I learned from her that women don’t necessarily dress very differently from men, and I didn’t own any distinctively feminine clothes. After the walk we mostly got back to life as normal, though my mother was pretty upset still. In the months following it got kind of bumpy; my father wrote me a helpful letter explaining why I couldn’t be a girl. Even now he tends to misgender and birth-name me, but he corrects himself. They are genuine slips and he’s sorry for them, although the reason they hurt is because of what they say about how he still thinks of me. Not much I can do about that. He does much better at being on my side in the abstract – being aware of famous trans people, being horrified by anti-trans rhetoric and legislation, that sort of thing. My mother still worries, particularly about my safety (not that it is white middle-class trans women in Western Europe who are at high risk) but is on my side in practical terms – explaining to her friends that she has two daughters now, giving me practical advice on finding clothes that fit, that sort of thing. My extended family I never explicitly came out to; I’m myself on social media, and I insist on names and pronouns when necessary (rarely), but mostly they hear about me through my parents, who are on my side. In all, it’s gone pretty well even though I mostly still get read as male.

    As for advice, well, your family is different from mine. But you know them pretty well; I’d say, expect them to be themselves, to react to this the way they react to things generally. Your Conservative Vulcan Uncle (for example) is going to be Vulcan about it, but it will be tempered by his caring about you. Try to see that through his reaction. Don’t subject yourself to more pain and awkwardness than you can deal with, but if you can, give him a chance to come around in time. Planning helped me, and in particular, planning for how I knew my parents would react: hence the books. I don’t think my father read them, but without doing so he could hardly plead a lack of understanding. And they gave my mother something she could do other than worry.

    Good luck!

  65. gallantqueer said:

    LW, :fistbump: of solidarity.

    I’m not doing Christmas with family, but I dealt with a similar situation at Thanksgiving. A bunch of family know about me being genderqueer bc I use a different name on Facebook. Also I told my Dad last year to tell family, which he says he did. None of my family, me included, have started figuring out what this means for my interactions with family. It feels like we’re playing a collective game of Coming Out Chicken. I show up, looking masculinish, and they occasionally make comments that could be construed as purposefully supportive, while still treating me like a woman.

    I have felt bad about this situation, and obliged to do something. I’ve realized, though, that I’m not ready. Yeah, it seems like it should be easy to just tell it how it is, but it’s not. It feels like an undoable amount of vulnerability.

  66. Mary&Dorothy said:

    I’m a bandaid ripper, and obv ymmv, but the coming-out-in-emotionally-laden situations that worked best for me included:

    1. Prepping a few folks ahead of time, either by coming out to them or by telling them that I was planning on coming out at the event, and asking them if they’d be willing to be a question answerer (and providing them with answers) – and telling them what kind of things you’re comfortable with them saying to other people (I had a cousin accidentally create a fair amount of chaos when she tried to “cover” for me at a family event that I was trying to come out with, because the last time we’d been at a family event I was desperately trying to stay in the closet)
    2. Bringing my own transportation (escape routes are so important)
    3. Coming up with a script that tells folks the basics but minimizes new vocabulary (My name is ___, please use “he” and “him” to refer to me) – introducing new words like “transgender” has usually left me in the educator role, which is not my cup of tea. Just telling folks what behavioral changes I want from them, and not acting like it’s a huge deal, has worked pretty well, even with folks who I didn’t expect to take it smoothly. My family is socially conditioned enough that if you ask them for something in a reasonable tone they automatically say “Oh, of course!” before they’ve had a chance to actually process that it might be upsetting to them.
    4. Come up with “safe” topics of conversation for everyone who will be there. Tell someone your name, and then ask them about gardens/sports/whatever – so they remember you’re a person that they know and love, not a New Scary Queer Person At Our Holiday Event.
    5. Engage with queer friends/media as much as possible.

    Good luck! I’m rooting for you to do whatever feels best in the moment!

  67. solecism said:

    Transponder, it’s great that you’re in the process of transitioning! I hope that the holidays with family goes well with you.

    I am trans* in the sense of feeling pretty androgynous/nonbinary. But I haven’t really been dealing with this identity question and certainly haven’t tried to talk to my family about it because I don’t have dysphoria pushing me along. I haven’t figured out pronouns or presentation, and mostly go with what’s familiar/easy rather than right for me, at least for now. So I salute your efforts to be yourself in the fullest sense.

    I’m glad that the T is having a noticeable effect. That will likely help friends and family remember your correct gender and name. Those visual and audio cues can be very important in the process of retraining our brains and helping us update the pronouns coming out of our mouths and those speaking around us.

    I agree with the advice to have a point person (or more than one) to notify extended family members and field inquiries so you don’t have to take on that load and do all that work by yourself. I think that this is an essential part of self-care during stressful circumstances (medical crisis, death in the family, sudden job loss, family reunions, holidays in general, etc). Conserve your energy and attention, give trusted loved ones an opportunity to step up as an ally, and generally do what you need to do for the long haul.

  68. Just wanted to chime in with all the love and support. This is the first year I put my preferred name on our ornament cards, and basically my plan is to just brazen it out and offer no explanations that aren’t specifically, explicitly requested, and to keep any explanations short and cheerful: “Yep, that’s the name I prefer to use!”

    Anyway, wishing you all the best, and hoping you find peace and joy this holiday season.

  69. Hollis said:

    I feel for you. I’m out as trans & queer to everyone except my grandmother because of her dementia. She wouldn’t “forget” to use the right name but actually genuinely would forget and then feel terrible about it (though I know she genuinely wouldn’t understand they/them pronouns), and I’m not making a lovely 95-year-old woman feel terrible in the last bit of her time on this earth. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt that I can’t have the relationship I want with her. It doesn’t mean that getting deadnamed is fun or doesn’t feel bad. It means that I take extra time for me before and after I visit her because it’s hard and yes, it’s a sacrifice, and I’m allowed to recognize the effects it has on me. But it’s also a sacrifice I’m choosing because she’s my grandmother and I love her.

    It doesn’t sound like your grandma is quite in the same boat as mine, but you can choose how you deal with it. You can gently correct her on your name (particularly if she’s not feeling bad about getting it wrong). You can accept that she’s not going to get it right but you still deal with her because she’s your grandmother and you love her, and just make extra time for yourself.

    Personally, I’m avoiding confrontation with my Conservative Vulcan Uncles and Aunts because of the grandma situation. I know once I start asserting myself things will be pretty poor. But I’ve also had cousins who have told me they are on Team Me and then proceeded to act like they’re on Team Me. My parents aren’t fully there, so I know that I won’t have any help from them now or in the future Conservative Vulcan Relatives have issues with my name. And since my parents point blank refuse to use the correct pronouns (but that was a year ago so maybe I’ll revisit that conversation, but maybe I don’t feel like slamming my head in the wall) and have upped the “my daughter”‘s and “pretty”‘s, I know they REALLY won’t have my back on getting anyone else to use the right pronouns (but let’s take a moment to say THANK GOD cousin isn’t a gendered term in English).

    Things that are helpful to surviving (for me):
    Dressing so I’m comfortable. You, LW, can go “full drag”. You can shave and dress reasonably androgynously so that you’re still at least sort of in your comfort zone. You can shave and wear your shirt and tie and look masculine but dapper even if you’re not willing to come out (and you can maybe mention female celebrities who have rocked suits in the past year if that would help your case). You can not even bother with shaving and dress to the full dressy potential of your dudely self and let the chips fall where they may because you’re not causing the problem here, it’s other people causing the problem.

    I have a contest with my (chosen) bro and sis to see whose extended family is worse. Misgendering/deadname is a few points. Anyone bringing up Donald Trump in a positive manner is a few more. Any form of “You’re going to hell” is an automatic win for the year. My bro and sis won last year. If you have supportive friends or family who won’t be there who also have terrible families, maybe do this (and feel free to make up your own rules)? It turns the awfulness into some sort of game. If you’re not into turning things into games, at least have them on standby to text positive sentiments/air your frustrations and get like cute cat gifs in return to remind you that the world is not all terrible.

    Reminding myself that this situation is temporary. Christmas dinner won’t last forever. And you don’t have to go back year after year into a den of people who are going to treat you terribly. Or if you want to make the effort to have a mostly-positive relationship with your family, the old Conservative Vulcan ones won’t be around forever to ruin your holidays.

    If you’ve got cousins/siblings/parents who are onboard, engage them as Team You. If you’re coming out, they can be the misgender correctors instead of you. If you’re not coming out, they can try to waylay Conservative Vulcan Uncle if he tries to ambush you by talking about crocheting instead or something.

    Seriously, you’re a champ for trying to figure out how to deal with it. You shouldn’t have to, it’s not fair, and it really sucks that you’re being asked to do this sort of emotional labor.

  70. sputnik said:

    Lots of jedi hugs from a queer girl who has been in the same boat, and is unexpectedly in the same boat again when I thought I was more or less done :/ 2015 has been an *interesting* year regarding which specific flavors of queerness apply to me. This time last year I’d have said I was gay, no more, no less, and came out as such to all and sundry…lolnope, turns out I’m only mostly gay and also ace. Still can’t decide who to tell what, or when. Being back in the closet sucks.

    I have no advice to add that the fantastic commentariat hasn’t already said, but wishing you the best of luck with whichever course of action you choose!

  71. Og said:

    I don’t have much advice for coming out to extended family, since those bridges got immolated long ago. But I’m nonbinary, poly, aromantic and polysexual, sooooo. I do have a bit of knowledge. Some things (aromanticism, being poly) I’m not… precisely closeted on, but they don’t really come up either. Being trans was hardest to get respect for — name change + pronoun change… people just have a lot of trouble with these things. (I’m still working on getting my mom to be able to tell the difference between “oh noooooo a baby photo! how embarrassing!” and “a picture of me presenting in a way i now hate! that’s incredibly rude to show to anyone and not funny for me to see!”)

    You know what? My only regret when having to awkwardly come out to some immediate family is that I gave them way too much personal information during a time when I was vulnerable and not completely certain of myself. If anything I think I was too patient, and I fielded too much 101 stuff I did not have the desire, spoons or even adequate information to answer at that time.

    I really, really want to emphasize the idea that you don’t owe anybody ANY explanation, and that the best thing you can do is to set out and enforce expectations. I know that I, personally, am NOT very patient, open or forgiving about these things, so YMMV, but it infuriates me how much trans people are expected to minimize themselves for the comfort of others. I know a few others who’ve had similar experiences to mine — they started out very forgiving, and saw quickly that being forgiving is just taken as permission to continue misgendering you, since you “don’t mind.” If you’re going to come out to them, tell them your name. Tell them your pronouns. Don’t tell them about your body, medical treatments, emotional rollercoasters, or any information past what you need them to do.

    “My name is X. It’s he, not she.” On broken record. Be prepared to exit conversations. Be prepared to exit the house.

  72. LW said:

    I wrote this question a few months ago (I think? time passes oddly), and this is what’s going to happen:

    I’m going to wear what I wear, do what I do, and keep my family away from people who call me by my chosen name and pronouns (which is not very many people at all, which is its whole other depressing kettle of fish). I’ve learned that people have a shocking ability to see what they want to see. I’ve presented very masculinely for years, the main exception is that this time my voice has broken enough to squeak like a teenager.

    I had plans for coming out before Christmas (not at Christmas, too emotionally loaded), but I’m an inveterate procrastinator, and I thought that starting hormones meant I had a forced deadline, but so far it hasn’t. Thanks for all the advice and fistbumps in the comments, it’s nice to know that I’m not actually the only person in the universe who has had this problem. I guess it’s next Christmas.

    I hope when I’m old it’ll be a better world, it’s better than it used to be for sure, but it still sucks how much fortitude it takes to be oneself in the world, for some.

  73. LW said:

    Spam filter ate my first comment.

    The plan is to go as myself (as I always have), and trust that people see what they want to see enough that nobody really comments on it. I have a job where I interact with (mostly) retirees in a leadership role, and I think I’ve had most of the fortitude knocked out of me by being called a completely different name (a feminised version of my chosen name, which does not resemble my legal name) by most people, and ‘she’ all the time. It’s pretty demoralising. It has taught me, though, that most people are fairly oblivious, also uncomfortable with my existence when they must confront it. I don’t have the energy to deal with everyone all the time, it’s enough to deal with that lot, then there’s my parents not acknowledging anything, and deadnaming and misgendering me in public…my extended family is the least of my worries right now.

    Thanks for the Jedi hugs and fistbumps and advice, it’s easy to get very melancholy about this. Even though female socialisation arguably failed, I have definitely absorbed that I should be smoothing things over and making everybody feel better and not drawing attention to myself or my problems or making anyone uncomfortable, even though I’m terrible at it.

  74. Blow Pop said:

    Dear LW,

    I wish you all the luck in this endeavour. I am in a similar boat and I know all the feelings you’re going through, except unlike yourself, NO ONE in my family knows because they’re all super conservative and either super roman catholic or super christian. I am constantly trying to find excuses to not be guilted into going to holidays and short of working or being sick I don’t have an out. I want to go to see just my grandma. Unfortunately me going means I get the entire family and their need to mercilessly tease me (despite my repeated requests to stop), be highly offensive, simultaneously go “we’re not talking politics” while bringing up politics (and they’re ALL republicans and some trump supporters *facepalm*), and try to make me feel like shit that I’d rather read than interact with them.

    I send you all the jedi hugs, strength and support.

    I feel your family will take yours better than mine (because genderfluidity “doesn’t exist” and is just something new made up and they/them “aren’t” singular pronouns and blah blahblah). You’re definitely not alone.

  75. TK said:

    LW, I’ve been in your shoes, though not explicitly around the holidays, and I’ve got some idea of how much it sucks. You’re absolutely right that there’s a lot of socialization at work telling you to stay quiet and not make trouble and it’s an incredibly hard thing to go against.

    Re: people at work calling you by the wrong name and pronouns, some of the offenders may not be doing it maliciously or stubbornly. I went on hormones during my last year at college, counting on the changes being gradual enough to fly under the radar through graduation. No one commented on it, which was kind of a downer, but also not really something I wanted to deal with at the time. At the end of the year, I came out to a couple of people I wanted to maintain contact with. They were very good about immediately switching to the correct address, and they clued me in to the fact that people HAD noticed and commented, but had been persistently misgendering me because they’d thought I had some kind of medical issue going on. (Well. I did, but not like they thought.) They were trying to be kind and polite and not call attention to something they thought might be a painful subject. So some people may be going that route.

    Of course, some other people are just jerks about this stuff, and unfortunately, there’s not really much you can do about their attitude. It sounds like some of your people fall into this category, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with that.

    In any case, LW, I really feel for you here and I’m sorry it sucks so much. All the sympathy in the world, dude.

  76. Chase said:

    So…. I’ve been in your shoes.

    I came out, deliberately and over the internet, to two relatives who were a) super open about being queer and b) super sure to spread the news to everyone else I’m related to.

    That works very well. Anyone who didn’t know/had a problem was super publicly shamed, other than my parents, and everyone has been amazing, mostly because I had ambassadors who weren’t me. I highly recommend this approach if it’s available to you.

  77. Solo said:

    Please be aware that sometimes genuine forgetfulness does play a role. My sister asked to go by a different name to our extended family almost twenty years ago (and it wasn’t even a major change, just “Beth” to “Lizzie”) and assorted cousins still accidentally call her by the old name. So some relatives may be accidentally using your discarded name and it might not be a sign of hostility to trans* identities.

    As someone who has been misgendered a lot (bi lady, genderqueer presentation), I find that the strategy of being casual but insistent about my pronouns has worked best. So I smile and say “actually, I’m a girl” as if commenting on the weather, and that causes 99% of people to go “oops, sorry,” and switch to she/hers/her pronouns. If there are repeated slips, I repeat the “actually, I’m a girl” process as many times as necessary.

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