#1101: “My dying grandfather doesn’t know I’m trans.”

Dear Captain,

I’ve been out as a trans man for about three years. I came out to all of my extended family, with the exception of my grandfather. This was because he’s increasingly doesn’t have a great grasp of what’s happening around him, and my parents thought it would be too hard to explain it to him. I was of the opinion that it probably could have been explained to him at the time, but my family were overwhelmed by the stress of my transition and I decided not to push it.

So for the last few years, I’ve basically dealt with this situation by avoiding him. I have no idea who he thinks I am. Once, before I was out to my extended family, he loudly asked ‘Who’s that boy?’ So I don’t think he recognizes me as Former Granddaughter. This was a fairly awkward situation because he had no idea who I was or why I was at every family event. His condition has deteriorated enough since then that he frequently doesn’t recognize other members of the family, so it sticks out less that he doesn’t know who I am.

He’s now in the hospital and it doesn’t look good. I’m worried that my dad might ask me to visit him. I don’t know what would happen if I turned up at his maybe-deathbed. I really don’t want to be misgendered or referred to by my birth name, but it seems selfish to not visit a maybe-dying man for that reason. I also don’t want to have to try and explain all this to him when he is likely not going to be in a state of mind to take it in. I’m worried that my dad, who I’m very close to, will think I’m selfish for not wanting to go. I just know that being called BirthName is absolutely not an option, and I just don’t want to enter into the painful and confusing arena of trying to explain now, having avoided the subject for going on three years.

Am I being selfish? Should I suck it up and go? If so, how do I handle this situation, given that pretending to be his granddaughter is not an option? And if not, how do I explain this to my dad?

Love,

Only In The UK Would We Think This Was A Tenable Solution

Hi Only In The UK,

Your parents made a serious mistake in advising you three years ago. If your grandpa “couldn’t understand” your gender then, when did they think he would be able to? Were they just hoping he’d die off? The correct answer to his asking “Who’s that boy?” at family events was and is “That’s your grandson, [Name]” to which he 90% would have said “Oh, ok” and 10 % would have said “Who?” in which case just repeat, that’s “[Name], your grandson.” Someone in the family could have taken him aside and updated him that “[Deadname] goes by [Name] now.”

You can’t go back in time and change it, just know, it was never about your grandfather. If he was too confused to understand, he was too confused to really care or make a stink.

If you want to visit your grandfather in the hospital, it’s okay to go without your Dad  or even without telling your Dad. You just say “Hi Grandpa, good to see you, it’s [Name].” Hold his hand, say hello, spend some time with him. If he’s lucid, you can ask him to tell you stories about how he grew up or anything he wants to talk about. If he’s not lucid, just sitting with him and being there will be enough. He’ll sense kindness and love to the extent that he can, and maybe it will help you to spend that little time with him. You don’t have to explain anything or keep mediating your relationship with him through your parents. They made the wrong decision back then and they don’t really get a say now.

If you don’t want to visit him, and your Dad pressures you to, you can say “Dad, I’m confused. You’ve wanted me to avoid Grandpa since I transitioned because you were afraid it would be ‘too confusing,’ but now you want me to visit? To be clear, I won’t pretend to be his granddaughter or use my former name, so let me know if you still want me to come with you.” 

And if your dad brings out the old, tired excuses you could say “Dad, you’ve been making those excuses for three years, because you wanted to somehow ‘spare’ Grandpa from knowing about me, but what happened is that your fear and worry prevented us from having a relationship anymore. You’re losing your Dad, and I am so very very sorry, but he was lost to me a long time ago. I love you and I want to support you, but if I come to say goodbye now, I need to do it as myself.” 

Or (much more likely all around) you could go with a less emotionally charged script of “I’m so sorry to hear Grandpa is ill, please give him my love” and not visit or open up the topic again and your Dad will likely understand why. It sounds like your Grandpa won’t really notice your absence either way. There are other ways to show caring – sending cards/flowers/fruit is a thing for a reason. If your Dad or other family accuse you of being selfish for not visiting, just know, you’re not being selfish for not wanting to wear a fucking disguise in order to visit a dying relative, and their thinking cannot make it so.

How painful and awful and ultimately pointless all this prejudice is. You and your grandfather have both been robbed of something. Your identity is not something that people need protected from, and you aren’t selfish for not wanting to expose yourself to painful renegotiations around this.

I am sorry for all the losses here.

185 comments
  1. KStanley said:

    Good Morning LW,
    I am sorry that you have this complication. If grandpa was willing to ‘roll with it’ at a previous get together, I would think that he would be motivated to do so again at the end. If your family is comfortable prompting him with, “this is your grandson XY”, he will just be pleased to have loving acknowledgement.

    Jedi hugs if you like them.

    • couldhavebeenmercutio said:

      I agree. I’m a trans man, and I have a great-uncle with dementia who does not remember me from before I came out and definitely sees me as a man now, so the last time I went to visit him my family just said “this is your nephew, [name].” It sounds so simple but it worked. It could have been different if he remembered and was asking about my pre-coming out identity, but since he didn’t, it wasn’t like we were depriving him of a relative that he missed. I was just one more person in the room that he was told was a relative who loved him, and that seemed to make him happy.

  2. Chrys Tremththanmor said:

    If your grandfather is really ‘not with it’, then he might latch on you being someone else whom he knew and loved. My grandmother, in the latter stages of her life, was convinced that I was her (long dead) first daughter. I decided to just roll with it, as the love was the same even if the identity wasn’t.

    • arkadyrose said:

      Indeed. When my maternal grandmother was dying, she thought I was my mother as a child (I was 15 when she died). I have no idea who she thought my mother was; possibly her sister-in-law (who had the same name as my mother). It was easiest to just roll with it; at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter who she thought I was – only that she didn’t feel she’d been left alone at the time of her passing.

    • taraerose said:

      It’s so bittersweet. The same happened with my grandma. She called my aunt, her primary caregiver, “Jane” for the last several years of her life. She would often call out for Jane when she was distressed as well. Jane was her very best friend from when she was young. We just rolled with it. In the last hours of her life, my grandma had a clear moment and turned to my aunt and said, “I know who you are. You’re my daughter, Maureen,” and she squeezed her hand. GAH. And now I’m crying tying this. Not everyone gets a moment like that and I know my aunt was very grateful for it.

    • Cactus said:

      Yep, when my grandmother was dying she thought my dad (her son) was her own father, who had passed away long ago.

      • Purpose said:

        My grandmother, who had lived with my family before leaving with the daughter who had come to take her to Florida to live, turned to me (who had been a daily presence in her life for 16 years) and said ‘Patty, why are you divorcing my son?’ Patty being my mother, ‘my son’ being my father. {talk about awkward}

  3. Elder Grantaire said:

    LW here. I worry that I have made this sound a lot more malicious on the part of my parents than it actually was. I didn’t at the time offer any resistance to not coming out to Grandpa. I was in the process of coming out to my entire extended family, Granddad and I have never been particularly close and I was a lot more worried about coming out to the relatives I had stronger relationships with. I did think it would have been feasible, but I didn’t particularly want to, so I didn’t push back on what my parents said. I don’t think I or they really foresaw then how awkward the next few years of hiding upstairs when Mum had him over weekly for lunch would be. I’m not sure exactly what my parents thought was going to happen- as callous as it sounds, I think there actually was an unspoken assumption that he would die before I started medically transitioning.

    It definitely was never a question of ‘sparing’ Granddad- I think their position was more like ‘It takes three or four attempts to ask Granddad if he wants custard on his apple crumble, how drawn-out and agonising would this conversation be?’

    And also I just want to emphasise that as of yet, Dad hasn’t said anything about me visiting. He told me that Granddad is in the hospital and not doing great, and then I overheard him say to my uncle on the phone that he (Dad) might visit Granddad. It’s entirely possible that he won’t.

    Part of why I’m anxious about this, which I didn’t have room to explain in the letter, is that the six month anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up, and Dad asked me to visit Mum’s grave with him and my sister. I said no, because the one previous time we visited Mum’s grave I found it such an awful experience. I felt no connection to her whatsoever and got incredibly upset and frustrated because Dad and Sister clearly got something out of it and all I could think was ‘why are we staring at this stupid patch of dirt?’ Dad kept saying ‘well let’s talk about it later’, and I kept saying ‘no, I don’t want to talk about it later, I am telling you *now* that I don’t want to go’. Eventually he said ‘Is it actively detrimental to you to go?’ and I said ‘yes, it is, going makes me feel further away from Mum, not closer to her’. He sort of accepted that but I think he still would prefer me to suck it up and go to support him and Sister. And I guess I worry that saying no to this, too, if it comes up, will add to that.

    • JenniferP said:

      Aw, that’s a lot to carry. I think a good script for your dad is “I want to support you, but I think you know that we handle grief in really different ways. I don’t want to go to the grave. I don’t want to go to the hospital. But I do want to see you and for you to know that I love you.” And he’ll understand or he won’t – you don’t have to put yourself through literal ordeals about this.

    • Nanani said:

      You’re being very generous in trying to deflect blame from your parents, but it is not necessary.
      You are not at fault for not pushing back – they are at fault for putting their convenience before your identity. That doesn’t mean you need to be angry or feel any particular emotion, but it is worth looking at that fact. Your family thought your identity was too complicated and bothersome, and you are still feeling the repercussions of that in a fraught time. That wasn’t fair of them – and it’s not on you.

      And you definitely didn’t and don’t owe anyone your adhesion to an implied timeline of transition and coming out that minimized inconvenience to them!

    • thatfruitcake said:

      As a fellow trans person dealing with coming out to family (or not) I just want to send you love and strength. It’s exhausting and I respect your decision not to push back 3 years ago with your granddad when it can feel like everything around you is constant friction.
      I can see myself ending up in this position with grandparents some day, too.

    • splatterwitch said:

      Grief is a weird thing. There’s certainly nothing wrong with you for not feeling connected to your mom through visiting her grave, and I think the way you explained it to your dad was perfect.

      I’m sorry this turned into such a fraught situation for you. I don’t know if this helps, but based on what you’ve said it strikes me as unlikely that your dad will ask you to visit your grandpa. If your transition was “too confusing” for you to make an appearance at any one of those weekly dinners, I would be surprised if your dad decided that confusing him in the hospital is suddenly okay. If anything, your dad should smooth the way for you first — maybe by telling your grandpa that “[grandson] sends his love” over the course of several visits to prime him for any eventual visit on your part. That way he can see how your grandpa reacts and determine whether it’s a good idea for you to go.

    • Platypus said:

      LW, so many jedi hugs if you want them.

      (Also, were it not for the UK bit of this, I would be wondering if you were a former high school classmate of mine, who as near as I can tell from social media is going through this exact same situation, wow. On behalf of someone I haven’t spoken to since 2007, please have another jedi hug.)

      At the end of two of my grandparents lives, I got called lots of names — rarely my own — but the experience was still meaningful for me. What experiences will be meaningful for you is something that’s up to you, and you only. This internet stranger supports your decision no matter what.

      Also, I hear you on the grave thing. My brother died when I was a child, and I absolutely had the “why are we staring at this stupid patch of dirt” reaction for the entire time that I lived in the town that he was buried in.

      Very best of luck, Elder Grantaire. Please take care of yourself.

    • MsM said:

      “Eventually he said ‘Is it actively detrimental to you to go?’ and I said ‘yes, it is, going makes me feel further away from Mum, not closer to her’.”

      Honestly, I think the fact he did understand well enough to confirm that with you and let it go makes this easier: if the issue does come up (which it might not; he might draw the parallels on his own and not ask), you can let him know that you think Grandpa having to try and process your presence would be actively detrimental to the goal of a peaceful goodbye for both of you, and you’d rather focus on remembering him as he would likely want to be remembered.

    • Amy said:

      Can we collectively give you permission to a) prioritize your own needs over your family members’ wants, and b) not feel guilty about doing so?

      I’m sure you already know you can do these things–it sounds like you’ve already done them, really. But personally, I sometimes find it helpful to get an outsider’s perspective, especially when a topic is really emotionally fraught. So I’d like to offer that outsider’s perspective here, in case it’s helpful for you too. Your dad’s grief (both over your mom and over his dad) is his to handle. He has other people to turn to for support if and when he needs it. He can prefer whatever he wants, but it’s unreasonable and inconsiderate for him to ask you to do things you’ve already told him you aren’t willing to do, no matter how much they might benefit him. You are not somehow failing your family when you prioritize your own needs; rather, you are taking care of yourself, which is a necessary step before you can be in any shape to help others. You don’t need to justify your needs, even if he doesn’t like them; any tension he causes over refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer is of his own making, and is not your fault.

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        Thanks, everyone.

        Small but important detail: Granddad is not my dad’s dad. He is my mum’s dad. Not to minimise his grief around this, of course, but Granddad is his father-in-law, not his father.

      • canadakate said:

        This is an excellent comment, and applicable to so many things. For me, it’s really tough to weather the pushback, but so worth it for my own mental health, well being, and self respect.

    • Cat said:

      Eventually he said ‘Is it actively detrimental to you to go?’ and I said ‘yes, it is, going makes me feel further away from Mum, not closer to her’.

      Lw, that is the best thing to say to that, and if he tries to press the issue I would just repeat that very firmly. Doing grief rituals that don’t help your grief are really awful and bad, and it’s okay to need to not do them.

      • Myrtle said:

        I read this with admiration. It sounds to me as if all parties are being honest and telling their truths to each other. Grief is a process, not an event. I have the idea that this will come right in the end.

    • Nicky said:

      *hugs if you’d like them* I’m sorry your family’s having such a rough time of it at the moment. I don’t think you made it sound malicious so much as complicated and confusing and painful for all of you – and not your being trans so much as the whole “how to navigate the dementia problem” part. Whenever an older member of the family is coming to the end of their life, it’s a stressful and horrible time. The longer and more drawn-out, the worse it gets in many ways. I think all families end up making a few decisions that are complicated and fraught and second-guess-able along the way.

      My mum never told her mother that my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Grandma was always panicky about family illnesses and she was ill in hospital for a long time before she died (though not with any form of dementia), and Mum decided she just wasn’t going to worry her that way…And also, she wasn’t going to put herself in the path of having to have multiple conversations that were all about reassuring Grandma about a horrible and stressful situation, and having to put her own thoughts and needs as Dad’s wife, secondary to that reassurance. And while coming out as trans isn’t traumatising like a cancer diagnosis (or shouldn’t be!), it’s still something that needs thought and consideration from the recipients of the news, which someone suffering from dementia can’t necessarily be relied upon to give. So yeah, I can see why your family might have picked that route to take.

      If you can visit and you want to – absent any other familial considerations – then it sounds like your grandfather may be in a condition where you don’t actually need to remind him of your birth name and sex, or pretend to be the granddaughter he no longer remembers knowing. You might try just telling him who you are and that you’re his grandson via your dad. If he’s puzzled, which he may very well be, well, he’d probably be puzzled anyway but he may well accept it because he’ll have had a lot of other visitors who he also can’t remember telling him how they’re related.

      On the other hand, if you don’t want to visit and your father does bring it up, then you don’t need to do something which discomforts you out of filial obligation – there are other forms of comfort (should you wish) which can be offered to your dad which won’t sacrifice your own emotional needs. Take him out for a drink, drive him to the hospital for his visits, offer to pick up shopping, anything that shows him that he is not alone in this difficult time.

      Also for what it’s worth, as far as visiting your mother’s grave goes, I don’t think either Mum, my sister or I actually visited Dad’s grave after the interment of ashes, until a good few years had passed. We loved him to pieces but we all needed a good deal of space from his death before we were able to find his grave a good place to remember him. Even now, when I’m looking forward to taking his grave some tulips from my garden to mark the tenth anniversary of his death, I still have more comfort from remembering him impulsively when I’m in the middle of something during day-to-day life. Grief takes people in different ways, and focuses for remembrance can be many and varied. So don’t beat yourself up (or let your dad guilt trip you, even accidentally) for doing grief differently from him, but do maybe think whether you might confide in him one of the ways that you do find helps you feel closer to your Mum…

    • Just wanted to pop in to validate your decision not to go to your mother’s grave. I’ve skipped every official ceremony for my dead brother since his funeral ten years ago (not counting the ashes scattering because that was more of a family thing), and I’ve never regretted it, even though the rest of my family usually tends to go. We all grieve differently.

    • canadakate said:

      LW, you sound like a lovely person. It’s wonderful to want to support your family, but I’m also wary (and weary) of people who want you to “suck it up and … support [them]” without ever thinking about the cost to your, or doing the same.

      Good luck, and very polite Canadian hugs from here if you’d like them.

    • EllenS said:

      I’m sorry about your mom. Losing your mom is awful, and that first year in particular is bizarrely hellish. I’m sure it’s affecting the way your dad is dealing with his situation now, as well.

      FWIW, I’ve never visited my mom’s grave since she died 8 years ago, and have no plans to. I just don’t see the point. I’m still very aware of her influence in my life and talk of her frequently, but you see…that place has nothing to do with our relationship. It’s not like we hung out there, and I don’t believe any part of her — her self — is there now.

      So just know you are certainly not the only one who doesn’t “do” cemeteries. Your feeling makes perfect sense to me.

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        This is exactly how I feel! The wood we buried her in is lovely, it just doesn’t have any connection to her for me. We never went there together. The place I associate with her is our home. Our beautiful garden, which she loved, and the spot by the window where she spent most of her time sitting. It just feels so pointless and counter-intuitive to travel over an hour to somewhere where I have no association with her, to stare at a patch of dirt.

    • Amy said:

      Also, in regards to family member’s graves: I’ve never been to my grandma’s grave. I don’t even know where it is. Not because it’s a mystery–she died about a year ago, I’m sure multiple family members know exactly where it is and would be happy to tell me or take me there–but because I don’t want to.

      I see her in the paintings she left behind, in the family gatherings that she would love to know are still happening, in my younger cousin’s face (she looks just like pictures of my grandma at that age, except with a different hair color), in the stories we tell about her, in the jewelry she left me (much of which is more costume-y than I would wear…but that’s what she liked about it!), in the recipes my family passes down, in my memories of her voice and her laugh and her hugs.

      Basically, to me at least, her physical body was never the most important thing about her. Now that it’s been separated from all the more important bits, the idea of it seems very alien, and the idea of taking time and space to visit it is strange and unsettling for me. Regardless of whether your reasoning is the same as mine, please know that you’re not alone in feeling that way.

  4. 5 Leaf Clover said:

    Hi LW! I work in a dementia clinic and was so nervous about what the Captain’s response would be, but it is PERFECT. The thing about dementia is, we always advise people not to correct patients when they make mistakes, because they will not learn the correct thing and it will just contribute to their confusion. It sounds like your biggest worry is about being misnamed, and I will caution you that if that does happen and you correct your grandfather it just… won’t work. He won’t remember. So if that is a hard line for you, it might not be wise to go. I wonder, though, if there is much danger of that based on your description of the last time you met. Stating something in a positive way, as Jennifer suggests with “Hi Grandpa, good to see you, it’s [Name],” is a lovely way to start a positive interaction. A nice thing to know about memory disorders is that even if the person doesn’t remember the details of the visit, the FEELING of the visit stays with them. You can’t teach your grandpa who you are but you can create some good feelings in a moment. If you want to! Only if you want to, and if the risk of being deadnamed without being able to correct him is not too painful. (There is a different kind of pain, the pain of not being recognized at all, that might be worth trying to tolerate, I think.)

    • JenniferP said:

      My mom worked in eldercare since the early 80s, I’ve met probably 1,000 old people who did not know or remember me but who were happy to have a hand to hold and a smile for a little while.

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        5 Leaf Clover, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m worried about, which is making me lean strongly towards not going. I just don’t want to be in a situation where I’m surrounded by grieving people and correcting someone who isn’t capable of taking in that information. But I also cannot just stand there and be called BirthName and not correct him. So it seems like the only sure way to avoid that situation is not to go.

        • As seeing your grandfather is fairly likely to be very painful and frustrating, choosing to stay away is wise.

        • 5 Leaf Clover said:

          I mean, I should add that when we talk about not correcting people, we usually mean “don’t insist it’s 2018 if grandpa thinks it’s 1958,” not something as deeply personal as name and gender. So I don’t want to make it seem like you absolutely mustn’t under any circumstances correct him – the world wouldn’t end (although I also don’t think he’d learn.) But it honestly sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of navigating your feelings around this and if you don’t want to go, then you don’t have to! This is a hard situation – it is normal to feel ambivalent, and to not know what to do. There is no right answer other than the one that you feel okay about (I was going to say “feel good about,” but this may not be a time for feeling good about anything, and that’s okay too).

        • I'm A Little TeaPot said:

          You have quite literally changed gender since he saw you last, so unless you or someone else tries to bring that up, he’s going to see you as male, not female, and any misnaming is likely going to be with other males in his life. At most, he might ask where his granddaughter is, and your response there is some variation on “she’s not here right now, but I am”. Be prepared to get called every male name in the family! Would it be painful that your grandfather doesn’t know you? Yes. But I don’t think you need to worry that he’s going to start calling you deadname unless someone else prompts him.

          That said, only visit if you want to.

          • siranoyd said:

            Not all trans people are read as their actual gender. You can be on hormones for years and get a bunch of surgeries and still be read as your birth gender. (And we don’t know what kind of physical transition LW did, which is also a pretty personal topic.)
            It would be great if it was this easy, but it isn’t, and I believe LW when he says that Grandda would likely read him as female.

          • siranoyd said:

            (actually, I just remembered the “who’s that boy?” comment, so this could actually happen. Point still stands but may not apply here. Sorry for posting too fast!)

          • Muorra said:

            I agree with Little TeaPot here. My grandmother is suffering from dementia, and although we were very close when I was younger, she has absolutely no idea who I am. That doesn’t keep her from enjoying my visits. We talk about the weather, about her childhood, about the home she lived in for 50 years… and then sometimes this happens:

            Grandma: And what is your name?
            Me: (answer), grandma. I am (my father’s name)’s daugher.
            Grandma: Oh… that is my son!
            Me: Yes!
            Grandma: Then that must mean we’re related? How nice! I am so happy my relatives come and visit me!

            While your grandfather might not be in exactly a similar state of mind, I’ve noticed that just saying lovingly “I’m ___ and you’re my grandparent” is not something an old person would want to spend energy resisting.

        • Cat said:

          Then LW it’s okay to not come out to him or go. Seriously. If you cannot take this and it will only very much hurt you, then you can just not go at all. What’s the alternative, getting yourself hurt or else losing it and possibly making your grandfather feel hurt too? There isn’t a win-win situation here, from your own words.

        • TootsNYC said:

          Re: the Captain’s point:

          You could go when no one else is there, and just be a friendly stranger. Would that help you feel that you simply provided him a feeling that he wasn’t alone, even if he didn’t know who you were? Maybe it would be worse, to be that invisible. But it’s something to put on the list of possibilities.

          You don’t have to go when other people will be there. You can make the point to your dad or sister that YOU will find it more peaceful to visit without them. And if you want to support them, you can arrange to meet them after, or help them w/ logistics even if you don’t come up to the room.

    • Snow said:

      All of this. In the month or so leading up to my grandmother’s death, she called me my mom’s name, my cousin’s name, and a few other names that I didn’t recognize in addition to my own. I tried to correct her once (I hadn’t had the benefit of 5 Leaf Clover’s advice!), and it went horribly. From then on, I let her call me whatever she was gonna call me. If you decide to visit, starting the conversation with “Hi Grandpa, it’s [Name]” may likely ferry you past any name awkwardness, but he may call you BirthName or your mother’s name or the name of someone he knew 50 years ago, and I gently echo that correcting him will probably not stick. However you decide to proceed is ok. I’m sending you lots of good thoughts and Jedi hugs, if you want them, in what sounds like a very painful time.

      • Cherries in the Snow said:

        This is all very important, speaking as someone who has gone through this with her grandmother. Correcting someone with dementia does not help; it can make them very upset and can also make them angry. It can also just make them embarrassed, ashamed, or confused. Before my grandmother got nonverbal, any attempts at correcting her not only didn’t stick, they quite obviously caused her a lot of emotional pain. I got called a wide variety of names, including my grandmother’s sisters who had been dead for decades by that point.

        I would strongly recommend that you not go if you don’t think you could be called DeadName (or your mother’s name or your late great-uncle’s name) and not correct your grandfather (which is obviously understandable). I think it would just be easier on everyone. Trust your instincts and do what feels right.

        • SarahJane said:

          I cared for both my grandfathers at the ends of their lives. One had Alzheimer’s and the other general senility issues. Both were calm and gentle men before the dementia, but after it really set in they were very easily upset, agitated and angered (as in screaming, fighting, throwing things, crying…). And whatever they said/thought, you just kind of had to roll with it because correcting them really upset them (and they wouldn’t remember the correction anyway).

          Obviously, all this is totally up to LW’s comfort, but since he’s asking for advice, I would say either go visit and accept that just this once he may call LW “Deadname” and LW can either gently deflect (I loved the earlier suggestion of gently saying “She’s not here right now, but I am”) or roll with it to spare Grandpa pain. (I fully believe in our rights to live our lives openly and freely without worrying about pain to or judgment from family/friends, but in the case of someone who’s on his deathbed – and therefore will not have any future opportunity to work toward acceptance and then pay that forward – I think the possible harm outweighs the benefits.)

          If being called “Deadname” or referred to as she/granddaughter is a red line for LW, I think that’s entirely understandable, but in that case I think he shouldn’t make this last visit.

          Whatever you do, LW, remember you’re not doing anything wrong. Don’t let your folks, however well-meaning, guilt you into doing what’s not right for you. You’re an adult and can make your own decisions, and from your question I can tell you will make this one thoughtfully and with the most kindness to yourself and others. Hugs/Jedi hugs to you, hon.

          • Hey SarahJane, just to let you know that ‘hon’ is sometimes used as a transphobic slur.

          • moss said:

            Baltimore would like a word.

          • (To lastorange) Thanks for the information –I grew up near Bal’more and use a lot of endearment terms* to refer to just about everyone, so that’s a pretty frequent part of my vocabulary!

            From my quick research, it sounds like it’s only really a fraught word inside trans spaces. I would hate to lose it as a way to refer to students/customers/friends, although of course I’ll be more careful moving forward about using it towards my trans friends.

            *Hon, sweetie, and dear are all gender neutral. When I was working at Dunkin Donuts and newly out-as-agender, hon was about the only thing I felt comfortable shouting over to customers when I needed their attention. We don’t take names like Starbucks does, and I felt super awkward about using “sir” or “ma’am”…and differently super awkward about “friend” (which has become my most frequent go-to).

          • xms967 said:

            @lastorange: Wait, how so?

          • JSPA said:

            Hon is an all-gender, all ages (from any, to any) term signifying general kindness, niceness and goodwill, in several mid-altantic states. Jumping on someone for using it in their idiom makes about as much sense as getting upset at how a chinese or hungarian name transliterates to English. “Rude somewhere” ≠ “rude by default.” Especially when we don’t have a huge supply of words that work so broadly to say, “I mean you well, value your existence, am happy you’re here.”

    • My two cents said:

      I don’t know if these are helpful to your specific situation, but from experience I can offer my insight into a couple points:

      This has been mentioned by others, but with dementia there is a reasonable chance that you will be referred to by DeadName, not out of maliciousness but because there is nothing anyone can do about our brains in that state. Even if you had been honest with your grandfather years ago, and even if he had been very supportive… dementia would likely erase that ability to remember the more recent past. There is a similar likelihood that you could be referred to by your father’s name, or an old friend, or… your grandfather may also be at a point where he can’t even speak. It may be possible to have a conversation with your father to learn more. If you are asked to go then you could ask for a few details about his health, before you decide either way. My father pressured me into visiting my grandmother, even after I chatted with him and found out that at that point she was non-verbal due to dementia (she couldn’t enjoy a trip outdoors as she had become afraid of moving cars). When I tried to visit her at the start of her severe dementia, when she recognised me with prompting, she was clearly unhappy with my visits (in part because she craved routine and I wasn’t a regular visitor), which is why I had stopped going. At the end I didn’t visit her as I had a very bad flu (at a time when it was an epidemic and nursing homes were refusing entry to anyone who appeared vaguely ill, and I was semi-comatose in my bedroom for a week), although it didn’t stop my father from attempts at guilt, because it was “the proper thing to do” / appearances.

      It sounds like your father may be hoping that you will visit in order to support him (the fact that he talked about going to visit his father suggests that he doesn’t seem him frequently). Does it make you any more or less likely to want to visit your grandfather, if you view it that way (no need to answer the question – just a thought to consider). As the Ring Theory talks about, we should try to put comfort in, and dump out, and it sounds like your father may be more interested in the moral support that you offer to him in these times, irrelevant of your relationship with your grandfather. As you are close family I wouldn’t think that you should be expected to provide comfort to your father, as you might need it as much as him, but that is for you to know. If you aren’t located very close to each other, then maybe one option would be for you to spend time with your father, but not join him at the hospital?

      I am sorry that you are going through this. It’s hard, especially as it sounds that you care about your father, but you also very much need to take care of you. Jedi hugs.

      • Harry said:

        I think you have made a very good point here. Perhaps, somewhat unconsciously, your father is wondering if anyone will be comforting him in his last days on earth. So, if you can bring yourself to just offer comfort directly to your father, that may be a better path for both of you. It can be hard for the very young to “get” the fear of being old and very alone, and perhaps this is now beginning to be a uncomfortable train of thought for your father. Just a thought.

  5. policychick said:

    I’d echo the Captain’s advice.
    I’m sorry the loss you and your family are facing, but as the Captain pointed out, I think the time that perhaps your father is looking for (coming out to your grandfather while he could still process it?) has unfortunately passed.

    And really, if we play this out…: Let’s say you did go to your grandfather in the guise of your former self. What would that accomplish FOR HIM? From your description of his current health, I’d wager very very little. You said he barely recognizes immediate family. I really don’t see any upside to the charade for your grandfather. All this considered, If your father continues to press, I think it’s probably more about HIM than your grandfather, yes?

    With your Dad initially not wanting to ‘confuse’ your grandfather, and now wanting you to visit grandfather as [granddaugther] (if I’m reading correctly), is there more going on with your father? Does he need to grasp ‘how things were’, perhaps out of grief for the impending death? I don’t know, I’m just suggesting that might be worth a think.

    You are who you are. Your grandfather, in a sense, is no longer ‘here’ and unable to know you as you are today. Be loving and compassionate to your father, but also be true to your identity.

    Which I think is not the least bit helpful because it’s pretty much everything the Captain wrote. Sending Good Thoughts to you and your family.

    • Elder Grantaire said:

      I don’t think I made it clear enough in the letter, Dad hasn’t actually yet said anything to me about visiting Granddad, and I don’t think he would actually ask me to go as BirthName. I think his attitude might be more like ‘can’t you just go and deal with the fact that he might call you the wrong name?’ Which…I can’t. But as of yet he hasn’t done either thing. He was one half of the ‘let’s not bother trying to explain this to Granddad’ chorus three years ago, but he hasn’t said anything yet about me visiting now- this is mostly me worrying about what will happen *if* he does bring it up. More context in my reply in the thread above.

      • Buttermilk said:

        If you do want to visit, or get pressured into visiting, can you perhaps ask someone who has seen your grandfather recently how well he is recognizing family and how likely he is to actually recognize you? (This isn’t actually a trans-specific question, either, many dementia patients totally lose the ability to recognize family members, especially from the younger generations.) It’s quite possible that your grandfather is at a point where he’s unlikely to deadname you, and more likely to think you’re a distant cousin you don’t even know existed but that he played with every summer as a child or something similar. If you don’t want to visit, “Based on what you’ve said, I suspect that my presence would cause grandpa a lot of distress, and I don’t want to inflict that on him” might be a good excuse.

        My husband’s grandmother no longer recognizes any of her grandchildren and is struggling to recognize her sons at this point. When we visit, we go in to her room, talk to her generally about our lives for about 15 minutes, and then leave when her confusion and agitation start increasing. She really has no idea who visited, but it makes my husband feel good that he’s visited his grandmother and gives her some stimulation and family love. You may be able to sort of sweep past the identification issue entirely by just saying “Grandpa, it’s Elder Grantaire” and then if he’s confused just have a subject change at the ready (“[Your Dad’s first name] suggested I visit. I’ve just moved to a new neighborhood etc. etc.”) (We also find that saying the first names of family members helps her slightly. Since she doesn’t know who we are, “my dad” isn’t super helpful to her identifying who we’re talking about, and she’ll often think that “my dad” refers to her own father-in-law.)

        • spd said:

          This is a good idea. Given that he’s asked “who’s that boy” about you before, it sounds fairly likely that he won’t recognize you as former granddaughter, if he’s having trouble recognizing people he was closer to as well.

          That said, if you don’t want to take the chance, you don’t have to take the chance. Dementia means that any misgendeting is 0% your granddad’s fault, but it doesn’t mean misgendering/deadnaming is less hurtful.

        • DesertRose said:

          Yeah, I had a situation like that play out with one of my great-uncles (a younger brother of my maternal grandfather). He had concussion-related memory loss due to having played university-level US football in the 1950’s when they still used leather helmets, and the last couple of times I saw him, he never remembered my name or who I was, but if I said, “I’m your brother Bill’s oldest granddaughter,” that connected the dots for him, at least for a little while. I never pushed hard on the whole thing, because I could see that he was frustrated with his own brain (which, as I understand, is not particularly uncommon in that situation).

          I think that the best thing to do in Elder Grantaire’s specific situation is to do what he can do to support his father and that probably doesn’t include visiting the grandfather who likely won’t know him even as Deadname.

          I’m sorry your family is going through that, Elder Grantaire. It’s really difficult, and grief is weird and chaotic. I wish you and your family peace.

      • Ribbon said:

        If your dad does mention you going to the hospital, but you don’t feel up to seeing your granddad, maybe you could compromise by joining your father at the hospital for emotional support, but not go into Granddad’s room with him and just wait outside (if this is something your father would appreciate)?

  6. Martin said:

    You mentioned that your grandfather no longer recognizes many other family members. Visiting him as yourself, using your name, is unlikely to make him any more confused than he is now; there’s truly no reason to think that either using your old name or passing as female will lessen his confusion. Visit without your Dad, be yourself, and stay as long as your grandfather seems to be enjoying your company.

    • Erin W said:

      That’s what I’m thinking. “Grandpa, it’s your grandson Elder Grantaire.” If he doesn’t recognize you, “I’m your son Joe’s son, Grandpa.” Your cis cousins are probably getting the same thing.

  7. Madb said:

    LW, I have dealt with two people who couldn’t tell who I was. (My mother thought my best friend was me for several months before she died.). What I got from both of them was pleasure that I was there at all. I agree with all the people saying granddad won’t care if you’re male now when he last knew you as female.

    Do what’s best for you.

  8. Belle said:

    I don’t really have any advice unfortunately, but I do have a little story that might make you smile 🙂

    A dear friend of mine transitioned a while back and never told her grandparents because she was afraid of losing her relationship with them. She eventually moved far away, too far to ever really go back and see them, and began to transition physically. Fast forward a few years and her grandmother, after a long period of mental deterioration, began to fail, and Friend couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.

    So she flew back, with the intention of standing quietly in the background while others had their time, saying a silent goodbye, to avoid distressing and confusing her grandmother the last time she’d see her.

    BUT friend still looks recognisably like they did a few years ago, and to everyone’s surprise, grandma addressed her, using her deadname. Friend told me later that she was very stressed by this because she couldn’t bear to pretend but also everyone was there (and everyone had said that granny wouldn’t understand), and what would happen if she said something? So she went over and held her grandmother’s hand and said “I was [deadname] but people call me [name] now.”

    And grandma said “[name]? But I thought you were a boy?” And she said “So did I for a while”, and apparently her Grandma just shrugged, held her hand and said “Oh, well its lovely to see you” and that was basically that.

    I’m not saying that your reunion with your grandparents is going to be Disney moment, but these things aren’t always a painful tragedy, and really if your grandpa is in his final moments, he might find comfort in a hand holding his and some kind words even if he doesn’t recognise who they’re from. Maybe you won’t even have to identify yourself, but if you can’t bring yourself to go I think that’s fair too. This stuff is hard, but you have permission to make the right choice for YOU.

    There’s also a really interesting short story called Not Bleak by Casey Plett about a transwoman who goes back to visit her grandparents and basically goes as a man because they don’t know, and she recruits her trans friend to be her ‘girlfriend’ just to really tie a bow in the “this is all delightfully cis/heteronormative nothing to see here” situation. It’s pretty funny and a little sad but definitely worth a read. Again, I’m not sure it’d help your specific situation, but it’s nice to know that a lot of people deal with this shitty situation and come out the other end ok.

    This is an essay. Sorry. Best of luck to you LW ❤

    P.s. anybody looking for an excellent trans author of fiction – Casey Plett- y'all are welcome. And Charlie Jane Anders. Sorry, I'm going I'm going.

    And Yoon Ha Lee.

    • Indoor Cat said:

      And Jan Morris! Not to turn this into a whole thread or anything. And Daniel Ortberg!

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        I love Jan Morris! And Daniel Ortberg! I cried so much when Daniel came out. That essay he wrote has some of the most relatable stuff I’ve ever read about transition. Particularly this quote about his pre-transition self:

        ‘…she was beautiful, and I loved her. And she is! And I do! And she is not gone, there has been no death, no act of violence, no act of disavowal or abnegation or dismissal. And yet she’s not herein the way that she was.’

        That pretty much sums up how I feel about pre-transition me.

        • Thursday Next said:

          I love that quote too! It is such a loving way of relating to who he used to be.

          LW, what would be the most loving (of yourself) choice to make now, regarding your grandfather? Your original letter and follow up comments struck me in how much you’ve done to acknowledge your father’s needs and feelings, even when they’ve been in conflict with yours.

          • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

            Honestly, I think not going. Other people’s comments have made it clear to me that there is a real possibility that he will call me by my birth name, and that there wouldn’t be any point in correcting him. I can’t stand there and not correct someone who calls me that. It’s the worst possible feeling for me. It’s like being dragged back in time to before I was out, when nobody knew who I was and I winced every time even the people I loved said anything about me.

            I had a similar issue around my mother’s funeral, where before the funeral I was very anxious about the possibility that someone might misgender me. I was enraged at the prospect and absolutely adamant that I was not going to stand for it, that it was My Mother’s Funeral and I was not going to put up with it. I told my dad that I was not going to put up with it and we had a big fight over it. He was basically like, do not get angry, just correct people gently, don’t make a scene, they’re grieving too, and I was like, I don’t care, she’s my mother and I have reminded people explicitly by email and specifically asked them not to misgender me so if they do I’m gonna get mad.

            As it turned out, someone did misgender me and I didn’t get (outwardly) mad, because I guess the power of Don’t Make A Scene still has a hold over me. Instead I basically ran away at the earliest opportunity and my then-partner went after the person and pointed out to her what had happened, and she was very apologetic and ended up writing me a well-meaning but fairly awkward note along the lines of ‘I hope you know that I would never intentionally hurt you’ (thanks but Not The Point).

            I guess that’s what I’m afraid of happening here, that Dad will once again fall on the side of ‘don’t make trouble in this situation where people are grieving’. And this time I don’t have the fallback of ‘she was my mother, I’ll behave how I please’, because I am very far from the closest person to Granddad. And since I’m not capable of doing what I suspect he’d want me to do if Granddad birthnames me (i.e. nothing), I think it’s best if I just don’t go.

          • Sarah said:

            Elder Grantaire, I think it sounds like the most loving thing you can do, the thing that will make whatever your grandfather takes away from his visitors the most positive, is to not go but to be able to fondly remember the interactions you have had with him. And I don’t know how to explain that to your father, should he ask, except that, “In what time he has left, I don’t want to even accidentally make him feel he’s done anything wrong” might be one way of putting it – it acknowledges that you’ll have a reaction to hearing that name that you won’t be able to control, even if you wanted to try, and that you care enough about your grandfather to try to ensure the last memories he makes are good ones.

        • Indoor Cat said:

          ❤ ❤ ❤ I love that quote too. I'm beginning to come to terms, very slightly, with being …not cis. Possibly trans? Probably genderqueer / genderfluid? And that interview was so, so encouraging for me, especially since, you know, everyone seems to have it figured out by such a young age, and I feel so much like, "I am too old to still be this confused," but his interview made me realize that it's okay to be unsure and take your time.

          I am sorry for your loss, and I do hope the Captain's advice and our support helps you feel encouraged. Jedi hugs if you want them.

          • sorcyress said:

            I know a lovely woman in the folk dance scene, who I’d seen a few times at dance camp, and quietly lumped into the “nice white-haired folks” mental category before she transitioned. The first time she showed up to play at camp post-transition, every time I saw her she had the most radiant smile on her face –eventually I complimented her on it and she told me something along the lines of “the last few years of being [deadname] were not happy…now, I am happy!”

            It was just such a great response. She hadn’t been struggling for years and years and years, she had just started to realize, somewhere in her late 50s or early 60s, that she was someone different, and she was able to take steps towards that. It was an awesome reminder that not everyone figures it out when they’re in high school, and you can still take steps towards yourSelf and find joy no matter how old you are!

  9. Crone said:

    LW, I noticed you talking about your “family being overwhelmed by the stress of [your] transition” and then the idea of you “suck[ing] it up and go[ing] to support him and Sister.” Support and concern for stress need to go both ways, and I’m fuming at the thought of you not seeming to receive it.

    Your stress, your grief, your needs, all matter.

    • Nanani said:

      This bugged me too. LW, you didn’t transition AT them, and it is 100% OK to put down this bag of crap labelled “stress your identity causes others”

      • Son of Math said:

        Might have started crying a bit when I read this. If someone had told me ten years ago that I wasn’t transitioning AT my classmates or my teachers or my family, that would have helped so much. Thank you.

        • Nanani said:

          10 years late, but here are infinity soft, hypoallergenic, internet feathers to hug, roll in, stuff into a downy blanket, or whatever you please.
          I hope it helps.

  10. CathieF said:

    There may be a family uproar about “telling” but there can be an awful family cost for not telling, too.
    When our daughter came out as gay when she was a teenager, she wrote a letter to her grandparents to tell them. The day after she mailed it, her grandmother died of an aortic aneurysm. So when my husband flew out to be with his father, our daughter asked him to retrieve the letter when it arrived because she felt it might be too much of a challenge for her grandfather to deal with this at that difficult time.
    But afterwards, it never did seem to be the “right time” to tell him. So this went on for a couple of years — until we realized that our daughter had basically lost her relationship with her grandfather as a result of this big “secret”.
    So finally we told him — and he didn’t have any problem with it that we ever heard about. And finally our daughter felt she could talk to her grandpa again. In retrospect, he was much less fragile than we had thought he was.

  11. Clarry said:

    Would it be helpful to compartmentalize? Trans man is true. Dementia is true. It seems likely that your grandfather will mis-name you or not remember you or be confused or need many things explained to him. I’m seeing a difference in whether you choose to visit and how you feel about your grandfather’s reaction if you do visit based on whether you see it through the trans-lens or the dementia-lens.

    • I appreciate this comment is trying to be helpful but as a trans person I can say that many of us can’t just “compartmentalize.” One can intellectually understand that yeah, he has dementia and as such any misgendering is due to that, not malicious intent, but that does *not* remove the sting of misgendering. We can’t simply leave our trans identities at the door. A lot of us have already had to deal with people purposefully if not cruelly misgendering us so for some trans folks it can be straight-up triggering to be called by one’s dead name.

      LW, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this and I wish you the best. I saw one of my grandmothers after I transitioned and before she died, but not my other grandmother. Both were tough in different ways. I wish I had something more useful to add, but I agree with the Captain that it is entirely up to you whether you want to visit him or no. There’s no correct answer and if you don’t want to visit him, that is okay.

      *Jedi hugs if desired*

    • sarcfringe said:

      When my grandma with dementia called me my mom’s name, it was sad, because she wasn’t herself anymore, but it didn’t hurt, because I never had to fight the rest of the world to get them to acknowledge me as Not My Mom. I never had to come out as Not My Mom, or have anyone suggest that my insistence on being Not My Mom was disruptive or should be toned down as a courtesy to grieving people. Compartmentalization is a lot easier when your identity is generally recognized and accepted. (note: I am not trans; if this is a bad analogy, please let me know)

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        Thank you, this is actually a really helpful comment.

        One of the things that made me furious when my mum died, and that this is bringing up a bit, is the implication that respecting my identity is all well and good except when there’s some big crisis going on, and then it’s ‘this other thing is more important, people can’t be expected to deal with your gender stuff right now’. It makes it feel like respecting my gender is something they do to humour me when they don’t have more pressing concerns. I don’t accept that. Either my identity is respected at all times, or it is not respected.

        • I agree, what sarcfringe said is an elegant analogy and helpful in understanding the situation. I think what you said here is also elegantly phrased:

          “…the implication that respecting my identity is all well and good except when there’s some big crisis going on, and then it’s ‘this other thing is more important, people can’t be expected to deal with your gender stuff right now’. It makes it feel like respecting my gender is something they do to humour me when they don’t have more pressing concerns.”

          I think you have got it right, actually. Rather a lot of people believe that being trans is not actually a real, biological thing–they think it’s somewhere between a delusion and a lifestyle choice. If that is what someone believes about trans people in general, they might decide to humor you and be very respectful to you in daily life because they love you, but still consider that during a crisis supporting other people’s emotions is more important than humoring your desire for a new identity.

          Of course, I have no idea if that’s what your parents are actually thinking. And I have no idea whether you should ask them….

        • storyranger said:

          “Either my identity is respected at all times, or it is not respected” needs to be on a t-shirt.

          I’ve had this argument with coworkers in the context of “trans people are fine but I don’t want my kids knowing about them, it’ll confuse them and then I’ll have to talk to them and it’ll be a whole big thing.” And I bit my tongue because I’m not out to that particular coworker but inside I was screaming because “I support trans people unless they inconvenience me” is just a shittier way of saying “I don’t support trans people.”

          From what you’ve said, both you and your father are tied to your granddad through your mum, who’s not with you anymore. If she was, I’d say in the context of “ring theory”, she’d be the support priority. As it stands, you and your dad are in the same ring. It’s okay to take care of yourself, it’s okay to prioritize taking care of yourself, it’s okay to go or to not go and it’s okay not to discuss your reasons for choosing either option and to state a boundary around that conversation. Grief is hard and weird and lots of us are bad at it! Ultimately the only person who has to live with your choice is you, so you need to make the best one for you.

          • CrossStitcher said:

            K, this phrase is officially added to my list of things to make a cross stitch of (so long as you’re okay with that, Elder Grantaire)

          • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

            CrossStitcher, I can’t reply to your comment but I would love you to cross stitch it!

        • bats are cute said:

          This is fraught and complicated and I’m so sorry. 😦

          Between these fears and how you described visiting your mother’s grave above, I’d advise to just not visit your Grandfather. He won’t know the difference. It’s seems the kindest version of a visit would be for him to not recognize you at all, and that is pointless for BOTH of you. What would you get out of visiting him? Anything positive, at all? Or just stress, anxiety, and a gross mix of shame/fear/resentment? (At being even potentially deadnamed, at being forced to go through insincere and uncomfortable mourning rituals to appease your family, at how gross and unfair it is to feel like your identity as a living breathing human is subject to being sidelined because people don’t want to “deal” with it…) None of that is worth it.

        • Danielle said:

          I’m sorry to hear this, Elder, and I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. Six months isn’t a very long time.

          Sending empathy.

        • Lily said:

          yeah, fuck that shit. People don’t need to “deal with” your identity, people just need to use your correct name and pronouns and need to shut up otherwise. Seriously. It’s not that hard, especially regarding the *son of the dead person* it’s totally doable. Hell, if your mother’s funeral is hard to them, they ought to remember that is is even more terrible for you.

          • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

            Yeah, like, I sent out an email to everyone attending beforehand that specifically said ‘Please remember that I am a man, and my pronouns are he/him/his. Please do not refer to me as Mum’s daughter, even in the past tense. Please keep in mind that misgendering me will only make what is already a deeply upsetting occasion more upsetting.’ And someone STILL called me ‘she’. I am mad in retrospect that my ‘don’t make a scene’ social conditioning prevented me from getting outwardly angry, because COME ON. It really doesn’t take that much effort to pay attention to the words you use.

    • Clarry said:

      I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was recommending compartmentalizing as the answer or that the dementia-lens should win out over the trans-lens. Far from it! I was asking if perhaps seeing the question from different viewpoints might help. LW was wondering about seeing Grandfather, and I was offering a possible way to think about the problem.

    • Cat said:

      As a trans person, it’s not possible for me to compartmentalize something that is an active threat and often happens daily. Being misgendered is something I imagine I could brush off if nobody had ever done it to me, and even then it’d be a tricky proposition. My gender doesn’t stop being my gender just because some awful tragedy is happening.

  12. Solo said:

    I’ve been with a few (great-)grandparents as they were nearing the end of their life in varying degrees of confusion. The more lucid they were, the more they were familiar with the experience of feeling surrounded by strangers – whether carers in a hospital or nursing setting, family members they no longer recognized, etc.

    In general, a gentle explanation anchored in something familiar (“I’m the evening nurse,” “I’m [child]’s (grand)son”) combined with some soothing/affectionate tones (“and I’m so happy to see you,” “and I would love to hear the story of how you met grandma again,” “and I brought you your favorite fruit”) is what a “good” interaction looks like. It can be difficult, especially if you’re not recognized by someone whose approval or recognition is important to you, but also… confusion is a fact of life for someone who’s at that stage. Your transness does not make that qualitatively different, and while your grandfather may never make a lasting connection between “that nice boy over there” and “Former Granddaughter, who I read bedtime stories to and built a rocking horse for”… that’s not necessary for you to visit him, and to share memories and comfort as he’s nearing the end of his life. I’m so sorry that this has been made unnecessarily difficult for you, LW.

  13. S said:

    HI LW,

    I saw your clarification above, and I just want to say, losing family, and grief are very different for all of us. Everyone processes it differently. Ultimately, the actions we take both before and after death, are partly about those we lose, but they are even more about about how we process that loss.

    It has always been very important for me personally to end things on a positive note with people I care about, whenever I have a chance. So while being in intensive care or other hospital settings can trigger panic attacks and cause me to pass out — when family members are hospitalized I do my best to go and visit. I hate it, it’s awful, but I know from experience that if I don’t go I will regret it and feel sad about it for years to come. This is a big part of how I personally handle grief and loss.

    But it may not be important to you, and that is 100% ok. Sometimes, it is better to remember the happy memories you had with someone, than what can be an emotionally difficult visit when they are not in their right mind, or are extremely ill.

    Ultimately you have to think about what is important to you, with regards to your grandfathers state of mine and his state of health. This is about your personal relationship with him, and what will help you process his loss and absence in your life moving forward. That maybe nothing, it may be sitting down to tell him about your transition even though you know he wont remember or understand. It could be something in between, (sending a card, gift, photo, etc) this is about what works for you.

    With regards to your family and graveside visits, people have very different rituals around loss, my partner dislikes any kind of physical reminder whereas I like small memorials and visiting grave sides. For me the physical reminder grounds me, in a way that just makes him sad.

    The challenge is finding ways to join these memories. My partner and I remember his Mom every time we visit a Dairy Queen (i know, I know) but that’s one of the things that makes us think of her, and it has a lot of positive memories for him, but isn’t about her death. Perhaps you could think of a ritual or tradition from your Mother that does make you feel connected to her, that you could share with your father and sister?

    To them it may feel like you are saying “I don’t want to remember Mom or share our grief as a family.” But really it is just this method of remembering that does not work well for you. Perhaps you can build a more positive ritual that works for all of you. Meeting at her favorite restaurant/garden/museum after they visit the graveside? Planting a tree? Or something that reminds you of her in a positive way.

  14. Signe Drekkar said:

    Nth-ing the thought that Granddad probably won’t connect you with your prior appearance/name. The way memory works, if he remembers “you” at all, it’s probably as a little kid. So if anybody is going to get called by deadname, it’s much more likely to be one of your cousin’s daughters or some other random little girl that looks kinda like you did at that age.

  15. LW, this may be extremely cold comfort, but coming out to your grandfather three years ago might or might not have stuck anyway. I say this as someone whose grandparents are suffering from Alzheimer’s/ dementia–even in the earlier stages, when my grandfather was relatively lucid, I had to repeatedly explain things like no, I don’t live in this city anymore, I’ve graduated from college and have a job. I have no confidence that anything I told him then has stayed with him as his mind deteriorated further.

    It sounds from your comments above like you would rather just not visit at all, which I can understand–even without gender transition anxiety in the mix, visiting relatives whose mental state has eroded to that extent can be a very painful experience. Do whatever you have to do for your own emotional health and self-care.

  16. LucySnowe24 said:

    When my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, she didn’t know the people visiting her in the home were her children and grandchildren, but there were still things we could do together that she enjoyed – telling her about her lives, looking at photographs of family, helping her solve very simple crosswords, singing (she could still remember the words to lots of songs, including a version of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ from the 1930s that went ‘Hark the heralds angels sing, Mrs Simpson stole our king!’) She still liked touch, so you could just hold her hand and stroke it. I’m not sure how much of this is possible for your grandfather, LW, but believe me, i’s worth it to just sit with your grandfather and connect with him a bit, even if he just registers you as ‘That nice young man’ and not a family member, and you shouldn’t let your family keep you from it. Sending you love in going through this.

    • Buni said:

      My grandmother used to boast about how Dr. B would come and visit her, and how special that was because she knew Dr. B was a big man in their community and how lucky she was that he chose to sit with her. They talked about the places they’d both grown up in and knew, the mutual friends they had and things from their community’s history. She was proud because she knew that Dr. B was a Very Important Person.

      She had completely forgotten that Dr. B was her husband.

      It made no difference. She had a nice chat, she got to reminisce about the Old Days, she was happy with that.

  17. GreenDoor said:

    There’s no rule that we MUST visit those who appear to be in their last moments. LW if you don’t want/need a last visIt, please know that it is entirely possible for him to pass without another visit and for you to find peace by just relying on any happy memories from the past. – your parents messed up and they don’t get to decide this!

    If you do want a visit, I can tell you from dealing with older folks a lot that it often happens that the closer one gets to the end of life, the less old biases, and prejudices, and rules, and expectations matter. LW might find Grandfather to be surprisingly accepting of his new look or name. ANd there’s actually no need to explain it all. You’re not there to argue the political or religious aspects of it. You’re not there to explain the difference between this term or that term.

    Perhaps simply taking his hand and saying, “Hi Grampa. It’s been a while since we visited. You might remember me as one of your grandchildren, OldName. I go by New Name now and I’m so happy to see you!” Followed by a swift subject change. A good one is “What are they feeding you here?” (Because the older folks seem to love complaining about the food). All the best, whatever YOU decide.

  18. Heather said:

    I don’t have any clever advice; only the story that in my stepfathers family, a relative ‘Janine’ by marriage was ostracized post divorce. ‘Janine’ was simply not spokem of. No idea why. When the family matriarch developed a rapid form of dementia, we all suddenly became ‘Janine’ when we visited and were hugged, kissed and regaled with stories of happy times, decades of family bullshit melted away. It put into perspective that family is about what we feel in our innermost selves vs how we should act or what is proper.

    When I had a hard choice to make about visiting my grandad on his deathbed; I sat with a photo of him as a younger man, and I asked myself what he’d tell me. My grandad was a honest sort of man but considerate of people’s private emotions. He wouldn’t want to cause me any unnecessary suffering to do any performative grief. He’d advise me to be true to my own values. I know he knew I loved him. I sat and said my goodbyes without going to his deathbed – my family found that hard to accept but they got over it.

    It is hard when other relatives try to mediate but you are allowed to mark a death in your own way.

  19. not really a lurker anymore said:

    He also may not be conscious or awake when you visit. My grandfather was unconscious every time I went to see him. I’d sit down, hold his hand or talk at him for a bit and leave. A couple years prior to his death, he called my then boyfriend, now husband “Dumpfkopf” to his face when we visited him. Still no idea why he was calling him dummy/stupid.

    If you go, it doesn’t have to be a long drawn out, all day visit either. My grandmother can only take about 10 minutes before she tunes us out and goes back to watching tv.

  20. allreb said:

    When my father was dying last fall, his doctor pulled me and my sister aside and told us, “Watching someone die is incredibly hard, and lots of people can’t do it, and that’s okay and doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t love as much as people who can.” After he said that, I decided to stay and my sister decided to leave (we were both there from out of town). We each made the choice that was right for ourselves.

    You mentioned somewhere above that you aren’t really close to your grandfather, but despite that, family members dying can make a lot of things feel weird. (I also lost my maternal grandfather, who I wasn’t close to, shortly after losing my mother, and there were definitely some strange feelings there.) Like with visiting your mother’s grave, it’s okay to say, “This is not how I do grief and it will not help me.” Obviously I don’t know your family, but maybe framing it like that — what *you* need to do to handle the loss — might help? It may be what you need specifically because of the name situation, but that doesn’t make it any less of a necessity for you.

    Decisions around this kind of thing are always fraught. It really is okay to decide what you have to do to protect yourself, and stick with that. Jedi hugs if you want them (and btw, I feel the same way about visiting my parents’ graves, and don’t do it).

  21. You don’t owe yourself or anyone the social norm of going to go see a dead man who will likely think you’re either a stranger or a person who isn’t there anymore. There’s a Way You’re Supposed To Be When Important People Die and, idk, maybe it helps some people but it makes me all sorts of itchy.

    If you had said something like, “I really wish I could go see him and connect again before he goes,” then I’d say find a way to mitigate the potential harm of Self Involved Thoughtless Potentially Douchey Relatives and go get the closure you want. But, I’ve been there, and watching a dying man be sick and dying did not make me feel better. It did not make him feel better. He said a lot of incoherent and disturbing things because fentalin messes people up. It was a thing people told me to do and I did but I wish I hadn’t. People mean well, I guess, when they try to arbitrarily enforce social norms? There are lots of ways to mourn and grieve but, especially with old people who do the long slow fade out, by the time they really go, it isn’t really an event anymore; They were functionally out of your emotional life a long time ago.

    Anyway, I’d say don’t go and find a different way to process your feels on it. Do you feel guilty, like some action must be done? Send something tangible that people can see when they go visit him, happy slippers or something. You’ll have signaled, “I know what’s happening and I care” is one of the other socially approved channels and then hopefully you’ll feel better but, also important, people won’t have any weird questions left to ask. “Oh, I couldn’t make it but I hope he likes the slippers!”

  22. Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

    UPDATE: Apparently Granddad is not as ill as I thought, and in fact it looks like he might pull through! Dad went to see him today, and said that he mentioned some of what Sister has been up to, but not my gender transition. I’m not clear if this means that he didn’t mention me at all, or if he did but referred to me by BirthName.

    Dad then brought up the subject of visiting him (he’s still ill, just not necessarily dying), and asked me what I thought. I pointed out that I basically haven’t had a relationship with him for some three years now, because he and Mum said ‘let’s not try and explain this to Granddad’. He seemed a little surprised that he had said that, but he didn’t disbelieve me. He said it was a shame that I hadn’t had a relationship with him in years and suggested that maybe we should tell him now, as ‘it’s not going to confuse him more than anything else’, and ‘everything seems weird and wonderful to him right now.’

    I honestly don’t really know how to respond to this. I don’t know if I want to. I honestly thought I was done coming out to close family members. It seems like maybe I had a mistaken impression of Granddad’s level of lucidity. I don’t know if he would be capable of retaining this new information. One of the pitfalls of having avoided him for years is that I really don’t have a good idea of what state he is actually in. I know that he is fairly confused- during my mother’s funeral he kept asking if they were burying him. Dad and Sister seem to have a sort of ‘might as well’ attitude to this, but I honestly don’t know if I can face it.

    • Catherine Fournier said:

      I don’t know if this will help, but in situations like this I do the regret calculation. (I’m an aspie, this all may just be me being relentlessly logical but it works for me…) In tough situations, I ask myself, when this is all over, which will I regret more, doing “it” or not doing “it”? I may hate doing “it” now, it might be uncomfortable or awful or whatever, but which will I regret later? It’s kinda like the Sheelzebub question turned at right angles.

    • anon said:

      You are under no obligation to face it, and to be honest, if your dad and sister are sort of neutral (“might as well”) about it, and you’re feeling weird and negative, then why would you? Taking whatever pressure you feel from them aside, just between you and your granddad, what would you ideally do?

      I do want to say, I’m impressed by your ability to stand up for yourself now – I am also trans and in the beginning put up with more shit than I should have, and certainly more than I do now – but you seem quite clearheaded about this overall. That’s a hard won clarity, so it’s worth being proud of. I hope you’re able to continue to assert yourself with your dad so you can have a future where you know with confidence he speaks about you with respect even when you are not around.

      I’m also totally in agreement with the sentiment upthread that many people and family members in particular see transness as inconvenient, but with a willingness to “put up with” or humor you, as though it is a sacrifice they are willing to make out of love, but a sacrifice nonetheless. You deserve better than that, and it’s worth addressing separately from what’s going on with your granddad when you’ve got the resources.

    • TootsNYC said:

      Maybe write him a letter? Then see if Dad and Sister have any info on his reaction to it?

      It leaves open the possibility, and it might mean that you don’t have to personally go through the face-to-face and any opposition, etc.

    • Hi LW, I wish you the very best however you decide to handle it. You’re not alone.

      My partner Ash is transgender and lost her grandmother (who had been ill for quite some time including with dementia) and then her aunt suddenly, last year. Ash has been out to her immediate family (parents/siblings) for years but I think there was a kind of similar situation with your family – that her parents encouraged her not to come out to her extended family / grandmother because of a perceived inability to process the information.

      I’m trying to remember details without asking Ash, but I think she was presented with the awful choice of going with her mum to visit her grandmother prior to her grandma’s passing, in gender-neutral-ish clothes, going by Deadname? We are in the city and her grandmother was in a rural area many hours drive away (and Ash doesn’t drive) so logistically it probably would have been the only way to see her again. I don’t need to tell you how much those ‘choices’ sucked (I can’t actually remember she ended up deciding and don’t want to remind her by asking) and I think Ash felt sorry that her Mum was losing her own mother that the last thing she wanted to do was advocate for herself (even though of course she had every right to and was being treated appallingly, in a very sad, quiet, ‘polite’ family way).

      I do know for sure that she didn’t go to either funeral because she wasn’t out to her extended family. It sucked that she had double losses – losing time with her beloved relatives, then losing the right to show up as a beloved, valid family member and share her grief and support the same as everyone else. I know she felt guilty and cried to me that she felt like a bad daughter/grandkid/niece.

      I don’t want to put further pressure on you to think ahead, but if you do think your granddad is lucid enough to meet you again now and that’s something you want to do, I think it may be a really good thing FOR YOU. I understand that as a loving family member you – like my partner – may not want to advocate for being treated respectfully. But I think Ash’s family members COULD have handled it, and from what you’ve described I think yours could too. And I think regardless of their reactions you should never have to hide, and should be able to take your seat at the table and spend time with your family. You matter. Your identity matters. You have nothing to be ashamed of and I am mad at your family for making choices that imply you and they do have to be ashamed of your identity. But I also know family and coming out as trans can be complicated and exhausting, and I would never judge whatever call you make next. I just hope you make it for yourself, not for your father or anyone else. If that’s the kind of ‘selfish’ you’re talking about it’s the kind that I can absolutely get behind.

      You’re not alone. Sending big Jedi hugs from Australia. ❤

    • Cat said:

      I wonder if writing down a script or even just your feelings might help you figure out if you want to do this or not? You don’t have to do anything yet, and if you write it all down and you hate it you can burn/delete it forever too.

    • When my nephew started taking steps towards transition, his grandmother wasn’t told. She did notice that he was dressing more masculine and said something about his (trans) boyfriend’s looks that was unkind. She was a very proper woman and nobody was sure how she would deal with the news.

      But eventually she was told and it was fine. There was something about the end stage of life that made her more relaxed about life and people, She was starting to forget who people were when she passed.

      I don’t know that you will have the Disney kind of ending that my nephew did with his grandmother.

      It’s okay if you don’t go to your grandfather, if your heart isn’t in it, the reasons don’t matter. When my dad died,I couldn’t bear to stay with him because what was happening was awful to witness. I was beating myself up over that, because my brother stayed. It was my grief therapist who pointed out that it wasn’t a contest about who could bear to watch him die.

    • B. said:

      I’m very glad to hear that, LW, and I hope he pulls through!

      It looks to me like your Dad is pulling his head out of his ass/extending an olive branch. Do you want to take it? You don’t have to, and you don’t have to decide right now either. It’s okay if you’re not ready, it’s a sudden change of attitude on your Dad’s and Sister’s part and that takes time to get used to.

      The ideas about coming out by letter and asking a supportive family member to explain matters before you see your Grandpa again sound solid to me 🙂 I’m sending lots of jedi hugs your way, if wanted.

    • B said:

      If you really just don’t want* to visit him, even if the transition issue were off the table then it’s fine not to visit him; if your dad or other family you care about need more support, try to find other ways to give it to them. It sounds like your dad has been pretty reasonable when you state your wants/needs? If that’s the case, go ahead and state them!
      If you would otherwise want* to visit him – is he confused to the point he doesn’t really remember you anyway? If so, maybe nothing needs to be explained, if it’s painful to do so; he’s not going to remember it and it will hurt you. Maybe just tell your dad “hey let’s skip all that and go straight to ‘Hi it’s [name] your grandson!’ when we get there” and then start chatting about pets, or looking at memorabilia, or whatever you want to do.

      *there’s different levels of “want” here, of course. One might not want to visit ailing family the way one wants to binge on a good book but maybe one feels like it’s still a valuable thing to do, etc

    • atma said:

      What I’m thinking after reading through the comments: you need to have your identity respected. Your granddad isn’t complexity lucid. What if you go, and if he’s mistakes your gender, instead of correcting him by words, you’d correct him by leaving and they you’d know. And maybe he won’t and they you’d know that as well .
      That is, if you are ambivalent because you’d actually want to see him. If you don’t want to see him , that’s fine too, and it makes your decision that much easier. But if you like to, you can tell him with your feet that you won’t accept misgendering

    • Emma9 said:

      If your grandfather has varying periods of lucidity, maybe your dad and sister could help be your gatekeepers with regards to future visits? They could prepare the ground with regards to ‘[deadname] has discovered that he is actually [Realname]’ when they feel he’s in a state of mind to grasp it, continue reinforcing that by chatting with him about what you’re up to (with correct name and pronouns) on subsequent occasions.

      If they feel he’s retaining the facts at least sometimes, you could try going for a visit, but wait outside while dad and/or sister talk to him first to find out if it’s a good/lucid day, and also remind him that you need to be spoken to as who you are, before they signal you to come in.

      However, taking that route would require placing a lot of trust in dad/sister to safeguard you, and only you know whether they’ve shown enough respect and understanding for how deeply it would hurt you to be misgendered for that to be a reasonable option.

  23. Aunt Crabby said:

    Oh dear. It was supposed to say Jedi HUGS if wanted, not Jedi bugs. My apologies.

  24. Cat said:

    LW,
    I’m trans, and I want to tell you first of all that this is a really awful and hard situation to begin with, and your parents’ advice feels to me like it comes from their own fears and ignorance as to how coming out as trans to grandparents works, rather than as a thoughtful consideration.
    I really don’t have advice per se–but I will tell you that I regretted not coming out to my own grandmother, and that I have seen many hundreds of people say that their grandparents were far more accepting and calm than even their own parents when it comes to being trans. Maybe it’s because grandparents don’t feel like they somehow failed or that they never had a mental map of how their grandchildren’s lives would go? Maybe it’s just because of age?
    It’s okay here to do what you need to do, and it sounds to me in your letter that you really, really would rather have this whole thing be very low-key and yet not lie to him. So feel free to answer ‘who’s the boy’ with ‘your grandson, [name]’ and not elaborate, or anything else that might work.

    • Cat said:

      I realize now that I somehow managed to miss out on the dementia aspect of the LW’s letter, and I apologize. I don’t think this is applicable advice or experiences anymore.

  25. Cyberwulf said:

    LW,

    If your grandfather *is* dying, his suffering will be ended soon. He’s got other family members and medical personnel around him to make sure his end comes peacefully. It is okay to do whatever *you* think will help you deal with this loss. If that means seeing him, or not seeing him, or remembering the way he was, or grieving that you weren’t closer and that he wasn’t mentally together enough for you to come out to him as a grandson – whatever you choose is right *for you* is the right thing to do.

    Another way to deflect, if you don’t want to visit him, is “I don’t want to see him like that, I’d rather remember him how he was”. People will understand that, and it’s handy if you don’t want to get into a huge rigmarole about being trans and your parents not wanting you to come out to your grandfather etc. etc. etc.

  26. Cora said:

    I’m uncomfortable with the savageness against the family here.

    The scenario I’m envisioning is: LW goes to see Grandpa. Aunt is there, visibly distraught and emotional. Grandpa totally does not recognize LW. Grandpa asks Aunt who LW is. Aunt, to whom you have come out and has always respected that, but is distracted by her emotions, says, “oh, that’s Birthname. Oh, God, whoops, no, I mean that’s LWName.” Grandpa remains oblivious, but smiles and reaches out to LW, happy to see him.
    … and then LW goes into a huge tantrum, screaming at Aunt that she has disrespected him, how DARE she, either you are For or Against Me, you bitch, this is hard enough for ME, how could you do that to ME, why aren’t you respecting ME, while Aunt dissolves into more tears and apologies and Grandpa starts getting really agitated and angry.

    It’s difficult for me to understand how one person possibly calling you by the wrong name necessarily means that your entire identity will be utterly dismantled for all time. Is your identity really so fragile that you can’t show another person love for a few hours, when the risk is a remote possibility that you’ll be called a wrong name?

    • Helen Damnation said:

      Why are you inventing a scenario in which LW acts like a complete asshole? None of that has come from anywhere but your imagination.

      • Cora said:

        Forgive me, but the LW is inventing scenarios too, which he’s trying to sort through in order to come to a decision.

        • Helen Damnation said:

          He’s considering very real possibilities grounded in the actual life he is living, not making up mean stories about people on the internet.

          • Cora said:

            Please stop attacking me. My purpose is not to make up mean stories, but rather to ask LW if this is possible.

          • Temperance said:

            You attacked LW and maligned his character. Pushing back against your pretty awful comment isn’t the same.

          • Cat said:

            Pointing out that your comment is strange and mean is not attacking you.

        • JenniferP said:

          Cora, You have GOT to be kidding. You are very far out of line. Do not comment more in this thread.

    • Feminist BI-tch said:

      https://captainawkward.com/2018/04/24/1101-my-dying-grandfather-doesnt-know-im-trans/#comment-198320 I think this comment already answered yours. Also, if you’re cis, please consider that having privilege means exactly being able not to see the difficulties and pain and erasure (as well as actual danger) experienced by people who don’t have that particular privilege – if by chance you happen to be not white / heterosexual / cis / a man / economically ok, surely you know what I mean.

    • I am going to assume that you are just envisioning these scenarios but have not lived them. The LW is the one whop gets to decide how much risk of being msigendered is too much risk.

    • Cat said:

      Why are you invested in the idea that the LW is an unreasonable asshole for not wanting to be disrespected in this extremely basic way, even if that means not visiting a dying relative who will literally not know one way or the other if they’re visited? What is the point of inventing this whole scenario to demonize the LW?

      • Cat said:

        Oh, and also, who said that “one person possibly calling you by the wrong name necessarily means that your entire identity will be utterly dismantled for all time“?

      • Cat said:

        In addition, why are you feeling defensive about the idea that being upset about being misgendered is normal and okay? Do you regularly misgender people?

        • Cora said:

          I don’t think I’m the one being defensive here.

          • Cat said:

            You invented an entire scenario where the LW is mean, cruel, screams at his aunt and calls women ‘bitches’, throws a tantrum inside a hospital room, all for the purpose of telling the LW that he is “so fragile that [he] can’t show another person love for a few hours” and saying that since you do not understand why trans people find misgendering incredibly painful (a question answered all over the entire internet), the LW is wrong to not want to be misgendered. It seems that you are defensive about the idea that misgendering trans people is painful and not okay.

          • JenniferP said:

            @Cora You are being defensive and rude. Your initial comment was extremely out of line and you are just doubling down. Begone.

    • Temperance said:

      What the actual fuck? There’s literally nothing in LW’s letter or his comments to indicate that he runs around calling women bitches and makes them cry? Also, what the hell?

    • uncle k8 said:

      I don’t think you quite understand what it means to be deadnamed, and how alienating, othering and awful that is. To walk into a room as a man and be referred to as a woman, called by a woman’s name? To have an identity that *finally* feels right and true and yours….only to have your family–the people we’re told again and again are people who we owe loyalty and fealty and love to–ignore all of that because they can’t be bothered to try.

      Grief is messy. Grief sucks. Especially in already fraught or awkward family dynamics. But to tell someone whose family already tried to hide his true identity that he should just, what, suck it up and deal when they continue to ignore who he is? They’ve had three years to figure it out. I don’t understand why you think the fault lies in the LW, when his family have had plenty of time to figure it out and have insisted on, y’know, not.

      I’m glad you can’t imagine how much it sucks to be deadnamed and misgendered. But please don’t assume that it’s not that bad and that LW is the one here who isn’t “showing love.”

      • Rutabaga said:

        I can understand what it’s like to be referred to by the wrong gender and your old name, I’m trans, and multiple times a week, we pretend I’m a girl, for the sake of my grandma. Post hormones, post surgery, post legal name and gender change… I just repeat to myself that my feelings aren’t the most important, I have to suck it up because my grandma loves the me she thinks I am. It’s just what you have to do for family. Cora is imagining all kinds of scenarios which won’t necessarily happen, but I agree with the “it’s family, suck it up” camp.

        • sorcyress said:

          It’s cool that you’re making that choice for yourself, but LW has explicitly said that they do not want to be deadnamed, and do not want to be reminded of their previous identity. I don’t think saying “it’s family, suck it up” is a helpful comment for this specific situation, and I especially don’t think it’s helpful in general –there are hundreds of letters on this site pointing out that “it’s family” doesn’t mean anything if the behaviors are hurtful.

        • Cat said:

          The “you have to do anything for family, regardless of how much it hurts” is not a particularly popular camp on Captain Awkward. And as another trans person, my own perspective is that while you don’t owe the truth to people who would use it to hurt you, I personally feel like it would be disrespectful not just to myself and my own philosophical and theological beliefs, but to the people I would be misgendering myself for, if I used their love for me as a reason to misgender myself in public/around them. My family (or at least the vast majority of it) in my own case loves me, not a parallel universe version of me, not the version of me they imagine exist. But when you have to pretend for financial reasons or safety reasons or just because your family is too dysfunctional to work otherwise, I understand that it’s a shit sandwich that has to be eaten. Sending you empathy and a hope that soon you never, ever have to do that any more.

        • Anon said:

          Thats a choice you can make for yourself. I am a trans person who thinks, definitively, that if someone refuses to see me and speak to me with respect, they have no place anywhere in my life, regardless of who they are. In my opinion, family should be held to a higher standard of decency than anyone else, not lower – people who “love you” should be the most respectful, caring, considerate of your energy. It sounds like LW feels similarly and does not think “sucking it up” is workable for them.

          I have sympathy for your situation, and I hope you have spaces where you can be yourself fully, but I would never advise someone to swallow their hurt for the convenience of others unless housing, employment, or safety were on the line (and even then, my advice would be to gtfo of that situation asap).

          I do not want love that isnt for the me that I actually am. Loving an imaginary version of someone is not valuable love, to me.

    • Nanani said:

      Hello transphobe, STFU or GTFO

    • Indoor Cat said:

      Er, why on Earth would you assume the LW would do things like call his aunt a gendered slur, that his aunt has always respected his gender, and that he’d scream in someone’s face; and why do you equate not attending a death with an inability to show love for a few hours?

      What we know about LW is that he’s awkward and conflict averse, to the point of literally hiding upstairs in his room every single week when his grandpa came over for lunch. We know that when he was misgendered while grieving his mom’s funeral, he cried and left, and his then-partner left a note explaining things. We know that he prefers to grieve in solitude rather than in social rituals.

      These are all opposite personality traits than someone who screams in a hospital room, uses misogynistic slurs, and believes the hyperbolic idea that the risk of being deadnamed is the same as his identity being utterly dismantled.

      You are intentionally ignoring everything we know about LW’s personality and replacing him with a stereotype. That’s a really bigoted thing to do, and quite frankly I’m not sure I’m comfortable reading the comments section anymore if these kinds of comments are not going to be moderated.

      • JenniferP said:

        Sorry, had other commitments last night and missed these before they piled up. Cora won’t be commenting here anymore. Apologies to the Letter Writer and everyone who had to read this garbage.

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        The funny thing about this is that I don’t even have an aunt on this side of the family (except by marriage).

        For whatever reason, being deadnamed is the thing that affects me most. Some trans people can’t stand seeing pictures of their pre-transition selves. I couldn’t care less, and in fact actually quite enjoy showing people pictures, because their reactions are always entertaining. I’ve also known trans people who were completely unfussed about hearing their deadname. But for whatever reason, being called by my deadname makes me feel physically ill. It’s happened very rarely in the last few years, which is part of why I’m so reluctant to put myself in a situation where it might happen again.

        That’s the thing, I don’t know what might happen. He might recognise me, or he might not. I’m not really sure what his mental condition is like, because I’ve been avoiding him for years. There have been occasions in the past where he hasn’t recognised me, and where he hasn’t recognised my dad, but I don’t think he’s yet in a place of ‘doesn’t recognise anyone ever’. And just because he didn’t recognise me seeing me from a distance as part of a group doesn’t mean he won’t suddenly recognise me at close quarters.

        • PrairieChick said:

          How about a soft beginning, like sending a card, flowers, fruit, etc. and not visiting yet in person? No need to use your deadname : you could use your name, “loving family member”, or be anonymous. Elder, you would have made a kind and loving contact in doing this; and this may ease your mind .

          Based on the results, and/or how you feel going forward, you can decide whether or not to make contact in person . If your grandad hasn’t been pressing to see you or asking about you over the past few years, maybe this gesture will be enough for him and for you. The “but, faaaamily!” push from others is something that’s perfectly okay to resist.

          Kudos to you for providing further information throughout this thread, so that the Captain and commenters may have a better understanding of your very challenging situation. Sending you support from Canada, and wishing for the best outcome!

        • Cat said:

          LW, from your other comments you seem really, really stressed out not just by this but because so many other stressful things are happening in your life at this exact same time. So I’d tell you to maybe try and focus on getting yourself to feeling less overwhelmed and trapped (I apologize if it’s not the case, but you sound very overwhelmed, trapped, and pressured) before you try visiting, if you ever do. In the meantime, if you want to do something nice for your grandfather/if you feel guilty about this, you could send him some of his favorite food or just a nice thing of chocolate or whatnot and mark it ‘from your family, who loves you’.

          (Also, solidarity as another trans person who finds being deadnamed physically nauseating and distressing. It’s hard to explain but I know what you’re talking about precisely.)

          • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

            Thank you, Cat. I am very stressed out on a lot of levels and also struggling with feeling very adrift since my relationship ended. My dad and sister’s casualness about saying ‘Oh well, might as well do it now’ has made me feel kind of disheartened and like there’s a gulf between us. I know they love me very much but I just don’t know how I can make them see that this isn’t a thing that I can feel ‘Oh well’ about.

            I honestly don’t even know what to do. The thought of coming out to him now, and how that would necessarily entail either speaking or writing my birth name, feels panic inducing and unbearable. But I also hate the thought of him dying and still thinking of me as his granddaughter. Even though he doesn’t recognise me I think he still has at least a vague idea of who I am (or was), based on what Dad was saying about updating him about Sister. I don’t know that for sure, though. I don’t know anything for sure. I’ve avoided him for so long that I have no real idea of his condition.

            And if I don’t come out to him and he recovers from this illness, how much longer do I have to keep doing this? Since Mum died I don’t see him nearly as much, but I had to avoid him at her funeral and it was just one more shitty, uncomfortable thing on top of everything else. How much more awkward dancing around do I have to do? I feel terrible every time I catch his eye and then dart off in the opposite direction. I worry that he thinks I’m rejecting him in some way.

            Even if this isn’t the crisis I thought it was, I feel like I’ve taken the lid off the can of worms that is my feelings about this, and I can’t put it back on.

          • Cat said:

            Re: your father and sister not understanding–is it possible that your own reactions and avoiding this kind of conflict could be working against you? I ask because there was a similar problem where for years I grit my teeth and dealt with being casually misgendered because I just couldn’t stand to bring it up and I didn’t want to make a fuss, and so I accidentally taught the people around me that I didn’t mind or didn’t notice and so therefore they kept doing it, when in fact the pressure inside me built up until one day I just burst into tears and sobbed for hours about how badly it had hurt me over time and how awful and helpless I felt about it. After that, everyone realized that I did in fact mind deeply and they now correct each other when they accidentally misgender me, and have apologized for the previous instances.

            I think many cis people fundamentally do not understand that deadnaming and misgendering for a trans person isn’t just someone being rude or bizarrely mean, but someone being deeply hurtful and nasty (even unintentionally) in a way that ends up hurting trans people in particular far more than cis people, because it goes right to our vulnerabilities–shoving a spear right in our armor cracks, as it were, whereas for them that’s not even a gap, so they’re confused why we’re bleeding and screaming in pain as if we’ve been stabbed.

            Would letting yourself get very emotional about it around them and/or saying to them ‘this isn’t casual for me, this really hurts me, it’s actually a big deal and it matters’ help them stop being so flippant about it? I have found that actually saying the words ‘no I cannot just take this casually/I cannot deal with this’ has sometimes had a very powerful effect on getting through to people, especially in conflict-avoident cultures like in the UK.

            And with the rest of it…it sucks, and I feel you. My own grandmother died before I could work up the courage to come out to her, and I still regret it whenever I remember, but I also try and be gentle with my past self the way that she was, and try to not blame myself for having had to wrestle with my very sensible fear of being rejected or hurt on top of my own impending grief and pain at her finally dying. If you end up never coming out to your grandfather then I think you’ll still be a good person, and if he loves you then he wouldn’t want you to get needlessly hurt. But if you want any kinds of tips for how to do it, I think waiting a few weeks at least until you feel more stable and less stressed out could be really helpful, and doing it in a very casual way might help a great deal for making it actually stick. AKA sending a small gift or card from you with your real name and real male gender, and then showing up in person (if you want) and gently correcting any possible deadnaming (if you can stand it). Do you have any trans or understanding friends you can talk to in the meantime, to get prepared for it? Do you have some gender-affirming spaces you could go into and feel better in?

        • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

          I’m not trans, but ‘my name’ is not the name on my birth certificate, and I completely get the mental barriers involved with being addressed by a name that isn’t yours, particularly if that name is sometimes weaponised against you. It’s a punch in the gut that nobody needs.

          What you’re doing is protecting yourself from that upset, and only you know whether your mental health is such that you need to do it at all costs. I’d like to encourage you to talk about this with a therapist; and with someone who has experience with dementia, because frankly, your family’s handling of this sucks, and asking you to skulk in the shadows for years and avoiding contact with your grandfather was not a good way of handling things.
          If YOU had wanted to avoid talking to him, for whatever reason, that would have been your choice. Avoiding him, asking you to not say ‘Hi, I’m your daughter’s son Elder Grantaire, have you tried the chicken?’ when he asks ‘who’s that boy’, other people not telling him ‘that’s your grandson, Elder Graintaire’ and instead pretending you’re some stranger who managed to sneak into more than one family function… that’s dysfunctional as heck. It was not ok of your family to pretend you don’t exist. You deserve to be acknowledged as the person you are.

          I’m not saying you need to expose yourself to the gut punch that might happen; only you know how fragile you are and how many other stresses you have in your life right now, but it very much sounds as if you’re letting your anxiety make decisions for you here, and that’s not a good place to be in, either. At this point, if your grandfather calls you by your deadname, it will not be personal, anymore than if he calls you by the name of his brother or other person he’s known, and the next time he sees you, (or ten minutes later), he may call you by a different name, which is heartbreaking all by itself. Maintaining (=constantly building) a relationship with a person with advanced dementia is rough, and you get to decide whether you have the spoons for it at this point in time.

          Just… make it your decision. Don’t let your father dictate whether you ought or ought not visit your grandfather; he gets no vote in this. Asking you to not have a relationship with your grandfather _because your family struggles with your identity_ has been, and continues to be, a dick move. Please make sure you have a ‘Team You’ because right now, it does not sound as if your family are on it.

          Being deadnamed will always be a gut punch for you, and being intentionally or carelessly punched in the gut will always hurt; but it’s possible to reach a point where you’re emotionally robust enough that unintentional punches (childhood neighbours, any bureaucrats you need to deal with, your grandfather scrabbling for a name, any name) becomes something you can face and move beyond.

          Best of luck.

    • B. said:

      Cora, I usually try to be polite on these forums, but go fuck yourself.

      • Saskia said:

        This x 1000

    • wow.

      there’s nothing in the letter (or LWs many comments) that suggests deadnaming would mean a “huge tantrum”. more likely scenario is LW just walks out, or is completely lost for words and shuts down, but Grandpa picks up on the tension and gets agitated. Aunt now feels terrible for hurting LW and stressing Grandpa on top of what she was feeling before.

      LWs identity isn’t “fragile”, but name & gender have been a battle ground for years. “can’t handle this” doesn’t mean LWs “entire identity will be utterly dismantled for all time”, it means he can’t handle it. maybe “can’t handle it” just means the pain of being deadnamed and misgendered (likely mixed with complicated grief about what the relationship might’ve been) is too high a cost for the marginal benefit of Grampa maybe wanting to see him. or maybe “can’t handle it” means LW is done with trying to perform grief in a way that makes sense to Dad and Sister, and even though he could power through and perform Dutiful Grandchild it would mean poisoning those relationships with resentment.

      I’m cis, but I’ve changed my name by deed poll. newname is gender ambiguous in a way that lots of people seem to find difficult. people call me the wrong name all the time. Mum’sName from Confused Relative is fine. Random Misheard Names from people I just met are funny. my birthname? there is no insult or swearword invented that makes my breath catch like that. it’s an involuntary response, even if they’re talking about SOMEONE ELSE who has that name. outwardly I handle the coincidences just fine, and even if someone calls me that by mistake I process the shock quickly, but it still hurts. even without Grief Stuff and Gender Stuff.

    • Muddie Mae Suggins said:

      I’ve read this entire comment section twice, and I’m missing any “savageness” towards the LW’s family…

    • B said:

      Wow, was it really necessary to share your imagined scenario? What were you hoping to accomplish with this?

    • Cornflower Blue said:

      I’m uncomfortable with the cruelty towards the LW here. He wrote in asking for advice about a difficult, emotionally laden conversation and you decided to demonize him in your imaginary scenario just because *you* can’t understand why being misgendered hurts so much.

    • Feminist BI-tch said:

      https://captainawkward.com/2018/04/24/1101-my-dying-grandfather-doesnt-know-im-trans/#comment-198320 (first comment got eaten) I think this comment already answered you. Also, and I say that with kindness, please consider your privilege: if you’re cis, then the very definition of that privilege is that you *can* not see how hard it is not to be, and the only way to know is to listen and believe non-cis people when they tell you how it is for them. If you lack privilege in any way (you’re not a cis, white, heterosexual, not-poor man) you probably see what I mean.

      • Feminist BI-tch said:

        Also, LW – you’re awesome, and you 100% got this. Hugs if you want them.

    • MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

      The scenario you have plucked from who knows where strikes me as extremely savage. What possible purpose does it serve?

    • Clarry said:

      I think I understand what you were trying to get at here. I can’t agree that LW would go into that sort of tantrum, but I don’t think you were saying that he would. The question that I see is how to show love without risk of being hurt deeply. A lot of us can relate to that. Under the circumstances, I think it makes sense for LW not to go to the hospital. I’d recommend not giving Father a reason because reasons can be argued with. A statement that he’s decided not to go is enough. Whatever relationship fallout there is will follow.

    • JenniferP said:

      CORA. This is waaaaaaaaaay out of line.

      Feeling awful at being misgendered and behaving like as asshole about it are not the same.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      Why would you even say this. Jesus Christ.

    • Not to pile onto this, but this use of “Savage” is kind of racist.

  27. Oh, LW.

    I don’t have anything to add – the most excellent Awkward Army has given you most excellent advice – but as one trans man to another, I’d like to offer you Jedi hugs and good wishes.

    Take care of yourself.

  28. acidsme said:

    Dear LW
    The thread is full of thoughtful commentary about visiting (or not) with your grandfather so I won’t add to it, but I wanted to pick up on your note about hiding upstairs during weekly lunches.
    I’m so very sorry you (felt you had to? were forced to?) do that and hope you’ve found peace amd acceptance in your chosen circles.
    Many many Jedi hugs to you, if that helps.

    • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

      I wasn’t forced to do it- in fact, my mother, who was, for reasons that may or may not have related to her disability, extremely thoughtless, would often push me to come and say hi to Granddad. I avoided it wherever possible because I knew it would have likely resulted in being deadnamed.

  29. Violet said:

    I’d lean toward the option of not going in person, but sending a gift of something that your granddad is still able to enjoy. My grandmother died in 2017, and I wasn’t able to visit her during the last year of her life because of geographic distance, so instead I had flowers sent to her about once a month. My great-aunt, who was there with her, told me that not only did she love getting them and having them in her room at her care facility, but they helped her remember who I was after she’d started forgetting people. Flowers may not be Granddad’s thing, but if there’s something you know he appreciates, like warm socks, or a certain type of chocolate if he’s not on a restricted diet, or perhaps something he can physically hold onto that’s related to a former interest, send him that and have your dad say it came from you. That way even though you’re not there physically, there’s a reminder of you, and it’ll serve the dual purpose of letting the family know that you haven’t forgotten about him (not that you have or would, but sometimes symbolic gestures mean a lot).

  30. Rebecca said:

    I had something somewhat similar happen. I’m cis, so it’s not the same, but similar. I came out as bi in high school, and my father insisted at the time that I not ever tell his mother, because “it would kill her”. (Funny, my other, Catholic, grandmother was just fine with it.) For twenty year, we didn’t tell her, and she never knew half the people I dated. I met and began dating my now-wife while my grandmother was still alive, and my grandmother never even heard her name.

    When she was dying, I was at the other end of the country. I didn’t go back at all. I don’t particularly regret it — my grandmother was emotionally abusive, and we were never close (another way in which my story is different) — and all I did was say a few words to her on the phone while she was unconscious.

    While I’m glad I was never obligated to introduce my wife to my grandmother, I still hate that I was never allowed to tell her such a big piece of who I am.

    All of which is to say: I sympathize a lot. Don’t let yourself be bullied into hiding who you are. Not even for someone who’s dying. If your grandfather is that out of it, he may not know, or remember afterwards if he recovers, that you were there. A visit would be for you, in that case, not for him.

  31. B. said:

    Hi, Elder Grantaire (your username is awesome, btw),

    If you feel that not going is what’s best for you, then that’s the best path to take. As someone who doesn’t do funerals, cemeteries or grave-sites, you have my full support: everyone grieves in their own way. And I’m so sorry you have to deal with your dad’s transphobic bullshit (I know he’s grieving as well, but his “you can be trans, but only if you’re reeeeal quiet about it” attitude is bullshit and not something you should be subjected to). He ought to support and affirm your identity, not undermine you.

    Regarding your Grandpa, is there any ritual you could do for yourself that would make you feel a bit better? Besides the Captain’s suggestion of sending flowers, something that works for me is writing letters: maybe it would be helpful for you to explain your story to your Grandpa in a letter, and then either send it or burn it as you see fit? I always feel better afterwards. Other ideas: speaking with an understanding friend, making a donation to the facility that’s caring for your Grandpa, praying if that’s something you like to do, reminiscing about him with a trans-supportive family member… Maybe it would help to do something that’s not for your Dad’s or Grandpa’s benefit, but for yours. You deserve to grieve in your own way and feel heard and loved and respected just as much as they do.

    Also, I understood that your Dad hasn’t pressured you about this yet. Is thinking about this in advance helping or making you feel more anxious about the situation? If it’s the latter, would it help to table the matter for the time being and distract yourself with hobbies or friends? It’s difficult to do when your brain’s being an asshole, but sometimes it’s worth the effort.

  32. I think there’s a lot said in families about the capability of the older generations to absorb changes which is complete and utter nonsense, considering the contexts of their lives. I consider the example of my own great-grandmother (who died when I was about eight), who was born when the primary means of transport was horse-drawn, and lived to see people walking on the moon. When you consider the amount of other changes your grandfather has probably lived through in his life (and learned to accustom himself to – even things like going from “no electronic entertainment at all” to “radio” to “television” to “computerised media” are a big switch in a single lifetime) I do think your family were doing him a slight disservice in thinking he couldn’t have learned to cope with your revised identity.

    But as the Captain said: you’re now in a position where you’ve already grieved for your relationship with him, and you’ve learned to live without it. What purpose would seeing him now achieve?

  33. J said:

    Oh LW, I’m so sorry about your grand dad. I’m sorry your family pushed you into this decision. Do what feels right whether he knows you or not. Not sure if you’re aware but dementia patients are their most lucid when they first wake up in the morning and deteriorate over the day until they are ‘sundowning’. So if you want to visit pick a time based on that if he’s still got lucid moments. If you want you could always tell him you got a short haircut? But only if it feels like that’d be something you could be ok saying. Not if it doesn’t feel ok of course. Decide what to do based on how you’d want to be treated or how you think he’d want to be treated. It’s guessing sure. But don’t worry about the others. Hugs LW.

  34. Hi LW, I also advised my trans son not to come out to his grandad, although in our case that was because his grandad was something of a bigot and would have misgendered him on purpose and thought it was funny. But by the end of my father’s life – he also had dementia – he didn’t even recognize me, who had been visiting him twice a week for the past two years. By that point my son could have easily visited and said “I’m your grandson,” and my father would have assumed he had a grandson he couldn’t remember. By which I mean if you want to visit your grandad, this is your best chance to do it without complications. He probably won’t remember you as [deadname], and you will both have the chance to meet each other for the first time in an honest place. But he won’t remember it either way, so you should really do whatever it is that you feel will be easiest for you to live with down the line.

  35. Convallaria majalis said:

    Dear Elder Grantaire,

    I am so sorry that you have and have had to experience all this. I want to offer you many Jedi hugs (if you want them) and lots of strength.

    I am no stranger to grief or losing dear ones myself and it truly sucks. After reading your comments on the matter it is clear that you are a caring, wonderful human being. The Captain’s take on the situation is once again excellent.

    I am no expert in medicine but to me it sounds like your grandfather’s ability to understand and remember his surroundings and people around him is weakened. In his current state it is probably all the same to him who you are; he will probably understand warm and loving touch and soothing words. My mother was like that months before her death: she did not recognize me nor did she her sisters. If your grandfather is in a state like that, in my opinion, if you want to visit him, it would be wise to maximize both his comfort and yours. I second The Captain’s advice on this: go as you are and provide him with what you can offer and what he is capable of receiving. Even though he might not remember your visit long or he could not recognize you, your visit will still soothe him. If you do not want to go, that is completely ok, too. I completely understand your pondering on whether not visiting him would be selfish. I had the same thoughts myself, too, before my mother’s death. She could not recognize me and I found seeing her, formerly such an independent and proud woman, to be very stressful and sad so I confess blaming myself that I did not visit her often enough. Nowadays I have forgiven myself: back then I did what I could – and the visits to my mother were more for myself and my family than her, anyway; towards the end they did not have much of an effect on how she was anymore.

    It is clear that you love your family and they are important to you and you want to support them. I hope that your father can just let it be: the choises he made were made three years ago and if your grandfather cannot recognize all the people around him anymore he is not capable of understanding or learning anymore. The Captain is right: what he needs now is a loving presence, no matter who gives it. So, if it is important to your father (and possibly your further relationship with him) that you go and you are willing to do it, go – but defend your boundaries. You are you and you have the right to be who you are and this should be about your grandfather’s comfort and supporting each other in the approaching grief – and the best way to support each othe is accept each other as you are.

    Also, I completely get your discomfort on your mother’s grave. I have not been able to visit my mother’s grave for some years now, for exactly the same reasons you stated. Visiting the graves of other late family members is completely fine for me: this just applies to my mother’s grave. As so many have said, grief takes many, sometimes unexpected forms.

    If you can, gather your friends around you – and please, defend your own boundaries and rights. In the long run it is good for you and your family.

  36. Trans Guy said:

    I had a similar situation, except it was my grandmother. My family thought she couldn’t handle things, being old and very Baptist. So they didn’t tell her for years, I lost touch with her, and then she was dying. I came to visit her, despite them worrying out loud that my seeing her might be too “upsetting.” (I pushed and had them ask HER what she wanted, since she was simply old and not senile.)

    As it turned out, she handled everything better than my parents had. She introduced me as her grandson to all of the doctors and nurses, got my name and pronouns right the entire time, and she didn’t try to convince me I was going to hell or tell me I’d made a mistake.

    While this situation is different, because of the state of mind of my grandmother (she was lucid), I decided (too late) that my relationship with my extended family was mine, and not my parents’, to manage. I’m glad that I went and I would suggest that if the OP wants to go, he should.

  37. Grumpyzena said:

    If your Grandpa’s dementia is advanced, and you weren’t close, I doubt he’ll even misgender/deadname you, sad to say. My great-grandma had dementia, and towards the end of her life, she couldn’t remember me, my mother, or that one of her daughters was dead. Then she couldn’t recognise her (dead) husband, in the photo of him that had stood next to her armchair the entire time I’d been alive. Towards the very end, she cried out for HER grandma (the woman who raised her, she was orphaned at age 7 by a combo of WWI and the Spanish flu).

    If you WANT to visit him, just go, introduce yourself as NAME, and just be there. I obviously can’t guarantee anything, but I’d be very surprised if he remembers the wrong name. I honestly don’t think he’ll remember ANY name.

  38. Smith said:

    It’s not the same, and I don’t know if this will help, but it might.

    I kept my sexuality a secret from my grandparents, so my parents could ‘come to terms’ with it without having to explain anything to their parents. I was then outed by a relative to my mother’s parents. This was hugely damaging to our relationship and I lost my previously loving relationship with my grandmother pretty much completely. I don’t think asking people to keep who they are secret is a good idea. Secrecy of this type poisons things.

    I found visiting her, on my own, when she was very old, and confused, with a children’s story she’d read me as a child, very worth while. I read it to her. I think she knew who I was, but I’m not sure. She did enjoy having someone who loved her reading to her, though. It was good to interact with her about something that wasn’t identity. It was just love. I’m glad I went.

    • Emma9 said:

      I’m sorry that your grandparents reacted that way, and that as a result you lost out on more time you could have spent with your grandmother. With respect to her, that was a choice that *they* made, and not your fault for handling your coming-out ‘wrong’. Just like someone coming out as LGBTQ isn’t something they are doing ‘at’ their loved ones, *not* coming out to a specific person at a given time isn’t a lie or an betrayal. (Even if in your case it was more about your parents than you, for some it’s just about when and how they have the emotional bandwidth to do it.)

      However, I’m also glad that you both eventually found peace and comfort in visiting her on your terms.

      Internet hugs if you want them!

  39. Purps said:

    LW, are you in therapy? I know (trust me) that finding a trans-friendly therapist is harder than it should be – I’ve had really good luck with WPATH’s provider listings.

    You’ve dealt with a lot all at once here. I’m generally a big fan of “we should visit dying people” – they’re still people and we’ll all be there some day – but your situation is very multilayered and complex. I think the reason why you feel like this is hard to navigate is that it is unusually hard to navigate.

    This might be talking completely out of turn, but I have, on and off, had a very sick parent. And I think the anger that comes along with that – including what I hear in reading and conversation from people whose mothers died – is very very real. It seems like no matter how we want to feel about it, it tends to feel like abandonment. You deserved two well parents who were there for you while you were transitioning, regardless of the reasons that it didn’t happen. The fact that it didn’t is cosmically unfair. Dealing with something that replays that dynamic six lousy months out is a Lot.

    • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

      Yes, I have a wonderful therapist who is both queer herself and trans-educated. We haven’t yet discussed this issue about my granddad (it only really came up in the last few days), but we have talked and continue to talk about my anger and guilt about my mother. My partner (the one who was there for me at the funeral) broke up with me two weeks ago, so that’s also taken up a lot of my therapy time, but I will mention this to her next week.

      • purps said:

        Oh good, but also re: your level of life stresses: YIKES. LW, you have SO MUCH GOING ON. I would be completely overwhelmed at this point. You’re a lot more cogent in this thread than I would be. I think you’re doing really well at thinking through this and figuring out what you want to do, and whatever you want to do, take care of yourself. Like I said, I’m as moralistic as the average bear, but it is absolutely okay not to pour out your last tablespoon of coping on this situation. It is sounding more and more like this is a question of putting on your oxygen mask first.

      • Anonymous Ampersand said:

        You’ve got so much to handle. I’m so sorry. Jedi hugs if you want them.

      • Convallaria majalis said:

        I completely agree with Purps on this: it truly sounds like a lot is going on in your life at the moment. Please, first and foremost, take care of yourself! Many of us are raised to think about the well-being of others first and conditioning like that is hard to shake off but in a situation like you describe prioritizing your own health is the right thing to do. Also, I agree with other commenters: you sound incredibly coherent: a person, who cares deeply of his family and who, even amidst hard life conditions, wants to be there for them. Of course I am just a random internet commenter, but if I ever had a son (or a grandson) who thought like you and took care of himself and others as you do, I would be very proud. Well done with finding such a great therapist – that takes work and determination.

  40. QueerDudeWithKids said:

    Hi LW,

    As a trans guy and a doctor who treats patients with dementia and deals with a lot of families, I agree with those above who say that it’s really unlikely that your grandfather will remember you as your deadname or gender assigned at birth. “Hi grandpa, I’m your grandson ” should be sufficient introduction to him. Leading with that will also cue any other relatives in the room and help them not “forget” and deadname or misgender you if they are distracted by their grief.

    I’d like to spin your family’s take on this more positively, also. It’s really possible that they have been trying to protect you from repeated misnaming and misgendering by your grandfather as he forgets each time he sees you that he had been told about your transition. I know how much it sucks to have to come out over and over again during transition, and having to do it multiple times to the same person is painful. This is not to say that it was their choice to manage your transition, however it may be that they felt they were acting to help you. As someone who has been cut off by his family because he chose to transition, I think it’s worth acknowledging that people can be both well-meaning and wrong and give them credit for wanting to be there for you.

    And lastly, however you choose to manage this, you will have made the right decision for yourself. You are obviously giving a lot of thought about how to manage your needs and also support your dad as his father dies. I wish you all the best.

  41. Rutabaga said:

    Well, here’s an issue close to my reality. I’m a trans guy, and for the past three years, my family has been pretending to my grandma that I’m still her granddaughter. She writes cards and cheques to my old name (not my legal name, but the bank has a note saying to accept cheques written to “Miss Practice Scientistina”). She comes for dinner every weekend, and it’s more than slightly absurd, because I’ve been on hormones for three years, had top surgery, and shave, and my voice dropped a while ago, but we all pretend I’m a girl. I hate it, it’s absurd, and it’s slightly humiliating, but I can’t really do anything else. I think it’s borderline a cultural issue. CA and many others are all “Rah rah, independence, you’re the boss of you”, but in some families, you just can’t do that. You have to make the grandparents and parents happy, even at personal cost. I’m looking forward to being financially independent, because I feel like if I were, it would be easier to say and do things that would make them unhappy, because I wouldn’t be under “My house, my rules” rules. In the meantime, my feelings aren’t really relevant. Her feelings are the most important, and all of us lie and distort reality so she remains as comfortable as possible, as she loses her mind more and more.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, in some families you do just have to suck it up, and introduce yourself as your old name, and pretend you’re a girl. It hurts, but remember, none of your family cares about your pain.

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      That’s horrible – I’m so sorry. Imagine thinking grandma’s pain at learning you’re trans would be anywhere near as painful as what you must be experiencing. Wishing you all the success in the world in getting up and out! (Save those checks – grandma can help fund your freedom!)

    • Cat said:

      I agree with you that I also highly value family and sometimes find CA to be extremely individualistic and the scripts at times unworkable because of that. And I’m sorry your family is so weak and dysfunctional that people within it are pressuring you to do something so awful–why on earth would your parents and grandparents be happy forcing you to do this hideous charade? Do they think this is going to work in the long term and not instead drive you away permanently once you have the slightest bit of financial freedom? Also wishing you a speedy escape.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      Rutabaga (what a great nick!), I wish you all the possible strength and endurance in your situation! It sounds so horrible and humiliating and I hope you get to escape it soon.

      I understand and have seen families with culture such as you describe. I live in a rather big city amid liberal people, but I have several friends who come from cultural and/or religious backgrounds where keeping up appearances and pleasing the elder family members are of utmost importance – and for years my in-laws were just ilke that though my problems with them were more of body-shaming and demands of grandchildren variety.

      I hope you have a team you and that you get to be yourself as much as possible.

    • Madb said:

      I’m so sorry that you have to go through that.

  42. EllenS said:

    Hey, Elder,
    I just noticed as I was reading your replies that you’ve mentioned several times being distressed by overwhelming feelings of anger, even anticipatory anger over things that might happen but have not yet occurred.

    I just wanted to reassure you, though I’m sure you know already, that these intense bouts of anger are very very normal in the grief process.

    Not that being misnamed isn’t hurtful or something to get angry about – that’s not what I mean.

    But when you described the sort of intense flood of anger, I recognized it. Just wanted to offer some encouragement that It Is Known. And when you make it out of the grief tunnel, those blindside attacks ease up, too.

  43. Pitbull said:

    Hi LW,

    What would you do if it were between you and your grandfather? If you want to go for yourself and /or your grandfather, then go. “Hi sweetheart, I’m Firstname Lastname. Can I get you anything?” is often a good start. It’s you and your grandfather that matters here.


    Pibble

    • Pitbull said:

      ps. If you are concerned about other family members, you could go when no-one else is visiting, or ask your family if they can excuse you because you want to spend a minute alone with Grandfather.

  44. Cat said:

    I would politely like to ask all cis commenters who are stating that they completely understand the pain of a trans person being called by their dead name to please stop. I believe you understand the pain of being misnamed, both deliberately and accidentally, but there are layers to that pain that are unique to being trans/not your assigned gender at birth that you do not have and do not understand.

    • JenniferP said:

      I would like to back up this request with moderator powers.

      Cis people, if you don’t understand why the Letter Writer is upset about the prospect of people around him treating his gender like it’s negotiable or invisible when they are grieving (even though he is grieving too), or you don’t get the surreal weirdness of basically having to avoid his Grampa for three years but then wondering what to do now that the guy is very old and sick, GOOD FOR YOU. YOU ARE LUCKY. You also don’t have to tell us about how you don’t get it.

  45. ambergris said:

    I didn’t go to see my dying grandmother for a number of reasons, one of which was that I didn’t want to make matters more difficult for my dad at what was already a horrible time for everyone concerned. And it was fine. She wouldn’t have got anything out of yet another unrecognisable person turning up claiming to be related to her.

    (Feel free to skip the funeral too. I wish I had.)

  46. lisakoby said:

    LW – It sounds like you are struggling with two things, your desire to see and connect with a dying loved one for their comfort (and yours) and your very real fear of the (likely) unintentional misgendering that is highly likely given the how sick he is. Even unintentional, it’s still hurtful to you even though you know he won’t be able to help it – but you’re still left with the pain of not visiting a loved one and being able to give and receive that comfort. Either way you’re stuck.

    I’m so sorry for your pain, and I’m sorry that your grandfather is being deprived of the comfort of you at the end.

    If this were just about you, it would be easy. This is too much of a risk to you, therefore don’t visit, but it isn’t that easy because you sound like you still have the need to reach out and be there. How do you still make a connection to a relative that is vulnerable and hurting? And do that without further hurting yourself?

    Maybe a letter, a card, some flowers, some art, a recording of a message from you that someone else can take to your grandfather would be helpful to you both? This way you reached out to comfort someone who is old, sick and dying and you also do that in a way that doesn’t add additional pain to what you’ve suffered.

    All the best to you and yours LW.

  47. Alice said:

    Oh man! This sounds a lot like my family! I’m a trans woman and the only person in the world I’m not out to is my 92 year old grandmother. My grandmother is /very/ homophobic – she has a gay brother she has been pretending didn’t exist for the past 50 years – ever since he came out. So my mother (her daughter) is afraid that not only will she reject me if she knows I’m trans, she’s afraid of it upsetting my grandmother and I think damaging their relationship too. So I’ve just sort of resigned myself to never seeing my grandmother again. Um, so yeah! I feel you!

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