How to Embrace Transgender Family Member
This is a repost blog.
Original question from ‘Grateful Aunty’ in Ask Amy, a widely syndicated advice column. Only the original questions/updates are reproduced here - to read Amy’s advice, click through to the original links.
23 Jan 2018: How to Embrace Transgender Family Member
Dear Amy: I am one of six adult siblings. We gather once or twice a year in a low-key kind of way to stay connected and catch up.
My brother “Tom,” his wife and three adult children stopped attending these events a couple of years ago. This left us perplexed.
Recently Tom’s son (my nephew) shared with the family that he was gender-transitioning to being a woman.
We reached out to my brother and our new niece, “Laura,” in our individual ways, with messages of support and acceptance. My brother followed up with an email explaining that this was the reason for the recent absences, as they took time to process it and to support Laura, who wasn’t yet ready to share her changes with the broader family.
We will soon be having another gathering and Laura may be joining us. I am at a loss as to how to greet her when she walks through the door (after giving her a big hug, of course).
I want to say something that acknowledges this important step in her journey, but I do not want to say anything that might seem insensitive or awkward.
Amy, you always seem to have the right words for any occasion. Please help!
— Grateful Aunty
Update, from “Grateful Aunty”: Dear Amy, I remember your advice – first to relax about this and then to remember this would not be a “one and done” encounter.
I greeted “Laura” just as I would any other niece or nephew whom I had not seen in a couple of years — with a big hug and lots of enthusiasm.
We did a lot of catching up about life in general, not the “big change.”
The conversation meandered in a very natural way with Laura occasionally alluding to her transition (like how long it was taking to get her name changed on her driver’s license).
The bigger point I want to make — and I realize this is only based on my singular experience — is that she seems so much more at ease socially than before.
That evening she was more expressive, engaged and outgoing than I had ever seen her before her transition.
As I was driving home later that night and reflecting on this, it occurred to me that before her transition, she typically stood with arms folded across chest and with shoulders slightly hunched. Now she speaks animatedly, using her hands freely and with terrific posture.
This to me is the surest sign that she is finally becoming who she was meant to be.
It gave me chills and made me appreciate more than ever how important it is to personally support loved ones on this journey, as well as advocate for them in a larger context.
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