A Transgender Guide to Surviving Family: Holiday Edition
by Mila Madison
It might be the first time some of your relatives will finally see the real you. Maybe it is your first time with your in laws, or you are simply just worried about that idiot relative who may give you a hard time (we all have at least one). Sure the holidays can be stressful for anyone, but when you are transgender that dial usually gets turned all the way up. It is the perfect mixture of food, alcohol, and a slew of misgendering from people who have known you all your life through the lens of the wrong gender. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
So when it comes to dealing with your family during the holidays, it is important that you go into it with the right expectations. It may save your life, or at least your sanity. So without further delay, here are some tips to help you survive your family during the holidays.
Expect a ton of misgendering
No it is not okay, but it would be foolish to think your entire family will be perfect with your pronouns all night. Have a plan for how you want to deal with it. I am a few years in with my own family, and it still happens. Remember there is a difference between someone who is genuinely making an effort vs. someone who is trying to hurt you. Be aware of it, and be prepared to politely correct people if you need to. Know in your head how much of this you are willing to deal with. Whatever you do, don’t lose your cool. If someone becomes hurtful, or abusive it is time to walk away.
Watch the drinking
Nothing can escalate a situation quicker than a few drinks. Be aware of that relative who may have had too many eggnogs or glasses of wine. Alcohol is known to remove inhibitions and may lead to someone saying something inappropriate that maybe they wouldn’t have said had they been sober. Be mindful of your own drinking as well. There is a difference between calming your nerves and being out if control. It is important to be aware of what is happening around you. If that idiot relative I spoke about earlier has been drinking, you certainly would want to be careful around them or avoid them altogether.
Let your family see how happy you are
Nothing does more to educate a family and foster acceptance than for them to be able to see you happy now that you are living your truth. Though it honestly perplexes me, family members often go through a sense of mourning when you transition. It is important for your family to see that the person they know is still there and that you are just a better version of yourself wrapped in a different package. Hiding in a corner will not do anything to improve your situation. Just be yourself – your true self, and try to have fun.
Keep your allies close
If you have certain relatives who really support you, keep them close. It is okay to let them know if you are worried or feeling uncomfortable. Having them around will help ease some of the tension while also providing a sense of security.
Keep things in perspective
Though it can be stressful to be around family during the holidays, many people in your situation have no family because of the simple fact that they are transgender. Either way you are not alone if you are worried about being around family. In many cases, you may be the first experience your family members have with a trans person. Simply by being around them you may be changing their perspective. Be mindful of that and relax. Remember it is not just you who is transitioning. The whole family is transitioning with you.
Have an exit strategy
Have a plan to get out of there in the event things don’t go well. If things are taking a turn for the worse, it may be time to leave or excuse yourself from the situation. You are a person and you deserve respect. If your family is disrespectful or abusive to you it is time for you to leave.
Every family is different and everyone’s situation is unique. It is virtually impossible to cover all of them. Families come in all sizes and consist of people of all ages. We all have different concerns when it comes to spending time with our families. The most important thing is to set the proper expectations and to have a plan. Just try to be positive and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Most of all, make sure that you are in a safe situation. For those who are going through a really tough time during the holidays, please be aware of the resources below.
The Transgender lifeline is available 24 hours a day. They can be reached at (877)565-8860 in the US and (877)330-6366 in Canada. http://www.translifeline.org/
TrevorText – Available on Thursdays and Fridays (4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PT). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates apply.
TrevorChat – Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PT)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,