The First Holiday With Extended Family After Transition

Pre-edited Photo by Markus Spiske

UA Nigro recounts the first holiday gathering she and her transgender wife experienced after transitioning.

As the holidays approach I can’t help but to think back to the good and bad of it all. This time of year can be especially difficult for couples in the early stages of transition. In our case, we essentially became hermits. As my wife was becoming herself, she did not feel comfortable being around friends and family yet. As she gained confidence in herself and her ability to pass, we began leaving the house and visiting with people we knew. However through our hermit phase we spent many a holiday at home with just our kids and some of their kooky friends that would rather be at our house than their own.

Never once did you hear a complaint from my mouth. I loved it, every minute of it. I did not have to get five people up and ready by a certain time, cook food that someone else was going to serve at their house, load up the car, remember to buy a hostess gift, drive in holiday traffic, and so many other things that I dislike about the holidays. I cooked what my family wanted to eat. We played games, did crafts, watched what we wanted to, and if we felt like staying in our pajamas all day, we did.

"EVENTUALLY MY WIFE WAS READY TO RE-EMERGE AT FAMILY GATHERINGS FOR THE HOLIDAYS."

I so enjoyed all those quiet holidays at home with my wife and kids. However, all good things do come to an end. Eventually my wife was ready to re-emerge at family gatherings for the holidays. So she decided that her mother and step-father’s would be a safe place to start. They were totally accepting of her transition so we felt comfortable that this was the right choice. My mother-in-law wanted my wife to make her amazing fried seafood platter, and wife was more than happy to cook and show off her culinary talent. After a few hours of getting dressed and packing the car we were finally on our way.

We arrived early, as we had to set my wife up to cook. She was super nervous because there would be some family members there that had not seen her as her authentic self, and we knew they were not totally accepting of her. However instead of cooking, she was misgendered and it sent her into a dysphoria spiral. She locked herself in her mother’s bathroom upstairs. She must have been in there for over an hour. One by one everyone began to arrive, and each and every one of them asked me where she was. All I could say was, “upstairs fixing her hair.” When is it a good time to explain dysphoria to your extended cisgender family? Probably not at a holiday gathering while you are cooking trying to do a job your partner was supposed to do.

With my in laws house full of hungry family and friends and my partner locked behind closed doors, I found myself in a difficult predicament. With all the knowledge I have about dysphoria and what it does to my wife I could not help but to feel abandoned and alone. I felt as though it was up to me to make sure that our kids had a little fun and were not affected by any negative backlash. With so much going on, I could not even go up and sit with my wife, so I sent my mother-in-law. Most of what I remember from the beginning of that evening is just running around like a crazy person.

"I WAS SECOND GUESSING OUR DECISION TO LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR THE HOLIDAY AND ANGRY AT THE FAMILY FOR MISGENDERING AND UPSETTING MY WIFE."

I was second guessing our decision to leave the house for the holiday and angry at the family for misgendering and upsetting my wife. Who, might I add, looked gorgeous. Her hair was curled, her makeup was on point, and she was wearing a red sequent cocktail dress that perfectly matched her lip color. I wish she would let me share the picture I took of her that night so you could see for yourself how incredible she looked. How anyone could look at her then deadname and misgender her is incomprehensible. What I really wanted to ask was why did you invite us in the first place? Do you accept my wife as her authentic self or not? How could you look at this person in front of you and call her anything other than her chosen name? It was kind of like torture for me. I hate to see her broken from dysphoria.

She did eventually come downstairs and took over the cooking. I hugged her, told her that she was beautiful, and how much I loved her. We managed to salvage some of the evening. Everyone raved about her fried fish, and we tried to enjoy being with our children. I felt horrible that she spent some of the night upstairs alone in the bathroom and I was downstairs alone trying to fill in for her. After that night we decided that staying home was a much better fit for us and in the future. I refuse to go anywhere where she is not totally comfortable.

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