Transitioning the Brain of Your Family Members

U.A. Nigro

One of the wonderful things about our world is that the humans who inhabit it all so different from one another. No two people act the same, deal with stress the same, or have the same moral structure. Even siblings who grow up in the same house with the same parents are different. The experts say that it is because we all have different genetics and experiences in adolescence. Every brain is unique, and every person one of a kind. No wonder transition is so different for every person who goes through it, and it also varies for every family member who transitions along with them.


We have a family member who continues to misgender my wife. It drives me crazy. We are already a few years into this. Both of our families know about her transition, including all of our friends. All our social media accounts have been changed. This person is super supportive, behind my wife all the way, so why the constant mistakes? Every time a family member uses her dead name or misgenders her, it sends her down the dysphoria hole, and I am left to deal with the aftermath. My wife has put an end to going out with this family member in public as well. I was banned from going to one of my favorite little local eating spots for over a year because we took them to lunch there once. My wife was sure that the entire staff now knew she was transgender because of the million and one times during lunch this person said “HE.” It makes me feel so sad for her. I wish we could wear name tags at family events. I just don’t understand why they are having a pronoun problem.

The beginning of my wife’s transition was rough. Her place of employment was giving her a hard time about coming out. They wanted to orchestrate the way in which she came out to her peers at work, almost making it more complicated than it should have been. So she went to work as her dead name for months and when she was home she was able to be herself. This delayed her coming out on social media, which in turn delayed my coming out on social media as well. It was almost like living with two people at once. It made the pronouns in my head crazy. I found myself in certain situations not knowing what to call her. Family and close friends knew, but no one else did. So when I was talking to certain people I could say “my wife, and she,” but at the doctor’s office, for example, I had to say “my husband.” It was a strenuous time in our house.


So it dawns on me the other day, that’s it! That is why this family member keeps misgendering my wife. I know for a fact that they haven’t told the people that they work with that their family member has transitioned. It makes me wonder who else in their life they haven’t told. So this person is out in the world in some kind of state of denial. In essence, they still see my wife the way she used to be instead of seeing her as her true and authentic self. This revaluation does not make me feel better or solve this problem for my wife. It does however diminish my anger, but just a little. So the problem remains. What can I do to help this person complete the transition of my wife in their head? Every time I speak to them I refer to my wife as she and her, what more can I do? Should there be a time limit on my patience?

Each of our children transitioned at their own speed. Bizarrely enough, the youngest had the least amount of trouble. The day we sat the three of them down to tell them the news her response was, “you can be an elephant and I would still love you the same.” She was 14 at the time, and she has always been wise beyond her years. I am still not sure what to do about this family member. Maybe I should misgender them in front of a lot of people and see how they like it? See if it makes them feel uncomfortable? Perhaps I should copy and enlarge my wife’s new birth certificate with her chosen name and the letter “F” on it. They could hang it up in their living room. This way they could read it to themselves every day. Oh the possibilities are endless, however I am not sure if my patience is.


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