Welcome to Transplaining, Mic correspondent Serena Daniari’s weekly advice column on gender identity. No topic — from dating to sex to the process of transitioning itself — is off-limits. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and subscribe to Transplaining to receive weekly email alerts here.
My mom is transitioning to become my dad. I’ve always been supportive of trans people, but my mom’s choice to switch genders is hitting me and my siblings harder than I thought. How can I be supportive when I feel like I’m mourning my mom?
When we talk about transitioning, we tend to focus on the individual. In reality, when a person decides to transition, it is a transition for their family and friends as well. After all, the person you knew for your entire life will be undergoing many changes over the coming years — changes that have been essential to your perception of them, like names and pronouns.
I encourage you and your family to undergo therapy from a licensed gender therapist who is equipped to help you navigate your emotions during this time. There are many complicated and nuanced dynamics involved when a person transitions that gender therapists are trained to handle. You can find a list of therapists in your area who specialize in transgender issues here.
To feel a sense of mourning when a loved one undergoes a gender transition is not uncommon, but a change of perspective might help you come around. After all, to describe transition as a loss is not entirely accurate. I encourage you to view your parent’s transition as more a rebirth — you are not losing a mom; you are gaining a dad. And research shows that trans people are much happier in their personal and professional lives once they are able to live authentically.
So what does this mean for you? You will now be able to build a much more honest relationship with someone who is free to express his inner identity, which has been suppressed for a long time.
It’s also helpful to reiterate that when anyone transitions, a great deal of patience is required. Transitioning takes time — take solace in knowing that the ensuing changes will happen gradually, not overnight. You will have ample time to adjust to them. Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules or easy answers when it comes to being trans. In a sense, you and your family will be figuring it out as you go along this journey together. Make sure to support each other and find outside support as well.