Telling your parents
TELLING YOUR PARENTSCopyright 1989 by Kay Metsker
I have found that one of the major stumbling blocks toward self-acceptance for many transsexuals is their reluctance to share their problems with their parents. I have known people in their forties afraid to tell their parents. They argue that they are trying to protect their parents' feelings and to respect their parents' position. Yet this relationship with their parents is dishonest. They are really trying to protect themselves from their "Mommy's" or "Daddy's" disapproval. They are not secure enough or mature enough to risk disapproval by declaring their independence as adults. Because this adult relationship is unauthentic and superficial, the child remains a child, letting the parents' values determine his/her behavior.
The relationships that are the hardest to alter and be open and honest about are those charged with emotional content. They are those relationships in which we feel that we have the most to lose if we are honest about our feelings, values and attitudes. Consequently, you and your parents may continue to play old roles for years and never treat each other as adults.
To alter the relationship with your parents can seem extremely frightening and threatening, especially when you know that your parents disapprove of something that's part of you. One of the best ways to ease this confrontation is to be sure of what you really have to say or do to feel free and independent. Name calling and blaming sessions can be avoided if you know what you want to convey to your parents. Displays of anger and hostility accomplish little and can drive a wedge between you and your parents.
Think through clearly what you want your parents to understand. Then rehearse in your imagination a scene where you tell them. Notice, as you rehearse, any fears, feelings of frustration or anger, or other emotions that you are experiencing. Pay attention to your body also. Be aware of any areas of physical stress, like stomach-ache, cramps, headache, changes in breathing, tension along your spine, etc. Most likely you will re-experience old chronic areas of physical tension that you established long ago as a response to childhood fears of the adult authority figure that your parents represented.
As you rehearse and get in touch with emotional and physical tensions and fears, acknowledge them and then let go of them. This may take some effort on your part. Keep going over the same scene until you can do it without any feeling or reaction. It may take several tries, but don't give up. If you get stuck, talk it over with a therapist.
Only after you have completed this rehearsal and planning process should you approach your parents. Make an appointment to see them. Tell them you have something serious that you want to talk to them about, and ask when it's convenient for them to talk to you. If you can predict the amount of time it will take, tell them this too. If you set the topic of conversation and the length of time you are willing to be with them, then you are the one in control of the situation. Most important, you have defused the emotional bomb for yourself. After the first step, things get easier. So you will be able to direct the conversation and not be subject to getting hooked into old ways of being manipulated.
When you meet with your parents, start by giving them some idea of what you want to talk about. A few introductory words such as, "This is hard for me to say, but I want to do it because it's important to be honest with you," will give them notice that you intend to assert yourself and are serious about it.
Then be direct and factual with your message. The simplest way is the best. You might say something like, "Mom and Dad, I want to tell you that I have felt like a woman (or man) inside, both emotionally and mentally since early childhood. I am tired of hiding the fact from you. I intend to start living full-time as a woman (or man). If you disapprove of this fact, I hope that you will not disapprove of me. And if you do, then I regret losing your love for now, but I have to be true to myself." this may seem cruel, but it's probably more unkind not to face the issue and to leave your parents wondering about what is happening and yourself guilt-ridden.
Your parents will naturally follow the long-established patterns of dealing with you -- saying no, scolding, or threatening punishment. These first reactions could even extend to vowing to cut you out of their will, or threatening to withdraw their love in some way. However, if you are prepared for the worst, then these threats will not work. You are standing on your own feet. No matter what the cost, you will have made a major step toward being in control of your life and yourself. When they realize that they can no longer control your life, they will most often relent and accept you as you are. It may take them a little while to come to terms with the changes in your relationship. Give them all the time they need. Remember that you needed time to be able to gain the courage to confront the issue yourself. Offer them time to think about it. When they are ready and willing to discuss the issue further, be available to do so. You've made the first step toward redefining the relationship. It's now up to your parents to adjust their expectations.
Many parents go through a grieving process for the relationship that they are losing. This process will be explained in more detail in Part II. Your parents may find it very hard to accept the changes. They've been used to the old ways longer than you have. They may greet the news with silence - a form of denial - or may simply decline to talk about it any further. On the other hand, your folks may surprise you and be far more receptive and supportive than you expect. There are those rare parents who have built their parent/offspring relationships on unconditional love (we'll love you no matter what), rather than conditional love (we'll love you if you live up to our expectations).
You should also be aware of the possibility that your parents may not be in total control of their own lives or selves. Your parents may fear what the neighbors, relatives, friends, etc. will think of them because of your situation. Your parents may need to build their own self-esteem and take control of their own lives, just as you've had to do with yours.
Keep your options open. Few parents are willing to lose contact with their children, and in time they will come around to accepting the changes in you and the changes in your relationship with them. Remember, change is always difficult, particularly where emotions are involved. It requires giving up familiar ways of doing things. Even if the old ways didn't work and weren't honest, they were comfortable, like an old pair of slippers. You may have a twinge of sadness at throwing away these "old slippers". But the old ways must go, to make way for new ones. Sometimes, the scary part is that you may not know what the new ways of relating to your parents are yet, and since you know the old ways so well, it may feel safer and less risky to keep them.
But it's worthwhile and exciting to move on to new levels of maturity. The second hurdle is still high, but easier than the first. Once an open dialogue is started with parents, it is easy to keep it that way. The benefits can be enormous. You can begin to relate to each other as real human beings. You learn new things about each other and you may find a depth of love and feeling that you never knew was there.
SOURCE: TV/TS TAPESTRY
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