On the pressure to pretend that it’s all OK

One of the main reasons I wanted to write this blog was to try to explore something that I see quite often when you see children of transitioners in the media. Not that I seek out these stories (although I may have to do for this blog!) as it’s something I often avoid. I couldn’t bear to watch TransAmerica for example. Or Transparent. For a long time, the last thing I wanted to do was confront my emotions around transgenderism and my father.  I have always avoided stories with trans characters. But, for various reasons, this issue has chased me through adulthood and expanded all around me. Now barely a day goes by that transgenderism isn’t in the news and another outrageous thing is said and done by a ‘trans woman’ that sets my teeth on edge. And I am 14 again and right back in that apartment I shared with my father while he transitioned. It’s a pretty grim feeling to be honest.

I’m sharing what happened to me now to come to terms with the whole thing because I can’t avoid it any more. I don’t want to bury these feelings. I want to listen to others too.

And I want to start with the fact that we have to pretend that it’s OK. Because it’s not just about pleasing your parent, which of course we want to do with all our heart. That’s why we’ve changed the pronouns. That’s why we can’t say Daddy any more. It’s more than that because if you say you are unhappy with what’s happening you are uncool, a bigot, difficult. Perhaps you are made to feel like you are hurting your parent if you get the language ‘wrong’ or that you are breaking a special pact. Your personal is also political and you have to be OK about it… or other parents won’t get to see their kids perhaps. Or trans people will look bad. Lots of people’s feelings rest on you suppressing yours.

Anyway, this idea floated up again when I saw the Twitter reaction to Bruce Jenner’s son Brody. Buzzfeed reported this as: “Brody Jenner Misgendered Caitlyn Jenner Twice On The Hills: New Beginnings And It Didn’t Go Down Well”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/brody-jenner-misgendered-caitlyn-jenner-the-hills-new

Probably not the best example, but Brody has already expressed his feelings that his father wasn’t a great dad and wasn’t around for key moments of his childhood. But now dad is trans and Brody’s feelings about his father have to be policed. What seemed clear in the coverage is that Brody doesn’t get to talk about his father on his own terms without outrage from people who can’t possibly understand what it’s like for a child to have to substantially change his relationship with his father like this. So leave the Brodies alone, please. The crowd there to police the language used around trans people aren’t helping.

It’s genuinely not easy to change the language you have used around your parent for all your life. I remember yelling, “Dad!” once after transition to get his attention, and it was only the once because of the anger it produced in my father. Sometimes it felt like my father had died and been replaced by a self-involved imposter. But that’s my damage and not necessarily Brody’s or anyone else’s. More on this to follow, inevitably.

16 thoughts

  1. Thanks for putting this out there. It’s high time us human collateral are permitted a voice… are there any forums like the transwidows on mumsnet where adult children of transitioners can discuss their experience safely?

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  2. Thanks for this. It resonates. I don’t have a trans parent but an adult trans child. A SON of 27 years. My beloved boy, now a man who insists he’s a woman and I have to accept this sudden bereavement without a word. I need a mothersoftransitioners group. Have not the energy to start one yet. I also feel erased as a mother. What was I all that time? What did he not see about my being a woman?

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  3. Rachelsanger I have two adult children who have transitioned. You can find me on Facebook as Minn Lynn. I started a Facebook group for parents, it’s a secret group so completely private. No one should have to walk this alone, it’s hell. Please feel free to message me.

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  4. I am so here for this, you have no idea. I haven’t even really talked to my brothers about how our dad’s transition affected us, it’s just… difficult. I’m his only daughter, so even if I could talk to them about it, I’m not sure if they’d understand exactly why I’ve been so hurt by this.

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  5. *Lots* of people struggling with similar issues on Mumsnet, a marvelous UK site. There are huge threads titled Trans Widows Escape Committee. I haven’t linked since a second link will presumably dump me into spam.

    There’s also spinster.xyz a twitter analog where the people Twitter has censored for wrongthink are finding a home. Some people over the top, but mostly just lots of voices from those otherwise being erased.

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  6. Thank you. I am just a mother hoping to protect her three very young kids from this predatory ideology which is being foisted on us from all sides. I will keep checking your blog.

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  7. I am so with you. I hate what my dad has done to himself, my mother and our family. People assume me and my brother are bigoted and stupid or under the influence of our Mum who was devastated by his behaviour. But we’re not. We have our own minds. But I can’t say anything to anyone apart from online. We hate our dad dressing up, it’s creepy, we don’t believe he’s a woman, it’s really obvious, and I’m afraid I think it’s really selfish to put yourself before your children. I’m so happy you posted. Thank you.

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  8. My main father figure, I say main as he was my adoptive step grandfather/father, father enough to give me his surname on my birth certificate, but not father enough to drop me like a sack of shit when he decided he was a woman at age 65. I just remember the inner conflict and how i felt pressurised by some members of the family to say how stunning and brave she was and by other members of the family to shut up and never mention his name again. Nowhere was there space for me to feel or express what I felt. However living with one of these people since childhood, i had become pretty adept at supressing my feelings already. I really hope that more little places develop on the internet for the wounded children of the trans ideology because pretty soon they are going to be much needed.

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  9. Thank you for your powerful post. I don’t have anyone trans in my family but about ten years ago a childhood friend decided he was a woman after marriage and two children. He put the poor woman through hell (he said their sexual problems were down to her inhibitions rather than his fetish) and couldn’t pay child support because he needed the money for manicures, lingerie, etc.

    I wonder if his AGP was triggered by growing up with sisters who were the most stunning young women I ever saw. Jealousy perhaps?

    The good news is that eventually, under pressure from his parents and siblings, he started behaving like an adult and a dad. His ex is very happily remarried. He lives a very isolated life and as far as his family can tell has never had any sort of relationship. He’s very tall and the same shape as the Oscar statuette, so will never pass. It’s a sad life.

    One of my sons is friends with their oldest son and says he’s fine now. He has a lovely stepdad and extended family to help.

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