Customarily this time of year is considered to be a time for thoughtful reflection, right? I mean sure, the cliche is that everyone is too rushed, too busy, too obligated, too stressed to really enjoy the spirit of the holidays that is heralded in song and story but still the concept of taking stock of your life, of mending fences, of getting in touch with the ones you love, and so forth is deeply rooted in our culture.
It has been over a decade now since the first time I told a loved one about being trans, and over the next year my close and extended family faced a moment of choosing, whether their poorly informed traditions were more important to them than someone they professed to love, or not. In the intervening years there have been moments of confrontation and sometimes moments of reconciliation but it at least gave me clarity regarding those professions of love. More and more my thoughts at this time of year turn to the families which have been torn apart by the unwise and unloving spirit of condemnation directed by some families towards their transgender (and also gay/lesbian/bi) relatives. The stories we in the community have all heard resonate particularly deeply over the holiday season: the child disowned by Traditionalist parents, the (once)husband divorced by an unsympathetic spouse and cut off from their beloved children, the family gathering to which the trans person is specifically uninvited unless they wear the mask that they have with great effort shed. I think about the loneliness and isolation these people, my brothers and sisters, feel in the midst of all the the culture-saturating holiday cheer. I think about those families and I wonder — did they miss the message? Or is their bigotry more powerful than all that?
Let’s be frank, on every turn the theme of the holiday season, with due respect to the “reason for the season” mantra, is coming together with the ones you love. I recognize that for some people, emotionally, they are just not cut out of that cloth. Some people really just don’t care for that sort of social interaction and that’s fine. It’s not those of whom I speak. Indeed, I myself am estranged still from some of those stubbornly unaccepting family members and really am content with it. I’ve little interest in symbolism that doesn’t arise from real reconciliation and admission of fault.
Rather, I’m thinking of those families who let their animosity towards one member trump everything they CLAIM to believe. Nor am I saying that there are not things which cannot be laid aside. If Uncle Mort is a known child molester who did something to your daughter, or anyone else’s child, he’s not invited. But what saddens me is that for far too many families, the Uncle who became an Aunt is just as detestable as the molester.
Does that seem right?
I know that such harsh and judgemental people do not go online seeking out articles which scold them for their non-acceptance, and I know that probably not even a few dozen people will read this who are in the position to apply what I am about to say, but nevertheless, it ought to be out there on the internet somewhere for one or two to come across and maybe be given pause. If you are that disapproving parent, spouse, sibling, or whatever who has shunned the trans member of your family because you disapproved of their “behavior” — why not let this be the year that you say to that one “We may not agree, but you are my family and I love you and I want to spend some time with you this year.” A good friend of mine experienced such a rapprochement over the Thanksgiving holiday and while not all that was torn has been mended, every soul involved is healthier for the effort.
You can always go back to seeing them as a villain or a “freak” in the weeks and months ahead if that is a worldview you are incapable of laying aside…but just for a day or two, see them as a human being who’s lonely and in need of some compassion. It won’t hurt, I promise.