Like most trans people, I have experienced my fair share of ignorance during my transition. Before I came out, I had heard tales of people having their ‘deadname’ used against them, or their pronouns disregarded. Those things happened to me and it hurt as much, or more, than I was expecting.
Strangers were confused about my appearance or pronouns. Little kids would pull on their adult’s sleeve and say “Is that a boy or a girl?” These comments were difficult for me, but strangers don’t have much control over my feelings. My family, however, does. Sometimes, my family made hurtful comments. Like the time my grandma said “As long as you’re not one of those transgenders” which made me feel pretty scared to come out.
But it was my family’s weird comments that really took me by surprise, though. It’s one thing to feel hurt — it’s another thing to feel abruptly speechless.
While you can pick your new name, you can’t pick your family! Some of their weird comments made me laugh out loud; others made me cringe. Here are some of the strangest things my family has said to me over the years as I have transitioned from female to male. If I have to endure them, so do you!
Thanks for noticing…
My mom is probably the funniest person I know (aside from my hysterical editor at GO Mag). Sometimes, though, her jokes don’t land how she thinks they will. When it comes to my transition, she hasn’t been perfect at getting on board. She had the hardest time by far with my new name and my pronouns. So I wasn’t super shocked when, after a pretty good day of not fighting (a miracle), she said something super … weird.
I’ve never handled any sort of mild discomfort well, ever since I was a kid. Serious pain isn’t that big of a deal, but when I am inconvenienced, the world will know about it. A good example of this is when I first got my period. I stayed home from school for probably 3 days and laid in bed. My mom brought me tea and Advil. She also called my whole family to tell them I was officially a woman. This is just kind of her MO.
So it shouldn’t have been a big surprise to her when, post transition, this transaction took place:
“Ugh mom I can’t help you clean the fridge, my head hurts!”
“Wow, you really are a man!”
On one hand, yes, of course, men complaining is annoying. But, on the other hand, I have always complained! She knows this better than anyone! Why is THIS the thing that convinces her I’m allowed to live in my gender? I would have preferred for her to realize this when I told her that I have always been a man and it would be a sign of respect to use the right pronouns.
Call Me By My Name
I have a lot of parents. My two biological parents got divorced when I was 7ish and they both ended up with wonderful partners. I owe a lot to my step mom and my step dad and I’m super grateful to have them in my life. My step mom can be very assertive about her feelings, which can be good or bad depending on the feeling. My step dad is reserved and kind and thinks the sun shines out of my ass. My dad is boisterous, fun-loving, smart, and very much like me (aka we are both very annoying). You’ve already heard about my mom, who I also love dearly.
Yet only ONE of the four parents has refrained from telling me that my ‘deadname’ COULD BE A BOYS NICKNAME! Sure, and Ashley used to be a common boy’s name, too. But, obviously, I’m a little sensitive about my dead name. And I would prefer to use my new name that makes me feel confident and respected. I told my dad I could start calling him ‘Mom’ if preference didn’t matter, but he claimed that would be one too many moms to keep track of.
Dad, you can keep it
I was fortunate enough to have top surgery in April of 2019. It was life changing, miraculous, and helped to relieve my deepest dysphoria. Not to mention it made it easier to breathe, swim, go to the gym, and exercise in general because I no longer had to wear a binder. My family was super supportive. My mom drove me home from the hospital; my step mom and my dad took turns being my live-in nurse. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without them. One day, my dad asked if I would ever want to do “the other surgery” meaning bottom surgery. Because I don’t know if I want to discuss my penis options with my father, I answered “Well they’re kind of hard to come by, so probably not,” to which he responded, “You can have mine, I’m not using it!”
Yes, I had to hear him say that. Now you all need to suffer with me.
I have two brothers, one biological and one step. They are supportive in their own ways, which I really appreciate. My biological brother and I have not always had a very close relationship, but in our adulthood we have gotten to know each other better and I appreciate the effort he puts in to understand me. On telling my brother that my hair had gone curly on Testosterone, something I wasn’t aware could happen, he texted me back, “Instantly? You took it and, phew your shorly temple.” Yes, that was his exact spelling. I seriously laughed out loud with that one.
STOP SAYING BREASTS
My grandmother and I have always been close. She’s exactly 60 years and one day older than me. Some of our hobbies include gardening and watching home movies together. This closeness has unfortunately given her the idea that she can constantly talk to me about “your breasts.” “Oh, why do you wanna go and have your breasts removed?” “I heard you’re gonna have surgery to remove your breasts.”
This did not cease once I had them removed. Now the floodgates have really opened because I know longer have “your breasts.”
“I guess you can go to the beach now that you got rid of your breasts.”
What not to wear
Do you remember a few years ago when white guys started wearing their top buttons buttoned? I personally thought it looked kinda cool, so I made the grave error of trying something new. I walked into a crowded backyard party to celebrate my brother’s wedding and my dad and grandma simultaneously roasted me, “MEN DON’T WEAR THEIR TOP BUTTON BUTTONED!” Pssht, what do they know about style? (I sheepishly undid the button.)
Beauty is in the eye of the testosterone needle
Something I got before I transitioned was “But you’re such a beautiful girl!”. Yea, so? I know I was beautiful. I knew it at the time, too. I always said if I wanted to be a girl, I was exactly the girl I would want to be. I had perfect skin, perfect eyebrows, lovely BREASTS as my grandma would say, a big juicy ass (still do). But, the problem is, I’m not a girl. This argument kind of misses the point on that. I think they’re starting to come around on this now that they realize I’m a very beautiful man, too.
Dad, please stick to knock-knock jokes
“Now that you’re a guy I can tell you this joke: What’s two things an aging man should never waste? An opportunity to go to the bathroom, and a boner.”
Dad, please, stop talking about your penis.
Here’s another gem from my grandmother, who is Italian and has always done things a certain way. My uncles and male cousins get away with anything and the women of my family have to pick up all the slack. This was never a secret but it really made me indignant when she recently said, “You’re a man now, you don’t have to help with dinner.” I don’t think my mom, who was preparing the meal, agreed.
I get along well with my step brother but we don’t talk very frequently. We had gone a few months between calls right as I was starting T and I think my new voice gave him a shock. He congratulated me on the changes but then gasped and said “Wait, stop, your voice can’t get deeper than mine!” Sorry, bro.
The last one has nothing to do with me being trans but if anyone has advice on how to make this question stop, please let me know…
“When are you gonna buy me a condo?” -everyone but my perfect step dad who does not mention his penis
It is universally known to members of the LGBTQ community that people can be ignorant, hurtful, and kind of oblivious. Families don’t always understand what it means to be queer, or how much it means to us when they give respect. But, while we all do deserve to be treated with kindness, it helps when we can laugh off the small stuff.
Assume good will; your family most likely just wants to understand. And don’t stress about the small stuff. And remember, phew your shorly temple.