It’s something I hear too often. Maybe it’s from a parent who’s kid has just come out. Maybe it’s from a cisgender partner of a transgender person. Maybe it’s simply from a friend. “I feel like this person I love has died and I don’t know what to do.”
On the surface it seems like a fairly innocuous statement. Or someone expressing a deep grief. And there is a part of me that kind of understands: This person that you thought you knew in a certain way has shifted and you’re trying to make sense of that.
But when you spend a bit of time examining this turn of phrase (which is used a lot by the way) you can see that there’s some incredibly toxic and harmful about it.
First of all, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The person you love has not, in fact, died. They are very much alive and they are trying to still be in relationship with you. Clearly they trusted and loved you enough to tell them a truth about themselves; one that might have been hard for them to disclose or to articulate. And in return you are saying that you feel like they are completely lost/dead to you. Not only that, this is an insult to all of the parents and friends who actually have lost someone to death. Who really are grieving the irretrievable loss of their children.
Second, this statement is really about you. It’s about how you perceive the person who came out to you. When you look at someone else and grieve what you won’t get from them now, it says that you were only invested in the relationship for selfish reasons. Or, at the very least, that your selfish reasons are more important than the health and well-being of the person you are in relationship with.
You are also saying that your understanding/perspective of them is more important to you than the truth of their reality and experience. Which means that your own understandings/expectations/assumptions about who this person is are more important to you than who they actually are. And that them revealing who they actually are does harm to you. That tells me that you don’t actually care about this person outside of what they give to you.
So, for example: You are invested in this person as your daughter. Your dreams are all about who “she” would grow up to be. You envisioned marriage and babies and long walks on the beach or whatever. And so your kid telling you that he’s your son has caused you to have to reevaluate all of the dreams and expectations you had…for your own life. And you are blaming them for not living up to the expectations that you set. You realize how unfair that is, right? That you are expecting your kid to meet all sorts of expectations so that you will be happy? Without ever asking them what they wanted/needed/who they are? And so now that they have worked up the courage to tell you who they are you have decided that it’s too painful for you because it’s not what you want?
Let me tell you some harsh truth: For too many parents their transgender child has died. Whether through suicide or assault or through not being their true selves. And honestly? Rejection from family is a major
You can either have an alive child who is who they are or you can have a literal dead one. Those are your options. And you claiming that your child has “died” when they are in fact alive is an insult to every person who has lost a child.
I hope that you’ll choose to have a relationship with your alive child. I hope that your own shit won’t get in the way of loving your kid. I hope that you get to experience the awesomeness that comes from having a trans kid or friend.
And I hope that if you can’t do that, you will suffer. I know that’s maybe unfair but it’s truly what I wish for you. I wish you the pain of being separated from someone who is surviving and thriving. I wish you the pain of watching them live an amazing and incredible life from afar, a life that you don’t get to be a part of because you were too selfish to examine your own stuff.
No one in your life came out as trans to hurt you. Or to ruin your hopes and dreams for the future. They came out to you in order to be their true selves and in doing so they trusted you with a truth about themselves and you rejected it.
And not only did you reject it but you sent the message that being trans is the same as being dead. That your child living their truth is the same as them being totally removed from your life.
Can you see how hurtful that is? If you can, I urge you to find a good therapist. To find a support group. To work your stuff out before saying a single word to your child about how you are feeling. If you want them in your life at all, you need to work on your own issues in order to not damage your child.
Because this issue? This is not their issue. This is your issue. And you have a choice to make: Would you rather have your alive kid or a dead one? Because they way you speak and act might make all of the difference. You hold the power of life and death in your hands. Choose wisely which is more important to you.