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Guest Blog: Trans for the Holidays

on Friday, 22 December 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

By Lucia Caltabiano

The holidays are a unique for many folks. It’s time for families, friends, gifts, and parties. For trans folk this can be the case or it can be complicated, bitter sweet, or entirely the opposite. Trans folk have a vast continuum of experiences and views. Just like cisgender men and women being trans is not a monolithic experience. I’m writing this piece halfway through the holidays and a week before my birthday to help folks realize what being trans can look like for the holidays. 

It looks like…

Going to your partner’s company holiday party and not correcting the people around you, because you’re not sure if they’ll retaliate against you, or even worse against him. Not to mention explaining one’s self is exhausting. 

It looks like…

Dinner at your mother’s. She’s planned for your favorite foods, the house smells like home and you get to help cook in the kitchen. But it’s also saddening when she says ‘daughter’ and ‘feminine’ and ‘this is your stocking, because you’re a girl’ and then surprises you with a new blouse she’s bought for you. 

It look like…

Parties with friends where you can truly relax, because even if they slip up and accidentally misgender you, you can expect an apology. You can gently correct them, and not expect retaliation for doing so. Yet at parties where people may not know you’re trans and it is safe, it can mean an exhaustive explanation period that draws more attention than you care for. 

It looks like…

A homeless trans youth that stopped by the soup kitchen where you’re volunteering, whose family has rejected them and who is trafficking themself just for a couch to sleep on and a hot meal half of the time.

It looks like…

Your little girl (assigned male at birth) getting to open her presents to find the tutu she wants or the doll she asked for, a soccer ball, or a new craft kit about dinosaurs. Seeing that smiles makes you feel better than anything else in the world. You may also feel a little guilt for the twinge of sadness that crosses your mind too; still be mourning the loss of the son you thought you had. The grieving process is a common experience for parents of trans kids so they can move on and appreciate their son or daughter that they have instead. 

It looks like…

An awkward silence when your transfeminine friend opens a white elephant gift to find The Man Apron. Then your other friend swaps with them so she can have something that is not assigned male. 

It looks like…

Almost crying when a friend on social media posts about how being trans or non binary or gender non conforming is valid. No one tagged you, no one mentioned you, but that post still speaks to you while you wonder when it will be the right time to come out or if you should just put on the pants instead of the dress you bought for holiday parties. 

It looks like…

Your partner asking if you’d like to go to Thanksgiving dinner which you didn’t know would be an option. He’s perfectly insistent that his parents use the correct pronouns and has advocated for you for months so that when you do meet, it’s in a comfortable and validating atmosphere.  

Some of these are my experiences. Some of the experiences of those around me that they’ve been kind enough to share. The point is, if you are trans and you decide that hormones or surgery are right for you, or you want to wear that special outfit, WONDERFUL! Do it!! And if you can’t afford hormones, because you don’t have health insurance, or your doctor is concerned it will exacerbate a health condition, you are still valid. If you decide you don’t want to rock the boat by advocating for your correct pronouns, you’re still valid. If you simply decide (like me) that hormones and surgery aren’t right for you, then you are also valid. 

We don’t need to look or act a certain way to know exactly who and how we are. Hormones and surgery don’t make us anymore trans, and neither do our acts of self advocacy or lack thereof. And I also want you to know that you are not alone. 

To the cis folk who are reading this article: please be aware of how vastly our experiences vary. Yes, some of us have accepting and validating families. Our holidays are full of reasons to celebrate and be happy, even if the happiness is dotted with sadness. 

The best thing you can do is to use gender affirming language, pronouns, and adjectives. Never say how well someone ‘passes’, but say how lovely she looks with her hair done special for the holiday party or how much you like his ugly sweater. If someone is struggling, don’t make excuses for cis folk. We already know you struggle at times with our pronouns or how we present. We know because we experience that confusion every day, along with misgendering (intentional and unintentional) as well as all the other micro aggressions. 

And lastly, just listen; that’s all you have to do. Validate what your trans friend or partner says they’re experiencing and support your friends if they have a trans kid. Talk with your trans students if they come to you and listen to their experience; better yet educate yourself with resources like local PFLAG groups, GLSEN, and whatever LGBTQ+ group may be in your school or local community.

 

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