FtM reassignment....what about the kids?

A young friend of my daughter got a bombshell dropped on her yesterday when her mother returned from an overseas trip.

Firstly she noticed that her mum was dressed in very masculine clothes, and also appeared to have lost a lot of weight, so much so that her boobs had almost disappeared. Sarah, aged 21 (not her real name) breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that her mum had finally ‘come out’ as a lesbian (a sentiment shared by her two brothers and sister as well). From all reports, it was sort of a ‘duh, mum’ moment. :smiley:

Except it wasn’t quite that simple. Sarah’s mum has embarked upon a gender reassignment program, and it has thrown the family into utter turmoil…sort of.

Sarah is a remarkable and viciously intelligent young lady. She is being ever so reasonable and philosophical about the changes her mum is about to go through, and the prospect of a radical change in the relationship she has with the ‘woman’ who gave birth to her becoming a man. As she told her mum after hearing the news, “Hey, mum, you really put the FUN in dysFUNctional dontcha??” :wink:

But I’m not quite so reassured. Sarah is living with me at the moment (for a couple of months until she heads to London to Make Her Fortune) and I sense a little girl putting on a brave front…trying very hard to live up to her ‘remarkable and viciously intelligent’ tag that she has worn for many years now. I need to be able to give her ‘permission’ that it is really ok to feel scared and worried and to grieve for the mother she is losing, even though the ‘person’ might remain the same. It is not going to be easy, and I seek opinions about how to help her through this time.

I would especially like advice from those who have undergone such procedures, and how their** families** dealt and coped with the changes.

No matter what one might think about TG/TSism, in general, can we all agree that springing that surprise on your kid of whatever age is seriously f*d up?

Let Sarah know that it’s OK if she’s freaked by this or if she’s not freaked by this.
And if she does express resentment that Mom decided to surprise her with this, that’s OK also.

She’s 21?

Unless you’re a relative somewhere in there that you didn’t mention, I’d suggest letting your daughter deal with it.

Sarah and my daughter have been best friends for over seven years now. Sarah regards me as a good friend too (albeit an old fogie one). As it has also transpired, Sarah is living in my home for the next month or two until she heads overseas. I’m a ‘relative’ in the very real (but not legal) sense of the word…I would like to help Sarah deal with the most difficult situation she has found herself in.

Anyway, it was my daughter who came crying to me, asking me to help Sarah in her difficulties. Y’know, even though some kids are legally ‘adults’, there are some things that us old farts are able to handle better than they can. I would suggest that their best friend’s mum looking at gender reassingnment surgery might fit that criteria. :rolleyes:

Well, other than suggesting that you’re there to talk if she needs to, what else can you do?
I think anything more proactive might well bring down the wrath of the mother (who is, I would imagine, herself going through quite a period of turmoil right now).

You’re absolutely right…and that is what I have done so far. :slight_smile:

I guess I was looking for some sort of magical formulaic response that other families might have used when encountering a family member who has chosen to undergo reassignment surgery. From what I understand, FtM changes are relatively rare, and even rarer are women who have previously born children who elect to change their gender identity. I’m curious from a couple of perspectives…my own curiousity about the pscyhodynamics involved, and how to help Sarah deal with her mum not being her mum anymore.

I wonder if your friend’s mom has done any thinking on this - how it’s going to feel personally when the kids stop calling him “Mom.” Or if he even wants the kids to stop calling him Mom. Or if he’s even thought about what he wants the kids to call him.

(I’m always bad with pronouns in these situations - I hope I’m using the right ones. Bear with me.)

Perhaps Sarah should have a talk with her mom about this. I’m kind of thinking that if Mom remains “Mom,” (meaning that the term doesn’t ever change, even though it’s referring to a man instead of the usual female) then Sarah might have a little less anxiety about the (admittedly huge) change.

The only advice I have is to not tell her what she “must be feeling”, but to *ask *her what she’s feeling and to believe her.

Lemme 'splain. When I was molested as a child (NOT that this is the same thing at all, but bear with me), I had hordes of grown-ups telling me I must be very upset, and that I was OK and safe now from that evil, bad person who had hurt me so much. Problem was, I liked him, even loved him, and I wasn’t really all that upset. When I tried to tell them that, I was told I was repressing, and packed off to have my head shrunk by more people who wouldn’t believe me that I was OK. So then I got all upset because I wasn’t upset like I was obviously supposed to be, and *that *screwed me up for close to two decades. (My then being upset and screwed up was seen as evidence that they were right all along and forced me into more therapy I didn’t need. :rolleyes: )

So where I think it might apply is that people telling her this must be a shock, or that it’s OK if she feels the loss of her mother, or that you’ll stand by her during this tumultuous time may in fact make her feel bad for not feeling bad, if you know what I mean. They’re all ways of telling her what she “should” be feeling, and if she isn’t feeling that way, she might start to question herself and her okayness for not feeling how y’all expect her to feel.

OTOH, if she articulates to you that she’s feeling confused, or angry or proud and happy, then by all means capitualate, console and congratulate her on being a human being. But wait or ask for her to tell you how she actually feels. Don’t guess and risk guessing wrong.

This all goes for your daughter, too. She’s allowed to be upset where her girlfriend isn’t, and vice-versa. Don’t treat them as a pair - give each one the feedback and love she needs as an individual.

In other words, she’s being strong about it and you want her to be weak. What good will that do her? If her mother goes through with it, that’s just the way it’s going to be.

Wonderful advice Rigamarole. Did you even read the OP? :rolleyes:

Yes, her mother is going through with all the procedures to make him a male.

No, I don’t want her to be ‘weak’, but I also don’t want her to feel unable to express her feelings about the transition. Yes, at times she IS strong, but there are also times when she cries about how ‘fucked up’ her family is…

Which is why I especially asked for feedback from others who had families who might have gone through this themselves.

The transman I know has two kids, a good bit younger than your daughter’s friend (I believe both are under 10); he and the kids’ father are divorced (separated since well before the transition).

My understanding is that when he was getting ready to start transition, he sat down with the girls and had a conversation with them covering the “Does this mean you’re not my mommy anymore?” question and related stuff. (I got the impression that if the kids had been really distressed, he might well have put off the transition; after they were reassured that they were still loved and that he was still their parent, however, the kids were just fine.)

If the person going through transition isn’t doing so with concern about others, I suspect that the question gets a lot more difficult to handle. I can’t speak to the question of how to deal with someone who’s being so apparently cavalier about it, since the fellow I know was much more concerned about how his kids were handling it than this person appears to be.

Expressing your feelings is considered weak?

I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick on this one, Rigmarole. I do hope, though, that while the daughter is candidly expressing her feelings to kambuckta, that she is also expressing them to her parent. She is, after all, an adult.

I totally agree. As supportive as I am of people going through this sort of change, how can anyone be so insensitive to not talk this over with the daughter ahead of time?

Since I don’t know him, I can’t know for sure if insensitive is the right word or not. The thing of it is, there’s no handbook entitled* Transgenderism and You: How To Break the News to Your Family*. This step has got to be as confusing and momentous for them as it is to their kids. What things must be going through their minds? “Should I start off slowly, getting them used to the idea? Maybe they already know. They know I’m a lesbian, so we’re at least that far. Now how do I tell them what’s next? Maybe it will be easy if I just spit it out and get it over with.”
I don’t know for sure what else they could have done. They seemed to all “know” Mom was a lesbian. Okay. That’s one thing. Naturally, lesbian does not mean one want to become transgender. So how to you get from lesbian to transgender? How does one slowly break that one in? It already sounded as though Mom was somewhat manly in the past. It’s a huge thing to tell your family, and it’s a huge thing for your family to absorb. I don’t know if there is any subtle way to tell your loved ones that you are becoming the opposite sex.

I just don’t know if there is any “right” way to tell your family this information. No matter how slowly you go, or how you word it, someone is always going to feel the news was “sprung upon” them. It’s not easy for anyone.

Anyway, kumbuckta, I also cannot offer a magical formula, just the same old suggestion to be there for her, and to listen to her. I wish you all strength and love.

It would not be uncommon for someone who isn’t sure if they’re going to seek transition to believe that telling family is only going to cause needless distress if transition ends up not being persued. So I could see mom only being able to bring himself to upset daughter once he was at or very, very near the point of no return.

Now, it may well have been easier for daughter if mom had sat her down and said “The reason I’ve been seeing a therapist for awhile now is… and someday, probably not too far from now, I’m going to transition, which means…” as opposed to “Hey honey I just got home from my first testosterone shot, did I mention…” but either way, it’s not likely mom feels that treatment is at all optional.

Regardless, pressuring someone into sharing feelings that they’re not inclined to share for whatever reason is rarely positive, and it could be that Sarah doesn’t know what she’s feeling currently, or isn’t feeling much that she’s aware of yet, or isn’t ready to articulate her feelings, or…

One thing I would make clear to her, in addition to “You can talk to me if you want to,” is that you’re not judging her or her mom. Even if she’s personally furious with the situation, she still may be quite hurt or angry if someone speaks negatively about her mother’s affliction and decision, and may be reluctant to raise the issue if she’s fearful that you see this as automatically reflecting badly on any of the people involved.