Five Tips for Dealing With Transphobic Relatives

photo of a hand with a transgender flag painted on the palm. Also pictured a man screaming at a woman who has her ears covered.

How do you deal with transphobic relatives, I have five tips. This is a hard question that most families of transgender or gender-diverse children face. I hope your family is not overtly hateful, especially in front of your children. Unfortunately, some of us are not that lucky. What should we do when words become violent, and conversations turn confrontational? Here are five tips for dealing with transphobic relatives:

Five Tips For Dealing With Transphobic Relatives

  1. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. I cannot emphasize this enough, rehearse how you will share the information and consider your reaction, so you are measured, self-assured and calm.
  2. Seriously consider the necessity of the disclosure. My child did not want anyone outside of our immediate family (those living inside our four walls) to know when she first shared. We respected her wishes. Once she was ready to transition (about nine months later), it was time to let people know. Please follow your child’s lead and wishes. I promise it will come back to bite you if you move forward without their consent whether they are 5, 15, or 35.
  3. When people show you who they are, believe them. Sure, people can come around and warm up to the idea but do not expose your precious child to their process. If an adult relative wants a processing conversation, do not involve your child.
  4. There are covert transphobia and overt transphobia. This is an important distinction. Covert transphobia can be as simple as not acknowledging your child’s existence. Overt transphobia can look like refusing to use appropriate pronouns or names to outright yelling and accusations. We have experienced all of this in our family; it is devastating.
  5. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. You cannot expose your child to transphobia, especially by choice and by family members. This can create an internal conflict when it is your parent or sibling; you want a relationship with the person but cannot expose your child to their hate. It would be best if you did not expose yourself to transphobic parenting comments. Boundaries are hard, but in some cases, it is necessary to withdraw from in-person interactions or communication at all. You are a parent protecting your child. Remember you are not a bad son, brother, aunt, etc. Your child’s mental health is paramount to pleasing others.

I hope these five tips for dealing with transphobic relatives is helpful. Dealing with transphobic relatives, especially close relatives including aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins is miserable. Disclosure is a delicate dance we parents navigate, sometimes with pleasant surprises but also with epic failure. In my own life, I am walking through hateful rhetoric and gaslighting. What are some things you do to preserve your sanity and your child’s mental health?

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