Telling your loved ones who you truly are can be an emotional time. If they don't accept what you're saying immediately, there are things you can do to help them and yourself.
If you’ve been questioning it for a while, finally realising your true gender identity can cause many emotions. For some it’s a relief, a weight off their shoulders that they can now be who they were always meant to me. For others, it’s more complicated.
They might be feeling the weight of expectation from family or friends and the thought of revealing their true identity may cause them pain, worry or even fear.
If you’re tempted to keep the information from them for as long as possible, that’s your choice. However, if they find out from someone else, it may hurt them even more.
Here are some things you can do to support your loved ones and yourself when discussing your true gender identity:
1. Let them express their feelings
Remember that you have had a lot more time to process this news. Don’t try to stifle their reactions or tell them how they ‘should’ react.
2. Give them time
Their initial reaction might shock you but instead of getting upset, give them time to process the conversation. Leave them alone to talk about what’s happened and to think it through at their own pace.
3. Share the details of support groups and positive resources
If things feel strained or awkward, let them know that there are many other families going through similar situations. Give them the details of local support groups and positive online resources that they can look up for more information.
4. Stay as calm as you can
If they refuse to accept what you’re telling them or tell you you’re wrong, try to stay calm. You know who you are but you also need to realise that it might be hard for them to understand if they’ve never met any other transgender person.
However, if they become homophobic or make hurtful, cruel remarks about your gender identity, you are more than entitled to ask them to stop and to walk away until they can be civil.
5. Set boundaries with people who refuse to accept your gender identity
As painful as it may be, it’s important to emotionally distance yourself from people who refuse to acknowledge who you are. Remember that their behaviour is not your fault and it’s not your responsibility to change so that they can feel more comfortable.
If you want to, explain why you need space. Perhaps someday they will realise their mistake and you will reinstate the relationship you once had with them.
6. Look after your mental health
Even if you’re happy and relieved about embracing your gender identity, if you experience backlash from friends and family, it can be devastating.
Explore how you’re feeling – either creatively through writing, singing, music, poetry and dance – or by talking to a trusted adult or counsellor who can help you make sense of what is happening in your life.
For more support, visit TENI.ie, BeLongTo.org or contact Childline 24 hours a day by calling 1800 66 66 66 or by hitting the Live Chat button on our website.