Friday, 29 May 2015

So Your Loved One is Trans

Taking off the costume.
Today, I waved the Butler off to her (yes, her) coming-out party at work.  Well, not exactly a party.  A meeting where she (yes, she) tells the last tier of her colleagues that she’s gender dysphoric.  

Anyone who says that transfolk are something other than brave, strong individuals, hasn’t a clue what they’re talking about.

I hope to expound on that statement, but today I’m thinking about trans-SOFFAs (significant others, friends, family & advocates).  People attached by a twist of fate to a transperson’s tailcoats, dragged along at full speed through terrain they never imagined, let alone chose to explore. 

People who go through that & still hang on.

Ten years ago, I learned I was a trans-parent, the mother of my lovely FtM, El Punko.  Seven years ago, I wondered if I were trans-contagious when I discovered the Butler is also trans.  There’s undoubtedly a statistical improbability at work here, having a child & spouse who aren’t biologically related, but are both transgender.

Now that the Butler begins her real life test, I’m finally able to speak about what it’s like for transfamilies in this country & this system.  Being a trans-parent has different pressures than being a trans-spouse, but consistent in both cases is that once treatment begins, there’s a bevy of professionals circling your loved one. 

And then there’s you. 

The psych field here thinks there’s something sexy about trans-clients, & by God, the SOFFA should be all things supportive, gracious, even thankful to be aligned with this magical crittur called Trans.  And while you’re at it, please shut up about your boring issues.  (Why are you even in my office?)

In the medical field, no matter that an unpredictable changeling has replaced someone very dear in your life and you think the doctors aren’t doing their best. Whatever treatment they inflict on your adult loved one, it’s none of your goddam business.  (Feck off, Madam No Degree.)  

A normal trans-family
The LGBT community.  Well, there needs to be someone for the parents, the spouses, the wide-eyed chillen of transfolk, but really, between supporting the transperson & storming the Bastille, there’s no time or energy for it.  And indeed, in my experience, the SOFFA’s sometimes considered to be three steps removed from the enemy, politely tolerated or, in rare instances, treated with overt hostility.  (Why oh why won’t you stay in the misguided straight world?)

No wonder some SOFFAs are mad as hell.  I’m not one of them.   

Recently, while shifting furniture, it became clear how much the Butler’s upper body strength had given way to HRT.  It was lift, walk a few paces, rest.  After I set down my end of a behemoth cabinet, the Butler kept shoving like nobody’s business, the behemoth not impressed. 

‘What the hell are you doing?’ I ask.  ‘You can’t do that without me.’ 

‘I’m an eejit,’ says the Butler, ‘but I’m enthusiastic.’

You know, there’s a motto for life.  Any life, really, but definintely the SOFFA life. 

While there are guidelines for transitioning, there’s no Harry Benjamin telling SOFFAs how to do this.  No Dark Lord professionals acting like we’re the One Ring.  No political factions educating us on the appropriate vernacular & what shops to boycott. 

There’s freedom in that.

Don't go stealth.
The trick is to approach it enthusiastically.  That doesn’t mean to ditch the anger, or forget the grief.  Everything you feel, or they feel, it’s real & justified.  What it means is, be terrified when you wait outside a public loo, then laugh about how weird it is that you’re lurking outside a public loo.  Feel embarrassed over their latest ‘new look’, but not too embarrassed to be honest about whether it works.  Don’t go quietly stealth in this brave new trans world.  Face your life & kick anybody to the curb who says you don’t have a right to it.

It may not seem possible to grab with both hands right now.  Not today, when your trans-love has stepped out of a lifelong prison and bolted to freedom, dragging your security and dreams and expectations through the gorse and hawthorn.  Not today, when you don’t believe it’ll get better because how can it be better when the unthinkable has happened?

Being a SOFFA isn't for the faint of heart, but you, who created a space where a trans-person felt they could take the risk, you deserve to stop screaming.  There will come a day you’ll wake up without that elephant stomping on your chest.  It may surprise you how quickly or how long it takes to happen.

In the meantime, enjoy the view from the tail of the kite.  Insist that you touch ground on a regular basis.  Don’t let anyone tell you to shut up, or stand to the side.  Be as brave as your trans-person, expect as much for yourself.  Listen.  Love.  Laugh.
Follow the multi-coloured road.

Insist on technicolour.


  1. Wow, Lora, that's a lot to be dealing with. Make sure you take care of yourself along with everybody else!