What do the folks say?

So, here’s a question many of us have wrestled with: how do we tell our parents about our cross-dressing? Do we even dare? Is it worth the effort? Or is it enough to have a supportive group of friends?

Earlier this year a couple of my friends came out to their parents as trans (one m-to-f, one f-to-m). In one case, this was met with acceptance (and relief from their social circles); in the other, let’s just say the parents might need a bit more time – I gather their response was more doubting.

As my friend put it, it felt like their family was inadvertently hurting them through a misguided sense of trying to ‘protect them’, treating them as if they hadn’t already spent years thinking about their gender identity and the consequences of transitioning.

Another friend of mine transitioned a number of years earlier, and with the benefit of hindsight offered these pearls of advice (paraphrased):

  • By coming out to your parents, you might take a weight off your shoulders, but you end up putting it onto your parents’ shoulders
  • Your parents have lost a [son/daughter]; so even though you’ve thought about this for many years, you need to allow them time to come to terms with this – and grieve
  • Your parents have lost a possible future they would have expected for you
  • There might be a sense of guilt from your parents that they didn’t spot it/  understand/ help you sooner
  • While your friends might be understanding and supportive, how will your parents’ friends react to them? Your parents will also need to “come out” to friends and family.

Of course, this assumes fairly liberal, tolerant parents; not everyone is so lucky.

A friend once put me in touch with a guy who was starting to cross-dress, but didn’t have much of a supportive social community to rely on, and his parents were extremely socially conservative and religious (there’s a surprise), and utterly rejected and forbade it. My friend thought I might be able to help, (as a cross-dresser who’d already come out and was quite comfortable with my identity), but the problems this guy faced were huge, and had taken a toll on his wellbeing.

All I could do was reassure him that he wasn’t ‘wrong’; he wasn’t ‘deviant’; more than anything he simply had to become independent (especially financially independent) of his parents – that way they couldn’t threaten him, and anything they did wouldn’t harm him (of course, this ignores the emotional distress of his parents opposing him so directly). Last I heard, he’d moved to a new college and was finally able to come  out and start establishing a female identity.

As for my own parents?

Well, back in the 1980s when my mother happened to see Europe on TV singing The Final Countdown, her response was to ask “Are they men? But they’ve got long hair! And they’re wearing lipstick!” And later on my father, questioning my choice of Hawai’ian shirts, opined that in his day garish, brightly-coloured clothing like that was a sure sign of homosexuality.

The first time I told them about my cross-dressing, I was already an independent adult and had been living with my fiancée for a few years. Initially they took it as a joke, a one-off. When I made it clear that it wasn’t, they were clearly uncomfortable (but would never admit as much, being classic Brits). There were a few sarcastic comments made, and I decided that if they didn’t want to hear any more about it, I simply wouldn’t tell them. There was no reason to make it a problem.

This hasn’t given me any emotional distress. Sure, it’s frustrating not being able to share funny stories or adventures, or show them photos, but I’m constantly aware that it could be far worse (and it is, for those in other cultures, or for those who haven’t yet been able to establish themselves). I have some of the best friends I could ask for, and someone to share adventures with. I have no reason to complain!

Any advice, take-home lessons?

From my perspective – and do bear in mind how limited it might be – if you have to choose between coming out to an unreceptive or hostile family, or establishing your independence, choose independence first. Give yourself the social support and the safety of distance. Get to the point where “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

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8 thoughts on “What do the folks say?

  1. chris98 says:

    Sage advice as always, Miss Twist. My own 2c worth: 1) Everyone who’s here has a place here and is perfectly valid as they are 2) we don’t have much time here, and no time for feeling bad about who we are. Similarly, we have don’t have enough time to spend it believing things that aren’t true about ourselves and others, therefore 3) better to know the truth, at least about ourselves and the ones we love and care for, and to cherish ourselves and others for exactly what we and they are! To not do so is simply a waste of time, but if that’s what some people want to do that’s their choice.

    • Miss Twist says:

      Thanks Chris! 🙂
      If only everyone could be as laid-back and accepting!
      (I’m also acutely aware that for many people, becoming independent is far easier said than done when jobs are scarce.)

  2. Anthony Leto says:

    I started in my young teen years, now 27 I have been dressing up behind the scene. Go back to when it started I was at least 12. It was a weekend when I visited my mom. I was alone in a room, a room that my mom kept dresses in a closet. Just out of curiosity I put on a dress and a pair of shoes and liked the way it felt. Unknowing my younger brother wanted to see what I was up to. He opened the door slightly to the room, and I tried to hold the door closed so he wouldn’t see. He ended telling my mom what I had on. Later on she came to me and said that it was okay, and if I wanted to take some clothes home I could. I’ve never really been attracted to men. At the age I didn’t know what to say to my mom, and it was awkward at the time. So I forget about, a few years later, I explore some more with wearing dresses, while living with my aunt, not knowing what I’m doing. More and less it was a off and on thing for me. To this day only a few people in my family know of this, and don’t treat me different because of it.

    • Miss Twist says:

      Hi Anthony, it sounds like your mom’s pretty clear-thinking!
      Being an only child, I can only imagine what a complete sod having a kid brother must be like, but I’m glad you’ve had the chance to try things out and figure out who you want to be and how you want to express yourself. 🙂

  3. Anthony Leto says:

    My cross dressing started in my young teen years. At the age of 12 I was visiting my mom, and the room that I was staying in had dresses and high heels in it. Out of curiosity I put a dress on and high heels and loved it. Unknowning my younger brother slightly opens the door to see what I’m up to. Seeing me, he goes a tells on mom. Later on that day, my mom tells me that it’s okay, and if I want to take some clothes home I can. At that age I didn’t know what to say and felt embarrassed. A few years later while living with my aunt I explore again with wearing dresses on the down low. It’s always been a on and off thing for me since then.

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