Thursday, December 13, 2012

Suggestions for the family of a newly announced Transsexual

I recently wrote the suggestions below in response to a desperate plea like this which was posted on a favorite transgender forum:
"Hello, I am very worried about my [brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.], my whole family have been thinking [he/she] was having a nervous breakdown for the past three months,  [he has] just told us this week it is because [he] is transgender. We all love and support [him] and want [him] to be whoever he is, the real worry for us all is that he is not dealing with these feelings well at all. [He] is in a very deep depression having very dark and suicidal thoughts. I am so worried [he] will do something stupid, is there anyone who can help us? [He] is seeing a psychiatrist and has been. Put on antidepressants but I'm not sure [he] even takes them. [He] has the full support of [his] family -- or -- [His] family is not helping and has left [him] feeling abandoned. Are there any families out there in a similar situation that can advise me on how we can help [him]?"
I am going to stick my neck out here a bit and share the things that have helped me enormously. As I write this blog post, it was only a matter of a handful of months ago that I was about ready to walk in front of a train, but I am doing much better now as a result of several things:

1) I began posting a couple of online forums dedicated to transgender issues, with an anonymous persona which felt safe, and allowed me to connect with some sense of community. My favorite of these is: 


2) I found a very experienced gender therapist, not just any psychiatrist. I am not a doctor, but from what I have read, anti-depressants are not generally effective for gender dysphoria, which is not clinical depression, but the reaction to a neurological medical condition. Again, I am not a doctor, and this is my opinion, but a qualified, experienced gender therapist is critical! Many people have reported tremendous wastes of time and money going to medical professionals who are not experienced and competent with gender therapy issues. 

3) I have now read several dozen biographies of other transsexuals which was tremendously helpful to understand the degree to which my feelings were not unique, but that in fact all of us experience a lot of the same feelings and have very similar histories. This helps to defuse a lot of the guilt and anxiety. Just search for "Transsexual Biography" on Amazon. I found Kindle editions and downloaded them to a smart phone so that I could read them discreetly without others seeing what I was reading. 

4) I wrote my own personal history of my transgender awareness, and created a blog where I have written other things, which was quite cathartic. (There is a link to it in my signature line below.)

5) You should take the risk of suicide extremely seriously. I don't want to scare you, but pre-transition transsexuals have some of the highest rates of suicide of any recognized condition. The good news is that the rate for successfully transitioned transsexuals declines to roughly the same as the rest of society. 

6) For family members who are ignorant of transgender issues, but willing to learn and wanting to be helpful, I would suggest you get them to read: "True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism--For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals" [Kindle Edition] which is probably the most widely recommended books for friends, family, and co-workers. 

7)  Family members who want to help can go a long way toward helping by learning to use whatever gender appropriate names and pronouns their family member prefers.

8  For FTM (female to male) transsexuals, it can be extremely helpful to have a safe place to cross-dress either in private, or with family or friends who are able to be supportive and gracious. Unlike transvestites for whom cross-dressing is a satisfying end in itself, for a transsexual, it is only a partially satisfying aid toward feeling more female. The real desire is for a complete change of outward gender identity to match the internal sense of gender identity. At first, the female presentation for a transsexual may not be very flattering, and this requires a great deal of grace and compassion from friends and loved ones. 

I offer these suggestions in the hope that they may prove helpful to others. 

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