Question: Losing people close to you because of gender identity.

Dax asks…

My mother is demanding that I shave my legs even though I told her firmly that I love my legs as they are. She was hurt and refused to talk to me for the rest of the night. I’m afraid of distancing myself from her because of my gender identity, but I also don’t want to change myself just to please her. Is there anyway to help her understand without pushing her away?

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Posted by on July 27th, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions | Tags: , 17 comments »

17 Responses to “Question: Losing people close to you because of gender identity.”

  1. Dharma Kelleher

    It’s painful when we find ourselves having to choose between living as our true selves and holding on to our relationships with family and friends.

    For years, I tried to please those around me, people who said that they loved me. But living a lie (living as a man when I identified as a woman) took a tremendous toll on my self esteem, leading to severe depression and alcoholism.

    Eventually, I chose to make a change and live as I needed to live. My parents and friends turned their backs on me. That hurt, too, but not as much as living a lie.

    I made new friends who accepted me as I was. In time, many of those who rejected me, including my folks, came around. Some did not. But I was living honestly and that has made all the difference.

    Be true to yourself. Trust the process.


  2. Nazza

    Your situation describes my very same quandary. What I will say, echoing the comments of the previous poster, some people will be receptive to you as you are and some won’t. I am very fortunate to have an understanding partner and friends, but I know my parents may never come around.

    Being genderqueer to me has been a series of progressively braver and braver little steps, all the while feeling more and more empowered within myself for each. But there’s a tremendous amount of gender policing in the form of other people one must account for too. You feel in in your decision to keeping your legs natural. I feel it in deciding wearing women’s clothing and painting my toenails.

    I send to you courage and serenity.


  3. J.D.

    My dad has been the same way about me shaving my legs, and I’m not sure what to do either. He’s gone so far as to leave shaving cream sitting on the counter so I’ll see it. He thinks I’m just being rebelious. I dont feel like I can wear shorts or go swimming (though I dislike swimsuits anyways) and I feel like my family is starting to push me away again.


  4. lulu

    Maintain your boundaries even when it’s difficult and keep being nice to her even when it’s difficult. The truth is (and it is important to see this) that you are not distancing yourself from her, she is distancing herself from you by making emotional intimacy be something she trades in exchange for a gender performance. She probably doesn’t see that though. If she accuses you of being distancing, tell her that you love her and want to be in relationship with her, and that in addition to that, you have every intention of respecting yourself fully. You want to respect both of you fully. Repetition of this point over time in words and action can be effective.


  5. gunk

    I have found that mothers can be quite proprietorial about their children’s bodies. It’s tough – you are your own person, and she has no right to dictate what you do with your body. She needs to learn that.

    This said, it’s a difficult thing for mothers to learn. I struggle with it with my own mother – she thinks it’s ok to grab at my binder and comment on “that’s a bit tight” (we haven’t had a discussion about the fact that I bind yet). Your body is your personal space, and her unsolicited comments on it are an invasion of that. What lulu said above is great – if she feels that you are distancing her, maybe reiterate that you are just doing what feels right for you, and that has nothing to do with her. Gently reminding her of that is probably important. If she is feeling threatened by what you do to your body, she hasn’t quite separated you from herself yet (again, I think it must be a really difficult thing for parents to do, perhaps especially mothers and people who physically bear children). She needs to let you go and be your own person.


  6. Anonymous

    Um, perhaps we’re just more practical in the south, but I’ve never heard anyone but friends and partners pressuring for leg shaving. Even then it always seems shallow and is usually regretted. Hell, most of the women I’ve been around all my life never shave at all. It’s considered silly and a waste of time and money. Something for women desperate for a man.


  7. Shane

    I just recently caved and starting shaving again because of the odd looks I had been getting from my family. Luckily, I’m just home for the summer. I’m not sure how old you are, but I think being on your own can be the best thing sometimes. It certainly was for me.

    When it comes down to it though, you need to do what makes you happy.


  8. Anonymous

    There are plenty of women out there who identify as women and don’t shave their legs/armpits/anything else. Shaving or not should be a personal choice… unfortunately a lot of society feels the need to dictate that choice by declaring body hair on a woman “gross”. There’s nothing gross about it, any more than having hair on top of your head is gross. In fact, if you think about it… have you ever seen anyone with greasy, matted leg hair? I’ve sure seen that on top of a few heads… and THAT is gross (hygiene, please!).

    Personally I like to be as free of body hair as humanly possible, but I do it for myself, not for anyone else. As it should be.


  9. Aaron/Nora

    Parents can be difficult. Almost anyone here will tell you this. Parents have raised you with certain expectations and when you don’t live up to those they don’t know how to react. Your parents probably knew something like this was going on for a long time before you told them, (We aren’t as secretive as we think we are) and have been trying to ignore it for a very long time. That may seem wrong and mean but it’s more than likely the truth.

    Your Mother I guarantee you wants what she thinks is best for you. That probably means she wants you to be the normal girl with the normal life as she attempts to perceive you. But you know who you are and how you feel better than anyone. Cisgendered people can’t understand the idea that someone would hate their body for being something other than themselves. They have never been afraid of the person they see in the mirror.

    The only advice I can give is to talk to them. Not just once, not just twice, but as often as you can. Because you are a person and the same person they raised your entire life. You are just now trying to show that on the outside.


  10. Nick

    If it’s ONLY the shaving thing, it might be something you can simply talk about. Ask your mom why it’s so important to her. Try to explain to her why not shaving is important to you. Don’t bring up gender discourse if your mom is unfarmiliar with that. Just try to convince her that you just want to be yourself.


  11. Jay

    There’s a lot of good advice here, but I basically want to back up what Nick says. My mother has never ‘demanded’, as such, but she has said things like “You’re going out like that?” or “You should really shave”, and that, plus all the outside (media) influences about hairy legs on females = nasty & wrong, just puts a real guilt trip on a body, can’t it?

    So I say what Nick said – ask your mom why. Ask her why she thinks you should shave. And then try pointing out to her that ‘its my body, I’m comfortable like this/don’t care’, tell her why it (shaving) doesn’t matter to you… or why it matters to not shave, as the case may be.

    And drat Gillette anyway, for making body hair such an issue!


  12. Kab

    I’ve never shaved my legs, or my armpits, and I found that, for me, plain refusing to enter into discussion about it has done wonders for my mother’s acceptance of it. She still doesn’t understand it, but I can happily live with that.


  13. Gene

    Short answer, no.
    Long answer, you’re not doing the pushing. You can explain yourself to her in whatever terms you’re comfortable using, and the rest is up to her.


  14. Anonymous

    Short answer: yes.
    Long answer: Be open. Be polite. Make eye contact when you try to explain. Be honest. Tell her how you feel.

    The crux of what i’m trying to say here is that…
    If you do all these things and she’s still not accepting, willing, understanding, making an effort to do any of the above, or just not giving you what you need from her: then at least, at the cost of whatever hardship – you’ll know it’s her that has the problem. And all you did was be honest, polite, open, not to mention brave, etc – and YOU.

    … and for all i know you’ve done all these things. I can’t… and certainly don’t feel qualified … to offer any further advice. But that was my two cents. Your question gave me a pang of empathy and i felt i had to offer some sort of advice…

    I wish you all the best. and courage!!


  15. Jessica

    @Dharma I echo your sentiments. I went for years conforming to a gender I didn’t belong to. And do you know what? There is a certain satisfaction, years later, looking back on those old disapproving friends with their failed marriages, their awful children, their alcoholism or religious fanaticism and compare them to my friends now, with their stable, loving relationships, well-adjusted kids, happy and satisfying lives… really makes you think how toxic the outmoded moral crap is.


  16. Cydne

    My lovely kind-of-queer friend is in a similar situation, where his father gets really mental at him for shaving all his body hair off. He just doesn’t like having body hair, at all. But his dad sees it as his son being too feminine, because his armpits and legs are bald. Thankfully, he lives alone but his father is still letting this cause a rift between them. It doesn’t help that this guy is a make-up wearing glam goth either…


  17. Anonymous

    My mom freaks out about my leg hair all the time, yet doesn’t appear to notice that my straight cisgendered twin sister has even longer leg hair. She never says anything negative about my sexuality to my face, but she’ll make everyone late by refusing to leave the house if I’m insufficiently shaven.

    My sister is awesome; she says if our mom keeps doing that, she’ll start applying mascara to her leg hair to make the point.

    I have been so frustrated and I’m really, really glad that I’m not alone. It seems like such a ridiculous thing that it’s hard for me to explain to my friends why it hurts me so much.


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