Question: The other side of coming out

AllyMom asks…

My child is 20 and I am certain (though months of detective work) she is gender variant and out to all her friends. All I want to do is help her and I think talking about it will be of benefit to both of us. Should I wait for her to tell me, or should I go ahead and ask?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on February 1st, 2011 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 32 comments »

32 Responses to “Question: The other side of coming out”

  1. The Nerd

    Idea: go in the middle. Don’t push her to come out to you about it, but don’t ignore it. Bring up gender varient people in casual conversation. Like, “I admire the way Angelina Jolie lets her daughter express herself, even if it isn’t girly.” Or perhaps “It’s sad how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell didn’t include protections for gender identity.” The key is to create a safe space for her to know that whenever she comes out, it will be on her terms.


    Jay replied:

    I’d suggest a method like this as well. :)


    ZenGato replied:

    I agree. If she hasn’t come out to you yet that could mean she is frightened or unsure and putting her on the spot might be the best approach. Better to make her feel more comfortable and accepted so she can make the decision to talk herself.


  2. Neal Alison

    Oh geez, that’s actually a bit of a tough one. Depends on what you think your child’s reaction would be more like:
    There’s the possibility ze would get annoyed at you trying to ‘interfere’ with hir life. But at least ze’d know you accept hir.
    There’s also the possibility that ze’d say along the lines of “You KNEW!?” and has been agonising over how ze was going to tell you. You pre-empt that and end hir pain.
    Mine would be more along the lines of the second if my mother were to ever say this to me – I’d be happy she understands and accepts me, but I’d still not want to work things out until I was ready to talk about it with her. Maybe that’s best, say you know and that you’ll wait if ze wants to talk about it with you.
    Or ze might simply say “Thank you, Mom. That means a lot to me. But I’m going to live my own life.”


  3. Chance

    Put it this way. I think you have to look at in in terms of which option is the “least bad.” By talking to her, you may make her feel a little self-conscious, and she may be angry that you are prying, but by not talking to her, she may feel you’re ignoring a big part of who she is.

    To me, there is nothing better than a parent being concerned and involved with who their child is – and is becoming. Sure, she might think you’re a nosy mom, but that’s a whole lot better than being an uninvolved mom. Whatever choice you make, your daughter will eventually come out to someone who has supported her for a while, and will continue doing so. That’s really all that matters.


  4. Anonymous

    If my mother had said, “____, I love you and I love that you are your own person. I love that you’re growing up and evolving as an adult, and if you ever wanted to talk to me about gender or anything else that is important to who you are, I’d love that, too. I just want to listen and know you, because you’re amazing and impressive.” four years ago, when I was 20, she and I would be closer now. And I would have had my most important supporter as a real ally.

    If that’s what you want to say to her, I can’t imagine that it could be a bad thing.


  5. Tori

    Yes, absolutely ask. In fact, don’t even ask – assume it is so and speak accordingly. If you’re wrong, she at least knows how supportive you WOULD be if it were true, and if it *IS* so, you spare the awkwardness of having to be the one to say it.


    phoebe replied:

    I have to disagree with assumptions – my mom has quite recently made some very poor assumptions concerning my gender, which I have told her nothing about. It is very frustrating to have my MOM shove me into a box that fits in no way, shape or form. At least I chose the box I was in before, even if it wasn’t completely me. In other words, I think assumptions are dangerous.
    On the other hand, slightly leading questions like “You seem to be interested in gender, is there a specific reason?” which give her the option not to respond, but leave it completely open for her to explain, seem like a great idea…I wouldn’t wait for her to bring it up, because, well, from this side of things, its a hard thing to tell your mom. By showing her that you’re thinking about it in an open way would make it easier for her.


  6. Tori

    I was thinking something along the lines of “While you’ve always been the best daughter I could ask for, you’re also make a hell of a son.”


  7. Chuck

    By the way, AllyMom, because you’re wondering this, it means you’re the coolest and best mom ever. :)

    My advice would probably be to first try letting her know you’re okay with it without actually asking, like what the first responder advised….casually dropping things into the conversation that let her know you are totally fine with gender variant people in general, without it specifically being about her. Probably best to do it on several different occasions, and then wait awhile.

    Once she (or he, or ze, or whatever pronoun your daughter prefers) processes the fact that you are accepting of gender variant people, she may come out to you on her own- possibly right away when you first make the comments, or possibly later after she’s had time to think it over.

    If she still doesnt come out after it’s been a few weeks, or months even, then you might try bringing the topic up in a round-about way (by again slipping something into the conversation that is about gender variant people) and then adding something along the line of, ‘you know, if you were gender variant, I would totally love and support you and be cool with it’, or maybe even add, ‘and if you ever wanted to talk about it, I’d be happy to’. That way, she will know that you know (or at least think that you suspect), but it gives her an ‘out’ if she isnt ready to talk about it, she can just sort of give a non-response.


  8. Nicholas

    I think we need more info on your kid. What’s gender-variant to them? If it includes something like clothing, an easy way to show your support without forcing a conversation is to buy gender-irrelevant clothing that perhaps might be something your child might not expect from you. Follow up with a “I thought it might make you happier than XXX I was going to get you.” My mom did that (she bought me a couple cardigans that could “go either way”), and it made me feel like she was understanding, or trying to. It made me feel like I was exploring my gender expression with her support and encouragement, and not like I was sneaking around the “Why are you wearing that?” comments.

    It kind of opened the door to talking about my gender expression without making a declaration. We just talked about clothes :)


  9. Anonymous

    I agree that “gender variant” can encompass such broad expressions/identities that it’s hard to say what’s appropriate.

    My recommendation is to take the action of “asking/not asking” your child out of the equation and, instead, be as transparent (no pun intended, really) as possible by telling hir where you’re coming from. e.g. “I noticed [specific things] that lead me to believe that you are gender variant. I don’t want to make assumptions about your gender or that you want to talk to me about it. I respect that your choice not to share this part of your life with me may be deliberate. It’s important to me that you know that I’m open, available, and willing to talk as much or as little as you desire…”


  10. Meike

    I’d say if you’re worried that your daughter might be upset if you asked her outright, I’d honestly err on the side of asking than not. Please don’t just sit there and not say anything for fear of annoying your child, because chances are they might be feeling alone in their gender identity and like it’s some huge secret that they have to keep from you for your own sake. Granted, if my mom were to ask me about it I might be annoyed at first that she knew and hadn’t said something earlier, but in the end I’d be much more thankful for it than anything. I wish you and your child the very best!

    And I agree with Chuck, taking this initiative to try and talk with your daughter about her gender is incredibly awesome, and makes you the best mom ever. :)


  11. Charlotte

    I outright asked my daughter two weeks ago, after years of watching the hell she was going through (she is still only 14) and her relief at being able to tell me everything was overwhelming, for us both.

    Your daughter may just be waiting for you to ask….mine was finding it hard to find the words to tell me.


  12. Keena

    First of all, I am very proud to see such a kind, understanding mom here on Genderfork. As a gender-variant high-schooler who IS out to most of my friends, it would be nice to have a mother who is more open about such topics.

    I agree completely with Nicholas; it really all depends on your daughter. What makes her/him/hir so gender variant?

    Depending on the situation, I think bringing up gender-related topics would be the best route. Try showing your child that you’re okay with gender differences and open about such things. Maybe watch a movie together with some blurred gender lines (Rocky Horror, anyone?) and openly admire one of the more ‘out there’ characters.

    Hell, you could even mention how much you love Genderfork. I’m sure that could get the ball rolling. :)

    Best of luck for both you and your daughter.


  13. Jessica

    Just like I always prefer telling the truth to telling lies, I always prefer discourse to silence. Any silence can become a lie, especially one born in fear.

    But I don’t know your daughter. It is really very difficult to know how to deal with someone you never met. There is such a thing as being too sensitive and you don’t want your daughter to think you’re trying to micromanage her personal development. it depends on the nature of your relationship. This varies from parent to parent and from child to child. My second eldest would be grossly offended if I approached any intimate subject as an unwarranted intrusion that suggested a lack of trust on my part. My youngest would be embarrassed but understanding and would try to help me not be bothered about whatever it was.

    Sometimes you have to stand back and let them pace back and forth at the edge of the precipice. It’s scary but you can’t protect them. They don’t belong to you. Love them and help them pick up the pieces if they fall.


  14. Poet

    I so badly want to tell my mom about my gender identity, I just don’t know how to. If she gave me some signal that she knew I don’t know if I would be confused and more anxious about telling her or if I would be relieved. I suppose it would depend on the strength of the signal. Chances are that even if she takes it badly at first, things will be a lot easier for her and you afterward. I would advocate just asking her; if she denies it at first at least she’ll know the door is open and you love her no matter her identity.


    Anonymous replied:

    So, how has your mother made you feel unable to tell her about some very important things in your life? Is she a religious fanatic or otherwise mentally deficient? Do you think she does not deserve to know or do you think she would prefer not knowing? What could she do to let you know that she is ready to be told about you?


    Poet replied:

    It isn’t any of those things. It’s more complicated than that. It’s like confessing to the biggest lie you’ve ever told. There’s some guilt, and even shame involved. You can’t lie to everyone you know for twenty odd years and then just expect them to be ok with everything.


  15. Anonymous

    I don’t know if you violated your child’s privacy (ie snooping) AllyMom but if that was the case shame on you.


  16. kendall

    @15, congrats on being a cynic
    if queer kids are the most prone to suicide and dropping out of school its be nice to know that theres a mom whos just genuinely concerned and wants their kid safe and happy, by the time you’re 20 you learn to hide things better, until I had my own laptop I deleted every page after I’d leave the computer, if you don’t want someone to find something, learn to hide it better, but in this case it seems to me its such a sincere wanting their kid safe and happy that I’m understanding my mom own crying and saying “HOW CAN I HELP YOU IF I DON’T KNOW WHATS WRONG?!?” And me saying “I’m broken, you can’t fix me, doctors can’t fix me, I can’t fix myself, fuck off” and how this was terrible, it happened but her hugging me and saying “I love you no matter what” and me yelling in her face “YEAH RIGHT? YOU WOULDN’T IF YOU KNEW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME!” because like I mentioned I was damaged and one day I stopped giving a fuck and she had decided I was doing crack or something and I was sad because my girlfriend dumped me and she said “I know you two were close and that its always been hard for you to make friends..thats why you were so special to eachother..because you were both so very alone in the world” and I said “and cause I loved her but yeah” and it went downhill, something about, I thought you liked johnny depp.. but it was fine.. I had hair past my ass for years and years as my own portable closet I hope ally’s mom and ally are doing better this may have been posted a year ago so hopefully something good has come from it


  17. Kristyn

    I would love it if my mom ever straight up asked me if I was transgendered. She still doesn’t know because she’s either too scared or too ignorant and our relationship isn’t such that I could share without risking a lot of negative outcome.
    I say go for it, if my mom had it would be easier to respect her


  18. Atticus

    I have so much respect for a mother who views this as a legitimate state of being. I’m in a different boat then any of the other trans people I know or have talked to. I TRY to tell my mother, almost every day. Mom I’m not a girl. Mom this is who I am and you can clearly see that I’m still me. But she blows is off. You’re a girl, so you can’t do that. You’re a girl…like that’s my only choice…so seeing this is just…uplifting. Find a non-volatile way to bring it up and keep being there. Whoever your child is or wants to be is legitimate. Thank you from a kid who can’t be seen…


  19. Atticus

    I have so much respect for a mother who views this as a legitimate state of being. I’m in a different boat then any of the other trans people I know or have talked to. I TRY to tell my mother, almost every day. Mom I’m not a girl. Mom this is who I am and you can clearly see that I’m still me. But she blows is off. You’re a girl, so you can’t do that. You’re a girl…like that’s my only choice…so seeing this is just…uplifting. Find a non-volatile way to bring it up and keep being there. Whoever your child is or wants to be is legitimate. Thank you from a kid who can’t be seen that way…


  20. Ani

    It was so incredibly difficult for me at the age of 25 to tell my father about my own personal issues with gender. I see my father as my best friend, he’s always been supportive in everything I do. You could say I had no reason to be scared, but I don’t know at what point is he going to just say “this is too much for me.” and see me completely different and treat me differently.

    He was still loving and supportive as ever as I brought it up to him, but I felt like I was forcing the words out and was on the verge of just breaking down as I was doing so.

    I have to agree with the first reply. Somehow bring up the topic in conversation so that she’s aware of your position and view of it. That you’re okay and supportive. She might not come out to you right then and there, but it will most likely be something she remembers and when she becomes comfortable with sharing it with you and wants to share it with you, it will be easier for her.

    It’s nice to believe that our parents will always love us “no matter what”, but we constantly see how that isn’t true for some people. If the subject has never come up, there is no way of knowing.


  21. mim

    I personally don’t talk to my mother about my love & sex life and neither about gender issues, because I think it’s not her business and I’m afraid she’d comment on it and thus get some control about it. Actually she’s quite liberal, but sometimes, especially when it come to gender, she just gets things wrong.

    So what I want to say is that your child maybe just doesn’t feel like explaining it all to you and you shouldn’t be disappointed or upset if you open the way for a conversation about it and ze doesn’t “confess” what’s going on with hir.


    Jessica replied:

    I remember my mother saying that the hardest thing for her about my sister coming out as a lesbian was talking to all her friends (solicitous or otherwise) – none of whose business this was.

    My father died when I was 4, so I don’t have a very good take on how we would have dealt with me. I imagine from how he dealt with others that he’d be mad as hell at first, then he’d think it through and be so supportive and helpful that I’d wish I’d never told him.


  22. Echo

    I can’t think of much to say that hasn’t been said but if she’s worried about you not accepting or supporting her then it might help to be a tiny bit blunt. Subtle hints may not work if she’s scared and thinks she may be misreading them. The same goes for if she’s worried you may not understand properly. Try to make her understand that you truly do have an open mind.

    I know that’s one issue I have with my mom. She says she supports and accepts me but I get the impression her level of understanding on anything gender-related outside her personal experience is superficial. She won’t even acknowledge that gender roles are learned from a very young age whether it’s being intentionally taught or not, and believes the things she saw on TV that come from reputable sources over anything I say(like the generalization that all trans people played with the opposite gender’s toys as young children.) I’m not comfortable spending time with her because of her biases, not the ones toward me because I’m her child but the ones she has over what she thinks she knows about gender.
    I practically had to threaten to cut her out of my life to get her to stop pushing her worries and her perception of my gender identity onto me, which gave me the impression that she wanted me to stop transitioning so she would feel better.

    I don’t think I’ll ever try to explain that my gender isn’t part of the binary she lives in.


  23. Jessica

    I keep reading these sensible. moderate opinions and thinking how fortunate the people writing these opinions are. Imagine being transgender in Saudi Arabia, or in the slums of Sao Paulo. The only comparable horror would be to have bible thumper parents who walk in fear of the gay agenda and think all LGBT/TS/Q folk (especially T/TS folk) should be institutionalized or perhaps killed outright.

    There is so much injustice and reckless hatred in this imperfect world. We, all of us, need to appreicate the privilege we have to discover ourselves and manifest non-cisgenderness and commit to work to protect/extend the rights others have suffered and died to give us.


  24. qwertos

    As a genderqueer/agendered child, I applaud you for making an effort to understand and show acceptance toward your own child.

    My advice (Part I): RESEARCH! Everything! It seems like you have already made an effort to do this (by coming and asking this question in the first place) but don’t stop; continue to collect sources. If you happen to find a good book, magizine article, or website, leave it out on your kitchen table or table next to your couch (or similar). Let become a conversation starter. If you have friends over don’t hide it. Not only will this become a possible conversation starter, it will also give you ideas on what to ask and what not to ask. A question that may seem innocent to the person asking may be very offencive to the person being asked. This being said, everyone is different so take it with a grain of salt.

    My Advice (Part II): Be careful with what you say!! This has a little backstory to go with it. My parents appear (and are to some extent are) very open minded about a lot of things regarding sexuality and gender. We have a t-girl friend that we pickup for church most Sundays, and my parents are for gay marrage and against DADT (along with other standered open minded stances on current issues). One time when we were in church my step mom commented about my hair making me look like a girl (I have been wearing my hair long for a while now, and with it long I can pass as quite feminine). I replied with the question: “Is that a problem?”. Her answer: “Well, yes”. I was dumbfounded. I was expecting a “Nope” or a “Is that what you want?”. If they had replied with something along those lines I probably would have come out within the next few weeks, rather than a few years later. (I am sort of out to them at this point but not as out as a probably could be.) If you are not sure how your answer will affect them, ask a question instead. Get clairification on what they said or want to hear (but don’t lie when you respond). Don’t respond in absolutes as people and answers change as time goes on. Coming out is extreemly nerve racking and personal, so don’t make a big deal out of it. Let your child set the pace for any conversation. Don’t start an interrigation, they will most likly want to close the door to their closet again.

    My Advice (Part III): This is not really advice as more of a comment about what parents say. More specifically: “I will love you regardless of who you are.” We ALL want to believe this to be true, but remember, we read these sites to. As much as I would like to believe this to be not true, I am sure that some one in the same shoes as me will come and read my story in part II and be scared to open their closet door.

    Well there are my two cents.


  25. Anonymous

    I think it’s reasonable to be worried about “prying”

    Just out and say “I don’t know if you’re gender variant, but if you are I think that’s great.” and then don’t pressure her to say anything. And she might never, but she’ll know you support whatever her gender identity/expression is.


  26. Lucas/Emma

    I would suggest making it clear to ze (through support of certain issues) that it would be safe for ze to confide in you. If this is made clear and ze does not take the bait, simply ask your child what hir preferred pronouns are. This will both show your knowledge and support of gender variance, and solve the dilemma of what hir identity is.


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