The “T” Stands Alone

 

Reading the dust jacket:

 

Chris Beck played high school football.  He bought a motorcycle, much to his mother’s dismay, at age 17.  He grew up to become a Navy SEAL, serving our country for twenty years on thirteen deployments, including seven combat deployments, and ultimately earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  To everyone who saw him, he was a hero.  A warrior.  A man.

 

But underneath his burly beard, Chris had a secret, one that had been buried deep inside his heart since he was a little boy – one as hidden as the panty hose in the back of his drawer.  He was transgender, and the woman inside needed to get out.  (Beck, K. and Speckhard, A. (2013) Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender)

 

Chris Beck is now Kristin Beck.  Living her life as the woman she knew she was for most of her life.  Anderson Cooper had the exclusive interview with Kristin when her book came out.  Kristin is making waves.  Not only in the military world, but also for transgendered persons worldwide.

 

I’ve heard the following comments, “As a transgendered individual, I don’t ‘fit’ with the LGB group.  Being transgendered is a very different experience…”  “You’re presenting at an LGBT conference.  Is the “T” really going to be discussed/represented?”  “I feel more like an outsider as a transgendered individual.”

 

As children we repeated in sing song voices, “Hi ho the dairy-oh, the cheese stands alone!”  Sadly, for many transgendered individuals, they stand alone.

 

The “T” Stands Alone.

 

Much is written about how to be an ally to our LGB friends and family members.  Are there certain considerations that need to be made specifically for our transgendered friends and family members?  Let me illustrate this point by telling a story.

 

Abe* is 16 years old and recently shared with his mother and therapist that he is transgendered and would like to begin the transition process to become a woman. Once Abe shared with his therapist that he was transgendered, she quickly referred him to me.  Astute therapists will recognize their limitations and help their clients find the right professionals with the proper training to assist in the continued therapeutic process.

 

Abe’s mother was beside herself.  Distraught.  Confused.  Anxious.  Depressed.  What could she possibly do at this point to support her child?

 

A few weeks later, a surprise.  Abe’s mother came in to chat with me and shared that she noticed in the way back of her son’s medicine cabinet was a bottle of fingernail polish.  She assumed he had taken it from her or one of his female cousins.  While shopping one day, Abe’s mother walked past fingernail polish at the store.  She purchased several bottles.

 

That night, Abe’s mother received a text:

 

Abe: Uh, did you buy me fingernail polish?

Mom: Yes, I did.

Abe: Um, thanks.  I like it.

Mom: You’re welcome.

Abe: Mom, we’re going to need some fingernail polish remover before school on Monday.

Mom: No problem.  I love you!

 

Six lines of text.  Very simple.  Yet, oh so powerful.  Abe was not expecting the gift of the nail polish.  His mother simply purchased it for him.  This simple purchase and act of support conveys so many messages!  1) I love you.  2) I accept you.  3) I want to support you.  4) You’re important to me.  5) You matter.  6) We’re in this TOGETHER.  7) You’re not alone.

 

The attempted suicide rate among transgendered individuals is nearly 50%; contrast this percentage with the societal rate of attempted suicide of 2%..    Clearly, more understanding, communicating, and acceptance needs to be happening to save these valuable members of our families.  Our families of origin. The families we choose.

 

What can you do if someone shares with you that they are transgendered?  First, tell them you love them.  Tell them you feel honored that they felt safe to tell you something so intimate about themselves.   If needed, tell them you need time to process this information.  Tell them you’d like more information about what being transgendered means.  Ask them about their experience.  Ask them how you can support them.

 

Transitioning from one gender to another is a long process.  It is arduous.  It is complicated.  How can allies, friends and family members show their support during the transition process?  I have encouraged transgendered folks to get a manicure and pedicure, or a facial.  To buy a piece of clothing they’d like to wear during and after they’ve transitioned.  To open an email account with the name they’d like to use during and after the transition process.  For my clients who are transitioning now, I use their chosen name during the process.

 

I am sure there are more than 1,001 ways in which families, friends, and allies of transgendered individuals can support their loved one(s) during any and all of the transition process.

 

I’d like to ask the following of all of you:  In the comments below this post, please share your suggestions, your stories, information, and experiences about being transgendered.  Feel free to share what means the most to you, or what has meant the most to you during your transition process.  Let us know what helps, and what hurts.

 

If you are a friend, family member, or ally of someone who is transgendered, please share your suggestions, your stories, information, and experiences about supporting and loving someone who is transgendered.  Feel share what you’ve learned, what you wish you might have known sooner.

 

I stand with the “T”.

 

The “T” does not stand alone.

5 comments for “The “T” Stands Alone

  1. Mungagungadin
    July 2, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Thank you SO much for this article. I’m a straight ally and I absolutely stand with the “T”. I have felt that T-folks comprehend my feelings regarding inherent value and total equality between the genders more than any other group. They have lot of insight to offer regarding our social pressures and strict gender roles, especially on the nature and current questions of patriarchy and priesthood.

    For any who may need a support group or are ready to support other Mormon-ish T people they love, there is now Transgender Mormons and Allies in the facebook forum-world.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/450454028337645/

    All supportive people are welcome.

  2. Vicki Johnson
    July 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Dear Hollie,
    My heart is melted. This IS so helpful. I hope 500 people post comments with suggestions.
    You have helped me so much here.
    I STAND WITH THE T!

    You are loved.
    You are enough.
    Vicki

  3. Bri
    July 3, 2013 at 2:09 am

    I stand with the T, because I’m part of the T. I like to think that, even if I wasn’t part of the alphabet soup, I’d still be supportive, but I honestly don’t know. I have so much respect for anyone who supports me and my brothers and sisters. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in.

    One major suggestion that I can give is to show your support by talking to your bishop or branch president, and maybe even your stake president, about acceptance in the ward, or at least on a bishop-to-member level. I was told in not so many words that transitioning would bring nothing but pain, sadness and throwing away any shot I got at the celestial kingdom, because I was going, as I quote, “down a path of misery and sin.” This was told to me by my bishop, and nothing has stung worse than hearing my own bishop tell me I was a horrible person for being who I am, especially when I told him the alternative was suicide. It felt like I was being told I was better off dead by my own bishop.

    I have a boyfriend, however, who had an accepting family and bishop. Because of this and his amazing ward, he’s stayed in the church and overall loves life. The difference between me, having to leave the church out of a feeling of betrayal and a lack of acceptance by my own bishop (among other people) and my boyfriend, born biologically female, but still attending church and even the elder’s quorum (though not ordained to the priesthood due to administrative reasons) is staggering, and most of it stems from acceptance at both the family and leadership level.

  4. Ryan
    July 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Much thanks to Hollie for starting the dialogue on an issue never properly discussed in Mormon arenas, even LGB Mormon spaces. While some of these spaces may even tack on the “T,” the T, in my opinion, has stood alone most of the time.

    As an activist, I would love to see more queer Mormon politics centered on individuals other than gay, lesbians, and bisexuals. This includes individuals identifying as trans, but opens it to individuals who identify in some other way that doesn’t fall into a mainstream, neat category or normativity. Doing so will help us to seek goals that are truly liberating and inclusive, while helping us to see how victories of same-sex marriage and membership in Boy Scouts of America continue to exclude and oppress individuals.

  5. Jennifer
    July 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Great article on the issue.
    I am an active member and I am in transition. I recently came out to family members and apprised my bishop of the transition. So far, things have gone fairly well, considering the situation. Family is not supportive, but are still friendly. The bishop has said there will be no punitive action, but practical matters require consultation with higher leaders (ex. do I attend Relief Society? Do I hold priesthood? Temple attendance?).

    I don’t know what will happen, but I am hopeful that the right thing will be done here.

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