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.