There is no doubt that the holidays are a nerve-wracking time of year, no matter your family circumstances. Filled with often unattainable expectations that stress us out, add a new announcement of gender diversity, and you have a recipe for added anxiety.
For many of us, this might be the first year that we are introducing our child as a different gender with a new chosen name or pronoun when we go to visit other families during the holidays. Maybe you are signing your Christmas cards or holiday cards with a new name. Because there can be many changes in the lives of families with gender-diverse individuals, I have four tips for you this holiday season.
Preplan as much as possible
Pre-planning is very important because you don’t want to come out to grandma on Christmas morning by showing up with a child who’s presenting as feminine using a feminine name and she/her pronouns if they were assigned male at birth and grandma has only ever known her as her grandson. It can be a shocker, and it’s unfair to grandparents or your child. So, preplan as much as you can. Call people, email people and let people know if your child is going to be presenting as a different gender than what your family or friends are accustomed to. If you are asking people to use a different name, let them know what the chosen name will be. If you’re asking them to use a new pronoun, let them know what the pronoun will be.
Yes, it is stressful. It is stressful to be coming out as a parent for your child. But avoiding difficult conversations doesn’t make it easier on you or your child. Doing so in advance also allows you to have bigger conversations explaining what gender diversity means and how it differs from romantic and sexual attraction. It allows you to offer them resources such as Defining Transgender and Beyond Pronouns.
Big asterisk here: all of this is under the assumption that your child wants everyone you will be visiting to know about their gender identity. Some families choose not to gather and not say anything. And that is important for you to discuss with your child ahead of time. Hence the pre-planning. These are not decisions you want to make 10 minutes before you head out the door to go and see family or 10 minutes before you get onto the zoom call with your whole family.
Affirm and advocate for your child
As stressful as it can be, if people continuously make mistakes using the wrong pronouns, you correct them. Every. Time. “Actually, it’s she,” or “Sorry to interrupt, it’s she,” or “can you please use she when you’re referring to Rose?” You don’t need to make it a loud scene. You don’t need to shame the other person. But you do want to be consistent and insistent. When you’re correcting people in front of your child, you are affirming them, making them feel safer.
Advocate for yourself
Realize that this is a lot. You are, as a parent, vulnerable every time you come out for your child, and it does end up being a lot of emotional labor. So, if you need to take a break, pass the buck off to another parent, aunt, cousin, or someone else in the family who’s affirming. Let them do some explaining or pronoun corrections for a few minutes. It takes a village, right? Take care of yourself, affirm yourself, and don’t feel like you have to back down and be someone different. Isn’t that what our children are teaching us, to be our authentic selves? If you’re uncomfortable in a situation, advocate for yourself like you would for your children. You matter too.
My best secret trick to surviving the holidays
It’s easier to leave than to ask someone to leave. So, if you have a choice, go visit someone instead of inviting them over. And if they are misgendering and using the wrong name, and being completely rude around your child, you can leave. Or even if everything is going swimmingly, but your child is just getting overwhelmed by everything, you can leave. You can be honest and upfront, “you’ve misgendered Rose so many times today that I’m exhausted, and I just have to leave.” Or you can offer an excuse for not feeling well if that makes you more comfortable.
I speak from experience when I say that coming up with those excuses to leave is way easier than asking belligerent Uncle Bill to leave after he spews hate about transgender people three glasses of wine into dinner. So as much as you possibly can, go visit other people.
Those are my four holiday tips: Preplan and advocate for your child. Always, always, always advocate for your child. It is what keeps them safe. Also, advocating for yourself, visiting others, and leaving if you must is much easier than kicking someone out. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with few expectations, much spontaneous joy, authenticity and rest. Lots of rest.
Have you taken the parenting style quiz yet? Find out if you are the parent your gender-diverse child needs and get some tips for moving forward.