While I didn’t understand what being transgender meant when my son Leo came out, I supported him immediately. I knew that members of the LGBTQ+ community who had supportive family members thrived compared to those who did not. Besides, whatever I felt about Leo being transgender, I needed to work out on my own. What I didn’t know was what my husband would think about it. Would he support our child? We both grew up in religious homes, but his house was much more conservative than mine. He had a very different way of thinking about a lot of things.
I learned Leo was transgender in the early hours of a quiet January morning, long before anyone else in my household. And during those hours I spent alone before my husband woke up, I agonized over his reaction. Leo came out in a Facebook post, and one of the first things my husband did in the morning was to check social media while eating breakfast. I was in the other room doing college work and waited for him to come in and discuss what he had read with me. Except, he never came.
When your partner doesn’t support your child, who do you choose?
“How do I tell him I’m going to choose our son?” kept running through my mind as the tears ran down my face. I have three different anxiety disorders and am prone to catastrophic thinking. I often go to worst-case scenario when there isn’t a worst case scenario. My husband hadn’t offered an opinion about Leo being transgender, and I had already decided he didn’t support him. It sounds awful. It hurts my heart to remember how little credit I gave my husband that morning.
Not only did my husband accept our son, but he had an easier time than I did. As long as his kids are happy and healthy, that’s all that matters to him. He didn’t have anything to work through. He just accepted it and moved forward. Not everyone is that lucky. Some of you have partners or spouses who don’t support your child. What do you do then?
Sometimes your spouse or partner needs more time.
It could be that your spouse or partner hasn’t come to a place of acceptance because they aren’t ready. They may need to do more research about what it means to be transgender. It might be hard for them to be supportive if they don’t have enough information to do so. Or, they could have a lot of feelings about your child coming out. They may have to work through those emotions first. They can’t get on board until they have finished grieving or sorting out exactly how they feel.
It’s not that they aren’t supportive; they aren’t in a place to be able to give their support.
Sometimes your spouse or partner needs some space. You may decide that in order to move forward you need to take a break from your unsupportive spouse or partner. There’s nothing wrong with this choice. Breaks are healthy and can lead to good things in a relationship. It could lead to action on the part of your spouse or partner. They may realize that they don’t like being apart from their family and that space may be what motivates them to work through whatever has them stuck regarding your child.
And sometimes, space brings clarity. Space may give your spouse or partner time to realize that they aren’t going to come to a place of understanding or support. It may also provide you with time to recognize that you aren’t going to allow the unsupportive behavior to continue. Where you go from here is up to you.
Only you can decide what to do about an unsupportive spouse or partner.
Other people in your life may have an opinion about how you should move forward. At the end of the day, that choice is yours and yours alone. There are a lot of factors to consider, and you should enlist the help of a trained professional. Like when deciding what to do about unsupportive family members, a lot will depend on how old your child is. Do they live at home with you? Will your unsupportive spouse or partner have access to them? How does your child feel about it? How do you feel about it? No one else gets an opinion after that.
If you came here looking for answers, I’m sorry. I’m not a trained professional, and I can’t offer a solution to a problem only you can solve. I can offer some guide posts and some things to think about. I can also provide a listening ear, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. If you don’t have support for yourself, I’m here to hold you up while you get back on your feet again.
You aren’t alone. You are going to be okay, and so is your child.