In the first days after my son came out as transgender, I wasn’t sure how to share the news with our friends and family. My son had posted an announcement about it on Facebook, but anyone who was not on his list of friends didn’t see it. Some of our family is not only missing from that list, but they also don’t use Facebook at all. I admit to being worried about how the news would be taken, and if there were unsupportive people in my larger circle of social relationships.
Several days later, I sent out an email broadcast alerting a list of people to the news. In return, I received some of the most surprising correspondences back. Some people shared with me about other folks they knew who were also in the same situation, and I received messages of support from people I never expected to.
Since that time, almost four years ago, I’ve watched as people, who in the early days were outwardly supportive, portray themselves in a different light on social media.
It has looked like sharing anti-LGBTQ articles or transphobic or homophobic memes; or commenting on ones that other people have shared negatively. Or people asking questions that are meant to challenge the idea that being transgender is an actual thing, vs. asking questions to expand their knowledge or understanding of being transgender. Sometimes negativity shows up as supporting legislation or politicians that are looking to deny fundamental rights to the transgender and greater LGBTQ community. It has looked like people who have used their religious beliefs against both my children and me (this is a fan favorite). It continually surprises me how many unsupportive people do so under the guise of, “It was just a joke” or “I was only kidding” or “You know I didn’t mean it like THAT, right?”
None of this is acceptable.
I regularly have to decide if I’m going to engage with unsupportive people, and how much longer I’m going to continue to stand for their intolerance. I’ve unfollowed people on social media so that I can no longer see what they are sharing. I’ve blocked people on social media so that they can no longer contact me through any of my channels. And some people I continue to tolerate because I’m not sure that cutting them out of my life is the best decision. Yet.
I know other parents who have had family members refuse to address their child by the correct name or pronouns, going so far as to send them letters incorrectly worded and addressed. I have heard stories of grandparents who refuse to attend their grandchildren’s school functions because they don’t approve of their grandchild (or their child) being transgender. A child’s teacher refused to call the child by the name requested by the parents, citing, “They haven’t had a legal name change, so I’m going by what’s in my grade book.”
So, what do you do about these people? In the case of teachers, it’s a little more complicated. There are resources that can help, which I share in this post. With other people, you have to make a choice.
Keep those people in your life or walk away.
If you want to try and keep unsupportive people in your life, there are few things you can try to maintain a healthy relationship.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they don’t recognize that what they are saying/sharing/doing is harmful or hateful.
- Try and educate. Share articles and resources that counter misinformation.
- Engage in productive conversations and exchanges. Try to use positive language.
However, sometimes, you have to cut your losses. Your child and their emotional wellbeing come first. Not everyone wants to be educated and given the opportunity to grow, and that’s okay. You can only do the best you can do, and your best is always good enough. Don’t consider it a failure if you have to end a relationship. Remember, the most important person here is your child. Ignorance, intolerance, and hate are not methods of being supportive, no matter how many other ways a person says, “I love you and support your family.”
What people say, especially when it’s negative, will stick with you for a long time. Sometimes, you have to cut the ties for the health of both you and your child. They don’t need to hear those kinds of messages, especially when they are coming from someone who they thought cared about them.
If someone makes unkind of intolerant comments towards you or your child, they have to live with the consequences of that decision. If you have tried to educate and offer opinions, but they continue to shower you with hate and hurt, it’s time to cut that person out of your life. It’s not up to you to fix them or their ideas. And if they try to make you feel bad for your decision, remember, it was their choice to be unsupportive. That’s on them, not on you.
The best thing you can do is grieve the loss of the relationships you thought you had with those unsupportive people, and move on. Remember, you and/or your child are not the problem. Keep loving and supporting your child. Don’t give another minute of thought to anyone who can’t join you in doing the same.