Ray & June Part 2: Concerns (and Responses)

Conversations Between a Trans Teen & His Grandmother

Authors’ Note: The concerns expressed below serve as a follow-up to the conversation between Ray and his grandmother June. Although June felt that she ran the risk of offending Ray by enumerating her major concerns about his transition, her knowledge deepened and the bond between them grew stronger through the following interchange.

Grandma June
Now, it’s one thing to understand the process of your transition, both intellectually and emotionally. I’ve done the research and my heart is in the right place. It’s another thing to deal with the concerns which ranged from the mundane to the meaningful, from the short-term to the imaginings of what will happen “someday.” Here’s a list in no particular order.

What’s to become of your hair?

Ray
Probably not much. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people care so much what I do with my hair.

Grandma June
Do you think my concern over your hair might be fear that you’ll become a different person or that I’m losing you?

Ray
I have never been afraid of becoming a different person. That is an irrational fear only cisgender people have. I might change as a person over time, as my life and experiences progress, but that will never be because I transitioned or have to do with my hair.

Grandma June
Are you sure about your transition? Will you have regrets?

Ray
I make a point, in regards to everything in my life, to acknowledge that I have no idea what the future holds. That being said, I have no doubts about my transition. I did have doubts back when I was 12 years old and figuring things out or just about to come out, but no one comes out unless they’re totally sure (at least in that moment). And hey– detransitioning is really stigmatized as is. It’s okay to mess up, just don’t try to blame the trans community at large.

Grandma June
Are the hormones safe for your body?

Ray
Most trans people receiving HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have an endocrinologist specifically responsible for making sure that the answer to this question is “yes.” Another thing to consider is it might be worth it to a trans person to put their health at risk in order to transition. I’m not recommending that, I’m just saying that you may not be able to empathize with a trans person’s priorities. Even if you can’t empathize, it’s still not really your business.

Grandma June
Will you find love? Have a family?

Ray
Yep! Happens all the time. 

Grandma June
Will you experience prejudice?

Ray
Probably yes, but it’s nothing I didn’t sign up for. Regardless of where it shows up, every trans person will inevitably experience prejudice in their life. However, the existence of transphobia is not a reason to invalidate or fear being trans.  It is the world’s job to open up to trans people, not our job to hide when people don’t accept us. It’s also worth noting that you as a family member have the power to be a loving, supportive, and helpful ally who can make my navigation of the world easier.

Grandma June
Will I have to destroy the treasured photos of your early life? For example, when I was preparing the Craig’s 50th-anniversary video, I wanted to make sure you were comfortable, so I searched for gender-neutral baby photos.

Ray
Many of the old photos do make me uncomfortable to see or to have shared publicly. But that does not mean that you, my dear Granny, can’t enjoy them in the privacy and comfort of our familial relationship. 

Grandma June
In addition to the concerns listed above, I was afraid that I’d always struggle to use male pronouns and to refer to you as “he/him.” I was jealous of your sister’s young pliable brain, so quick to adapt. But with all my good intentions, I lagged far behind. Knowing how much I cared, I’m wondering how you felt about this, especially when you heard the wrong pronoun slip out of my mouth and I tried to cover it immediately. Pretending that it didn’t happen. Maybe even apologizing. 

Ray
I’m not sure whether you know this, but moving on immediately after correcting oneself is often the preferred way of dealing with misgendering for many trans people. We don’t want to draw any more attention to the mistake than you do. 

I will never claim that it doesn’t hurt to be misgendered, almost no one will. It hurts especially coming from family members, and it’s more frustrating when you know they’re trying their hardest but simply failing due to “generational differences” aka aging. It also hurts more after having been out for a while, because I am used to being gendered correctly all the time, so a stray “she” here and there sticks out and stings more. 

Grandma June
Do I tell people you’re trans? I’m so utterly proud of you and feel like you’re a model for other people struggling with gender identity. How do I honor you?

Ray
The answer to these questions vary on a case by case basis. I am proud of myself too, and I agree with you that I can be a model for others. I welcome you reaching out on my behalf to trans or other LGBT+ people who you know to be struggling. In general, however, the whole world does not need to know that I am trans just because it is something to be proud of. Lots of things are deserving of pride that people choose not to share. And while I am incredibly proud of myself and happy to share many aspects of my experience, the story and experiences that I have had and can share are for me, not to appease others or prove myself to them.

Authors’ Note: Dear family members of trans people, the trans person(s) you know may not want to answer your questions as we’ve done above. For many trans people, it takes emotional labor to be a spokesperson solely in charge of teaching our families to “understand trans people,” especially as a teenager. However, there are lots of other resources out there to help educate yourself on the trans experience and vocabulary to use to help you better understand it. Don’t be afraid of searching online!

Here are a few links to get you started:
Coming Out As LGBTQ+
What Not to Say to a Trans Person
6 Ways to Support a Transgender Friend
7 Ways Schools Can Support Transgender Students

Read the rest of the series:
Intro
Part 1: Transitioning
Part 3: Recommendations

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