A friend approached me about a transgender-related question the other day. For the record, this person has also been very supportive of me and has embraced the woman I am. So there were no logistics regarding myself that were needed before answering her question.
“A parent I know is transitioning [from being assigned female gender at birth to male]. What should I tell their child to call them?
What struck me about this question was that after having known me as a woman for some time and inquired deeply of my need to take this turn, she still was uncertain of how to approach this very sensitive topic with regards to someone else. I kept my answer simple.
“They should call them whatever they want to be called.”
What I found was that the question went deeper than that. My friend was concerned that the single-digit child would become confused by essentially having two fathers. With no way to differentiate one from the other, the use of “Dad” for both seemed to be too much. She made a suggestion on another word to use, but I personally wanted to ensure that the proper reasoning for what to call this transitioning individual – whom I do not personally know – was properly established. For her sake, and the child’s whom she was given the responsibility to provide guidance in the face of a “new” parent.
“I would tell the child to use ‘father’ because that would make his parent feel so very good. If [the father] wants to be called something else, then leave that to them share with their child what they would prefer. I know that I personally would hate to be called anything other than mom, and I assume he feels the same.”
Though I’m not a parent myself, I understand that parenting situations differ from family to family. The goal of me sharing this is moreso for the ally to understand what it means to encounter a family member or a parent who is transitioning. Also to show how important it is to be open and understanding to guide those who seek political correctness. In their attempt to learn and be cautious to trans persons they want to support, they may mistakenly say something that is on the offensive side, depending on the person. Or get bogged down by jargon in their attempt to be a proper ally, which could cause them to miss the boat in how simple it is to just ask and be a sensitive human being.
For example, she mentioned me being “MtF”. Probably because it’s an easy term that she likely picked up in her research to understand me better. Though she meant well, and I knew she meant well, I let her know I personally do not use that terminology to identify myself for two reasons:
- I feel it cheapens my identity as simply being a girl/woman and
- I feel it does damage society’s progression of differentiating between crossdressers/drag and what it means to be transgender – living a very honest reality in the face of what a doctor has deemed us, not a transformation.
Helping those willing to learn and not getting frustrated if someone does not quite grasp embracing a person’s lived reality is the best thing I feel myself and the transgender community can do to keep pressing onward to general acceptance. Knowing that my existence has changed my friend’s perspective in a positive way, both mentally and spiritually, warms my heart. As I continue moving forward in my pursuit of my goals & aspirations, I hope to do the same for others as well.