When I started transitioning, it was freightening, but it was also joyful. I’d been numb for so long, but starting to accept myself brought colour back to the world. And then the people around me started grieving for what was bringing me joy.
I think the closest I could compare it to for cis people is that you’ve found someone who you love, and who loves you, who treats you well, and who brings you joy. But your family and friends tell you that loving this person means you are no longer the person they thought you were, that they are grieving for who they wanted you to be. They refuse to meet your love. They tell you everyday how heartbroken they are that you’re in love. They try to convince you that you’re not in love, that you’re not able to love.
Even if they get over that, it lives on for you, and you get engaged and for a moment you’re happy and then you realise you’ll have to tell them and all the joy is gone. On your wedding day all you can think of is how your happiness is hurting the people who love you. Even if, on your wedding day, they celebrate and congratulate you, you still feel so broken and so selfish for doing what brings you joy.
It’s possible to recover. But it’s hard. And that harm will never be undone, even if it’s repaired.
This leaves a question that a lot of people, especially parents, ask when a loved one transitions: How should you respond? Just as there is no one wrong way to respond, there is no one right way either. The most basic and safest way to respond is to thank the trans, trans nonbinary, or nonbinary person for trusting you with that news, and do your best to adapt quickly to any new name or pronouns. For more ideas on how to support a trans, trans nonbinary, or nonbinary person, click here for an earlier blog post that deals with that directly.