Today’s blog is for everyone. All you wonderful people who read my words. The trans people and the cis people, all the allies. Every one of you who is interested in how people’s worlds differ from each other.
As I type, I’m talking to each of you because every single one of us has times of need and times of giving. Each of you is both ally and in need of allies. Every one of us has felt on the outside, needed a hand to come into the middle.
Everyone needs allies
Whenever I speak about inclusion, I try to make the concept bigger than about one aspect of self, because we are never just one aspect of ourselves. We are multifaceted with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. Sometimes we are vulnerable and sometimes we are strong. We are always trans, or cis, but these aspects rarely need to dominate conversation or interactions even if sometimes they need a bit of extra acceptance.
Today’s blog is for you. This blog is for those who strive always to be the best version of themselves, for those who slip off that wagon. I write equally to the loved and those who feel they are unlovable. I know that you are all worthy, I know that each of you is special and especially worthy of respect as your true self.
These words are for those of you who have found love, friendship, and companionship outside your birth family, for whatever reasons.
I have spoken about found family before. The close group of people we build around ourselves who understand us.
For many people, our birth families are not happy places. The news is tragically full of the trauma of children raised in homes where love, respect and empathy were not the guiding watch words.
Too many times generational trauma plays out as parents pass on a legacy of control, of abuse, of denial and rigidity to their children. Perhaps a matriarch rules your extended blood family with a rod of iron. Maybe everyone steps carefully around an uncle, he of the uncertain temper. You are not alone.
The school of “well it never did any harm to me” is a harsh one. A place where the weak, the small and powerless, learn lessons of force and compliance. A cycle plays out, of innate resistance broken. Lessons coated in a veneer of good intentions but powered by an underlying current of unquestioning obedience to a set of values, a family creed.
For some the leaving of the old trauma means the leaving of their birth family. Moving away, finding yourself in freedom.
Some of you will have cut ties completely and yet others stay in touch. Every one of us has distinct reasons for what we do and do not do and so you should not feel shame for your choices. If your holiday will be better spent working, or studying, or staying with a friend that is OK. It is your holiday and your mental wellbeing that matters.
Others may want to, or feel obliged to, return to the family home. Try to make amends, or to connect with loved ones within the wider group. I know some of you will even put your authentic self back in the box so you can be with those you love, even as you struggle with their lack of acceptance. That is OK too. I see you, I know you are trying, I know the worth in you, even when you doubt it yourself.
I often say that part of this role is for me to hold the line when others cannot see it. I am the hope when times are dark. That is the counsellor’s way. With our empathy we share your fear of the deep water and know that together we will reach safety.
So you want to be an ally?
These next words are for you, some ideas that you could try.
I have no crystal ball, no idea what the government will announce in the next few hours or days and so I address these words to the probabilities. Some of us will be forced through covid, through lockdown, through transport issues to remain in our homes. Others may find a short visit unduly extended.
All families are different and, like most people, walk an unsteady line between being just fine and being too much. It can really help to negotiate boundaries beforehand. Do you know how everyone else keeps themself safe? You could agree to have a soft corner where anyone can spend some time and not be disturbed. Plan to set aside two hours each day for everyone to spend time in individual pursuits. Take headphones so you can all watch different YouTube channels.
When in doubt shout it out
Are your family trying but slipping up sometime? Being the loudmouth of the bunch will be your biggest asset. You have the confidence to challenge people in support of your loved one. Making gentle corrections or terrible jokes, trust that you know best.
How about an airhorn or other agreed signal that one person has control of to be blarted every time your sibling’s name or pronouns are misspoken?
A parent’s love
Has your child just come out to you? Have you experienced negativity from your parents? Take time to think about your boundaries. What is acceptable, what is not. Remember that your child, no matter if they are 4 or 40 will be feeling vulnerable.
Early transition is a tender, delicate time
Coming out, being in early transition is a tender time. They are growing and coming to understand themself better. Ask them in advance how they would like you to respond if great nuntie Flo gets their name wrong. Speak with their siblings and present a united front. Your child needs you now. Strengthen them and I guarantee that you will get a stronger relationship with your grandchildren too.
Normalise being trans, it is simply an aspect of your loved one, just something that most people have not known until now. Use the correct pronouns even in your head. Practice correcting each other when talking about your loved one in their absence. Your natural acceptance will model the right way for others.
Discuss with your loved one what pronouns or name they would like you to use when reminiscing. When families come together, we strengthen our bonds of love and connection by sharing stories, memories. You can guide the family in acceptance by evoking the right memories. Include your loved one in the conversation and others will soon follow suit.
Listen. Listen with respect, with empathy, with acceptance. If you are struggling, then seek out the help of another member of the family. Remember all the good things about each other. Take a tip from Vie, the wellness coach, who encourages people to write compliments to each other.
The richest gift you can give this year is love. Give it freely and I promise you it will grow and grow.
Most importantly remember, you are amazing. You are lovely and you are loveable. Give yourself love too.
See you in the new year
See you in the new year and stay safe. The Beyond Reflections team are taking a break over the holidays too. Our last working day is Thursday 23rd December and we return on Tuesday 4th January.
We will have a limited service on our phones and messages on the 29th, 30th and 31st December and look forward to seeing you all soon when our groups restart in the new year.