DEAR AMY: I am a transgender teenager in high school. I will graduate in May. A couple of my friends know that I’m trans. They’re wonderful people who respect my preferred pronouns and chosen name. My parents don’t know yet. My problem is that I want with all of my heart to be out and proud, but I’m afraid to come out to my parents. Sometimes I think this fear is irrational, and sometimes I think that I’ll never come out. I’m not scared of my mom’s reaction. I think she will be shocked but accepting. My dad, however, could be a wild card (he was raised in a very conservative family). I don’t want to make my mom keep this secret from him. I love my parents and want to include them in this part of my life, but even thinking about coming out puts me on the edge of a panic attack. Do you have any advice for me? I want to start transitioning as quickly as I can. I hate not being seen for who I really am.
Trans and Scared
DEAR TRANS: This is a common experience, not only for trans people, but for others along the great human spectrum. We all want the freedom to be who we are, and the security of being loved as we are.
I shared your question with Luca Maurer, a teacher and trans activist at Ithaca College. Luca and I agree that support — from your accepting friends — is key for you, as you contemplate coming out to others.
Luca responds: “There’s no one way to do this, and only you will know for sure when, how, or if the time is right for you to share your gender identity with your parents.
“In addition to friends, maybe you have a supportive sibling, teacher or counselor, or GSA (LGBTQ youth group) at your school? You may want to practice what you’d like to say to your parents. Practicing can help you build confidence. It can also let you know who will be there to cheer for you — or who to lean on if things don’t go as well as you had hoped.
“You could offer them a link to the great PFLAG booklet ”Our Children” that answers common questions parents may have, starting the conversation by saying something like, ‘I’d like you to read this. I think it will help with something important I’d like to talk about with you’ — check PFLAG.org. Other resources are lgbtcenters.org and genderspectrum.org, where you can connect with others.”
The most important thing is to make the decision that is right for you, and to take all the time you need to decide.
DEAR AMY: How is it that some women my age (late 20s) have had multiple “serious relationships” (and then some) when I can’t even have one? I just don’t get it. I’ve never met anyone I’m romantically compatible with, yet my peers talk about having been in love on more than three occasions. Am I missing something? I’m not sure why there is such a vast difference between me and other women my age. And I can’t help but feel profound sadness about my prospects. I don’t see myself as one to have multiple love interests, but having none is no fun either. How do I find balance and/or not give up hope?
DEAR STUMPED: The word “love” is flung around a lot, and the word has a variety of definitions, depending on a person’s temperament or cultural background.
If you are referring to how to find a romantic partner (whether or not love flows from it), friends can often be great teachers. Ask others in your peer group what they think you could do differently to meet people. This coaching could lead you to insight.
But please remember that love — real love — feels rare and wonderful. Its rarity is what makes it so very special.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the timely question from “Left Out Liberal,” the wife who found herself on the opposite side of the political divide from her husband, my parents were on opposite sides of the political aisle for every minute of their 53 years of marriage. Love and respect trumped politics. If this woman cannot respect her husband’s differing views, then she should do him a favor and give him his freedom; she probably won’t respect him in many other ways either.
DEAR GRATEFUL: This is an unusual and very challenging year, but every divide can be breached with mutual respect.