Often it is the support of family and friends that makes the difference between a successful transition or regrets, and it is vitally important that transgender individuals obtain support and acceptance from these very important people in their lives.
But no one assumes that it is easy for families! Families, too, need support. Families often feel equally isolated and as lacking in knowledge of the issues as the individual themselves
Focus: The Identity Trust recognises this and has given more structure to its Family & Friends Support Groups which are based in Belfast and the North West.
Particularly important to us is our family support services led by our Chaplain Rev Linda Ballard, herself the mother of a grown up transgender man. While she provides a service to our own members and their families she also has an all island brief from her Church denomination to cater for the spiritual needs of all transgender and intersex individuals and their families across the entire island of Ireland.
Family members need support, and they can suffer extreme stress, particularly partners of the transgender individual. This can be especially so when the transition occurs later in life, as there is a greater probability of involving spouses, and/or children. It can be as equally stressful for them as it is for the individual to disclose the condition to them, and typical reactions can be:
These reactions are understandable initially. Often family members, who love you just need to be convinced that you are on the right path. Some family members report feeling a relief, as if a mystery has been solved regarding their loved one.
Once disclosed, it can be very harmful to dissuade a transgender person from transitioning, as they have made their decision. This decision often follows a time of intense crisis. Not only is it often unsuccessful to try to change their mind, but forcing someone to continue to live their life in the wrong gender role is extremely dangerous. Please remember, that the person will not change, their love and feelings for you will not change, and they are often very aware of the pain they may be causing to loved ones and feel deeply guilty.
If they did not love you, and want you to understand, and want to keep you in their lives, they would not tell you.