Reactions of Others Part 2: They Just Don’t “Get It”

In the years I’ve been doing gender therapy, I’ve come to realize a simple fact about the general population and their understanding of transgender individuals: some get it, and some don’t. I don’t know what the common denominator is in those who “get it”, or those who don’t, I just know there is a pretty clear delineation of these two camps. I also know that there is one thing that set me up well to go into this particular niche… I just “get it”. I don’t think that makes me better than people who don’t get it; there is no judgment there. I see it as a piece that is simply a part of some people, and not a part of others. For me, I “got it” first and then was educated on all the intricacies of gender identity and work with gender dysphoric individuals. Others, I suppose, may need to be educated first before they “get it”. The great news is that even those who initially don’t “get it” can come to understand and accept over time. Others still may never really understand, but can be loving and accepting about it anyway.

There are a lot of factors that impact how others receive the news that a loved one is transgender. One of the biggest obstacles is a lack of knowledge. Many people have never had any experience with knowing someone who is transgender and simply don’t know anything about it. When there is a void of knowledge, a plethora of opinions, guesses, and myths can take its place, all of which can contribute to a difficult response or a difficult processing of the news.

Many people have misconceptions and pre-conceived notions. Some have heard misinformation about transgender people; others have heard a little true information and then “filled in the blanks” with assumptions that may be fueled by fear or stigma. Having certain feelings about the issue can also fuel the guesses.  Having pre-existing negative feelings about transgender people will breed negative guesses, taking the place of fact or reality. Add worry and concern for the loved one who is transgender, and the result is a pretty tricky response to the to the big revelation.

If you are a transgender individual who is “coming out” to someone you care very much about and you value the relationship with this person, it is a good idea to provide information from the start or steer them in the right direction of where to find information. There are a lot of resources out there for loved ones.  Additionally, taking the time to explain your journey to self-realization of your true gender identity, and all the feelings (both positive and negative) that went with it may be just the information another needs to “get it”. You may feel exhausted and depleted by having already gone through a long and difficult internal journey to get to where you are, but taking the time to share this with your loved ones could go a long way.

Yet even when information is provided, many still do not “get it”. Some simply cannot wrap their brains around the concept. There’s a difference between having information/knowledge and “getting it”. “Getting it” takes some ability to see the gray area about things, and understand that gender is not black and white. Some people have difficulty seeing things in anything other than black and white. There could also be a variety of other things that contributes to one’s ability to “get it”. Personal experience, background, basic tolerance for those who are different, religion, empathy, the ability to see life from another’s point of view, etc.  Some are stuck in their own experiences, some are stuck in the gender dichotomy, some can only see what is concrete.

How much energy should be put into trying to make them “get it”? After making a reasonable effort to explain yourself or the basic concept of being transgender, providing resources, etc., there is a necessary boundary that needs to be set. Doing this too much can be depleting for the trans person who has multiple other demands in which to put their energy.  It’s also important to allow others the space to come around on their own, (you have likely been down a similar journey of doubt, fear, and eventually acceptance) and accept the possibility that it may not happen.  In those cases where your loved one doesn’t seem to understand after a lot of explaining and resources given, tell them you love them ask for what you would like from them in regards to your transition. If they love you, operating from a stance of love and compassion can go a long way even if one doesn’t “get it”.

 

I’ve been contemplating what the ratio of “get its” to “don’t get its” might be… To transgender individuals out there: what ratio of people in your life “get it” vs. those who don’t?

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think a lot of people don’t get it because they see the world as male OR female. Either or, nothing in between. Not only is the world a dichotomy between male/female, black/white, up/down, active/passive, but it is also immutable. To a lot of people the categories are fixed and they can not change. I understand that it can be scary to think that your very definition of what the world is and how it works might not hold the line anymore. I am not transgendered, but I am very much interested in trans studies. Forces you to think about gender (and its fluidity), something most people don’t even think about. 🙂

  2. My immediate family “gets it”. After several, extensive conversations, and hours of research plus watching films/TV segments, they fully understand what it means to be trans.

    I’m not entirely sure who truly “gets it” in my extended family. The absence of questions since I’ve come out to them makes me think they have just accepted me in this form without a firm grasp of what it means.

    I’ve only recently started coming out to friends I made while I was incredibly stealth. Their positive reactions were followed by an array of questions which I answered as thoroughly as possible. The subject hasn’t come up since. To be honest, this post makes me want to check up on them about it. haha

  3. im a very moved by your blog it makes me wonder why life is full of…crap. i would highly recommend you comming to my school and read it aloud maybekids would understand what im going through isnt very easy.
    (:

    • Hi Cheyenne,
      I wish I could go to EVERY school to make it easier for kids like you. Life sometimes has a lot of crap, but it has a lot of wonderful things, too… and I know there are some wonderful things in store for you! Stay strong, and try letting others know how this is hard for you. Remember, for every person who seems “against” you, there are a LOT of people “for” you. Including me!
      Warmly,
      Darlene


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