Family Feelings

When told that somebody very close to one's heart is a transsexual person, one may experience a range of emotions, amongst them:


There is the fear that the loved one concerned is suffering from some debilitating delusion; the feeling that one's trust has been abused; the isolation of being apparently betrayed through the revelation of hidden agendas.

Anger, frustration, and fear are destructive in the extreme.

This writing is an attempt to hold the hand of those who are troubled, and comes directly from one who cares about both sides.

Dispelling Anxieties

Firstly let's look at some of the emotions that the news of transsexualism in the family may arouse


Up till now perhaps your only experience of TS people has been a glance through sensational tabloid articles, or television viewing. This will have enabled you to distance yourself from the situation, whatever your personal attitude to the condition, as it had no direct bearing upon you life; consequently you may find the current situation somewhat of a surprise, shocking, even traumatic.

Now it is no longer sensationalism, fiction, or something that happens to distant people which doesn't affect you.

Please be assured that:
a) transsexualism is a recognised medical condition; not a fetish or whim; and not a mental illness
b) the person you love is not about to metamorphose into a maniac or monster.

Authoritative research , including a scientific study over an 11 year period by reputable doctors Zhou, Gooren and Swaab, has revealed that transsexualism actually occurs during early foetal development, and has physiological origins. It does not occur as a result of upbringing, and it is not a choice.

The world is full of people who are different; people who have special needs through no fault of their own; these people are as human as the next person and entitled to be treated with the same measure of respect.

Transsexual people have a difference we do not recognise until they speak for themselves, and they too are entitled to be treated with human dignity and respect.


Unfortunately the media has portrayed a range of transgendered individuals in a rather disturbing light; before you conjure comparisons between your loved one and the perpetrators of crime in films such as "Dressed to Kill" or "Silence of the Lambs", or start imagining them as sexual perverts...


Are you frightened of all little boys because you watched "The Omen"?
Have you stopped travelling by car because you saw Carpenter's "Christine"?
Do you think all women are whores because you know prostitutes exist?
Are you anxious about your relatives appearing in pornography because some people do?

Transsexualism concerns gender not sex. It is about people not perversion.

Identity is a fundamental aspect of a human being and gender is an integral part of that existence. Gender is our psychological sex, our personal experience of being male or female; for the majority of people gender is congruent with anatomical sex. It is therefore no surprise that it was previously assumed these aspects of humanity were one in the same. Scientific research has proven that they are not. It is the incongruence between anatomical sex and psychological gender that results in gender identity disorder (transsexualism).

Being a transsexual person does not make anyone more prone to being sexually perverted or violent than anyone else; it does not make them inhuman; it does not make them dangerous in anyway.

The range of human sexuality found in transsexual people corresponds to that found in the rest of the population. These men and women whose origins are somewhat different to the majority are not a species apart, neither intrinsically bad nor dangerous.


Despair stems from feelings of hopelessness and can be rooted in many fears, these may be subdivided into three main catergories - medical, social, and emotional.


The thought of anyone altering their body through drug therapy and radical surgery causes concerns. The notion of loved ones going through pain and risking side effects may prompt deep distress; especially if one has picked up the misconception that these procedures are in anyway avoidable.

Firstly remember that being a transsexual person is not a choice; the alternative to proceeding with treatment would be to attempt to fly in the face of nature and continue to struggle against the inner self; the effects of which could be extremely damaging, perhaps even fatal. It was estimated in 1981 that 50% of the transsexual population died by their own hands before the age of 30.

It is encouraging to know that transsexual people today are subject to rigorous intervention which is monitored psychologically and physiologically. It is not easy for them to admit the need for treatment, in the first place, and the whole process has to be agreed and monitored with experienced professionals over a considerable period of time.

As with any medical condition there are experts in the field, and treatments are subject to continuous improvement. The situation is far from hopeless; and you can actually help through taking an interest and supporting maintainance of general good health, as with any other medical condition.


Social stigma, pariah, pervert? Fear for yourself in having somebody close to you who may be regarded by others in this way may be the root of social despair.

Even knowing, as you do now, that this is a medical condition and not a choice, you may fear how your loved one will present publically and the reactions of others.

Take heart in the fact that, like everyone else , the majority of transsexual people want to present in a socially acceptable way and lead very ordinary lives. Transsexuals do not want to stand out in a crowd, they are all to aware of the damaging misconceptions ricocheting round their condition, and want to present well.

You can assist with their progress in this aspect of life through your own acceptance, which will help to raise an already flagging self esteem; through taking an interest in presentation and contributing ideas in a positive way; and through assisting in the accurate distribution of basic fact amongst family and friends.

Transition, the external changing from one gender to the opposite, is difficult for everyone directly concerned. A mutually supportive approach will benefit all relationships, and you can add strength to this through contact and liaison with a range of associations and support groups, as with the majority of special human conditions.


The notion of change can be a very frightening one; especially when we are happy with what we have. The notion that somebody we love is going to change into somebody else can cause extreme distress.

To say that there will be no change would be obviously incorrect; however these changes will be by the way of development , and extension, rather than total transformation of the person you love. Basically we are who we are; physiologically the brain with which we are born is the one we keep.

Human beings are social animals and need a sense of belonging, therefore the individual will try their best to conform to the expectations put there by society. The child learns both implicitly and explicitly to meet the expectations of the gender assigned at birth, in order to be acceptable to family and the wider social circle. Nobody wants to be different from the crowd but denial, suppression, and concealment of the true self, whether a conscious decision or not, will eventually cause extreme symptomatic distress and depression. Truth will out and treatment is essential.

The fundamental person was always there and remains the same. You are not losing anybody; simply witnessing the emergence of their true colours. Interests, passions, sense of humour, talents, and abilities, those qualities which comprise the person that you love will not disappear.

The outer casing of the person will change, and they will become more comfortable with themselves over a period of time. Ultimately any loss is likely to be in terms of moods, depressions, and temper; the negatives rather than any positives.


It is human nature to cut ourselves off from things that hurt us; we tend to adopt two basic strategies when we feel at risk - flight or fight.


Your instinct may be to shut yourself off from the upheaval through terminating relationships.

Human relationships are extremely important, and those which involve love are amongst the most highly prized; try to hold on. Loss can be devastating on both sides.

You may need some space in order to make your own adjustments and come to terms with your own emotions, but to cut yourself off forever from the person you love is an unkindness to yourself aswell as to them.


Denial of the clinical condition and attempts to dissuade people from pursuing treatment through emotional blackmail leaves a bitter taste all round.

Compounding the feelings of isolation and distress by trying to fight something which is a fact of life leads to loss, yours aswell as theirs.

A transsexual person does not make a deliberate choice to be as they are out of spite; they are born that way. You may need support in coming to terms with this revelation but you cannot change it.


We human beings are all living conundrums, paradoxes of personality, fragile yet strong, vulnerable yet durable. It is a lucky person indeed who has no trauma or distress in their life. I personally have yet to meet such an entity.

Sometimes we are faced with situations and experiences which cause us such extreme distress that we feel we may not be able to survive them. Thankfully most of us do.


You may need a lot of support in order to come out the other side of them. You may need time in order to heal the pain they cause. They are transient conditions and the pain they cause passes. Hopefully something of what has been said here will strengthen you against them.

Transsexualism itself is not an enemy. It is our own fear of difference and lack of understanding that hurts; these things can be changed - transsexualism cannot.

COPYRIGHT Tina Livingstone B.Ed Hons, 14th May 2000

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