Dear Readers: Like all of you, I am curious about how things turn out after I publish a question.
The following two letters are responses to a recent question from a college sophomore who signed his letter “Embarrassed.”
Dear Amy: I’ve been reading your column since I was a little kid.
Last month, I decided to ask you my own question.
As a transgender man, I was confused and embarrassed during the Thanksgiving holiday that my parents persisted in calling me by the female name they assigned to me at birth.
I thought I would let you know how things turned out when I returned home for Christmas.
I knew my family loved me, but it felt like they weren’t recognizing something that is a deep and personal part of me.
My experience with gender identity is like this: I was born wearing an itchy, scratchy sweater. I didn’t like it. But I looked around and I saw everyone who looked like me was wearing their sweaters, and I had certainly never heard of anyone taking off or wearing different sweaters. After all, I had been given this! It was a gift!
In high school, I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to meticulously put on makeup, so I could look feminine enough to feel passable. I was so unhappy.
I began using a masculine nickname. My parents hated it. But to me, it felt right. I finally found a sweater that fit me, and I was ecstatic.
I came out to my parents. Cut my hair short. Began looking and dressing how I wanted. I look like the young man that I am.
During my visits home, my parents have persisted in introducing me to others by my “dead” name — the female name I had growing up.
I don’t think cisgender people can really understand what it feels like to be called the wrong name. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone.
Your advice was to face the issue with compassion and humor. You explained that my parents were also going through a transition, but because they didn’t live in my body, they were experiencing it differently than I was.
This made visiting home for Christmas easier. I could laugh it off, which made other people laugh, and ultimately avoided that awkwardness of correcting people. My go-to phrase now is: “I’m a man, just a soprano.”
The confidence and kindness I’ve been able to exude has helped to ease the tension.
When you’re trans, some people seem to act as though you are both the killer and the slain. Helping my family to understand that I have not killed their daughter and sister is one of the hardest things I have to do. But armed with resources, humor and love, they’re slowly starting to realize that their son and brother has always been here — he was just wearing the wrong sweater. — Justin
Dear Justin: Your original question touched me deeply; your generous and helpful response touches me even more.
Your parents did a very good job. They raised a kind, brave and resilient son.
I’m happy to call you by your name.
Dear Amy: I had tears running down my cheeks while reading the letter from “Embarrassed,” a college sophomore and transgender man.
My transgender daughter came home for Thanksgiving and came out to me.
I am not living her life, so I have no idea what she is going through, but she is happy. And that is all I want for her. Help me please, because I keep messing up. I keep referring to her using the pronoun “he” instead of “she.”
It just flies from my mouth, as it has for 22 years.
I want to kick myself because I know it upsets her. I am trying to train myself to use the correct pronoun, but I find myself avoiding conversation because I see the pain in her face when I get things wrong.
I am so proud of her. I love her and I want to use the right pronoun. My other children correct me, and I appreciate that, but I feel so ignorant.
Can you help me to use the correct pronoun? — Embarrassed Mom
Dear Mom: You just used the correct pronoun — all the way through your question.
Don’t avoid communicating. Ask your daughter to be patient with you.
While she is away at school, look at her picture, follow her on social media (if possible), practice seeing her in this new way, and continue to love her — just as she is.