When Your Aunt Becomes Your Uncle
How I Told My Son about My Transgender Brother
As parents we all know that babies definitely do not come with instruction manuals.
We can read all of the baby books in the world but nothing really prepares us for the reality of having children until we are thrown into the fire.
And we are thrown in right from the get go.
I knew that as a parent I would eventually have to talk to my children about tough topics. It starts out small with things such as why it is nice to share toys and why you should not bite your friends.
But as they grow older the topics become more serious. Bullying, violence, discrimination, death, sex and relationships, and what they saw or heard on TV need to be addressed at one point or another.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be discussing sex and relationships with my oldest son when he was about seven years old.
Why so young you ask? Well, here is a bit of the backstory…
When my brother and his fiancée were engaged my brother had begun to identify as male to his friends. However, his fiancée was not 100% supportive of my then-sister transitioning to male. For this and other reasons, eventually the wedding was called off and they both went their separate ways.
Following the engagement, my brother took the steps towards true transition to male. He began taking testosterone. His voice started to deepen. He began to grow facial hair. His appearance was changing rapidly. There would be no denying anymore that he looked more male than female.
I was aware that my son, who is very intelligent and inquisitive, would begin to notice that something was not the same with his aunt. I knew that I had to tell him sooner rather than later.
As a former librarian I love to do research. So, I consulted the Google Gods about how to discuss transgender family members with your kids. However, my searches were not producing the kind of results I wanted. There were resources out there for children talking to their parents about their transition (and how parents can talk to their kids about their children’s transition). However, I could not find any that related to my situation.
For a few weeks I worked over and over in my head what I would tell my boy.
And I began…
“I need to talk to you about your auntie N. She has told us something very important. She said to me that she no longer wants to be a girl. She wants to be a boy now.”
“But how can auntie be a boy?” My son asked with a very confused look on his face.
I continued on…
“Well, auntie was born different than you and me. Her head and her heart are telling her that she should have been born a boy. She doesn’t feel like she should have been a girl. So, now auntie is going to live life as a boy instead of a girl. She wants us to start calling her C and to start using HE and HIM when we talk about her. He wants you to start calling him uncle C. Are you a wee bit confused?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Me too sweetie. It is very confusing even for me. But you know what? All that matters is that uncle C is happy. You want him to be happy right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And no matter what, we still love uncle C whether he is a boy or a girl. Right?”
And from that moment on my son called his auntie N by his new name, uncle C.
Sometimes I would slip up and would call my brother by his former name. This tends to happen more when I was visiting my hometown and would by chance run into people who know my brother as my sister. But my son, he would correct me.
“It’s uncle C now mommy! Not auntie N!”
That simple statement made me one very proud momma.
I wanted to tell my son this information sooner rather than later. As children I find that they are more open to different situations and circumstances. I wanted to expose him to this when he was more receptive. Plus, my youngest son would never know the difference and when he is old enough to understand (likely around the same age as the oldest) we will tell him the same thing as well.
I am glad that I tackled this difficult discussion when I did.
I am hoping that because of it, my son will be more receptive and accepting of alternative lifestyles.
Just maybe he and his brother will teach the world to be receptive to all different kinds of people whether they be LGBTQ or white, or Asian, or African, etc.
I dream of a day when all people begin to show compassion, understanding and more importantly, acceptance of each other.
Image Source: Freedigitalphotos.net & Serge Bertasius Photography