My husband is transitioning from male to female: how do we prepare our kids?

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By: Nisha ACC BY 2.0
My husband recently surprised me with a sudden and incredibly unexpected truth that he has been carrying with him for a long time: he wants to be a woman. I am still in a bit of shock, but I’m coping.

I’ve written this post numerous times trying to find the right words to say, or the right questions to ask. I still don’t really know what is going to happen, or how we are going to feel. All I know is I’m sticking with him through it, and helping him with it as best I can to truly find himself, whether it be as a man, or a woman.

Our town is pretty conservative. There aren’t many resources here, and I don’t know any same-sex families or anyone who is transgender. My biggest concern is for our young daughters (ages three and one-and-a-half). They are both all about their daddy, and I’m not sure how to transition them. I’m worried how they are going to react to the changes that are coming.

Does anyone have any advice, or blog links, or even some words of encouragement? I’m reaching out to my online offbeat family. How do we transition our kids throughout their father’s MTF transition? — Holly

Comments on My husband is transitioning from male to female: how do we prepare our kids?

  1. You might want to seek out a SOFFA group, either online or in a city near you- Significant Others, Friends, Family and Allies (of trans people). Also your city may have an LGBT parenting group which might be helpful. We’re lucky in Toronto because we have both of these… There’s also a lovely video that came out of toronto called “Transforming Families” and a research report by the same name that might be helpful. They’re making a feature length doc that will include more from the children’s perspective. If you look for any of these and can’t find it, leave me a reply and I can help out. If anything, it may help you feel more connected to a community. You’re not alone- there are many people who have been in your situation as well as your spouse’s, and while it may be challenging, there’s lots of community support available. 🙂

  2. I wish I’d known about Offbeat Families years ago, when my dad did this very same thing. I think your family will have a much easier time, given that your kids are so young. They’ll be wonderfully adaptable.

    Our family went through this when I was 21, and I’m still struggling with the loss of my Dad as I remember him. Back then, I couldn’t find ANY resources, but we were lucky enough to live on the California Coast and the only ‘fallout’ happened between my own ears.

    My words of comfort would be this: You can still love them and yet be incredibly challenged by what’s happened. It’s okay to stumble and be overwhelmed.

  3. So my sister is MTF, and in the middle of her transition.

    I’ve worked to accept her decision. It isn’t easy, but I think that’s down to factors unrelated to the transition.

    I refer to my sister as my sister. It’s been a long time since I called her anything else.

    The issues arise not between the two of us, but where family comes in. My family have their own opinions on the transition and not all of them are the same as mine. Without exception, they still refer to her by her birth name and gender. My two-year-old son is just about old enough to notice the difference now. How do I explain why I call her “Aunt X” and everyone else says “Uncle Y”?

    • Your family is being incredibly rude and inconsiderate to your sister. I am very sorry to hear that.

      As for your 2yo, odds are good that he won’t really grasp anything you tell him. If you wanted to, you could explain that your sister has a penis and because of that everyone thought she was a boy when she was growing up, so she has a boy name as well as a girl name, but she likes the girl name better. Or your could explain it for now that he calls his aunt “Aunt Sally,” but his cousins call her mom, and that your sister has 2 names like that, too. When he gets older, hopefully the issues will have resolved, but if not, then you can go into more age-appropriate detail if the subject comes up again.

  4. I month or two ago, I heard a great piece on the radio (This American Life? Radio Lab?) about Stu Rasmussen, an openly transgender mayor of a small town in Oregon. According to the story, people in the town actually took the whole transition pretty easily. Might be helpful for your family to look up his story.

    • Yes! I can’t remember if it was This American Life or RadioLab either– but it was great! It made me cry.

    • Stu is kind of awesome, my step-dad is a friend of his. One thing is that I don’t think his transition was really a surprise to anybody in town – I can remember rumours of all sorts, and not all of them nice/accepting, for years (decades really) before he came out. So it was a little bit like “oh, yeah, that. We knew about that” for a lot of people.

  5. I have never been through this but my recommendation would be just to make sure that you take the time YOU need as well. Your kids will see how you handle this and will be influenced by how you and your partner deal with the changes and challenges. So remember that to be supportive for your partner and open for your kids, you need some time and space to process. Make sure that you yourself have a support network you can go to (looks like you got lots of awesome offers from here already!) because everyone who has gone through a difficult change in a relationship knows that sometimes you need to talk about it and about how you are doing with it without worrying about everyone else’s feelings.

  6. I know I’m a few months late, but I just wanted to drop a note and say that thus article and the comments were very interesting. I’m a heterosexual trans woman, so I deal much different issues from my lesbian sisters (potential male violence topping my list of concerns). Still, it is eye opening and interesting to read this. I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend, with whom I hope to build a life and one day marry. Honestly, even though I am trans myself, I do not know how I would handle it if he came out as trans. I really hope he doesn’t, and I really sympathize with all of you cisgender wives.

  7. I’m the 24 year old daughter of a MtF mommy. Other people have posted lots of resources so I’ll just share my perspective:

    Being honest with your children is important. They’re super smart and yours are young so they won’t have as many preconceptions. Affirming your wife’s identity in front of them will do a good job reinforcing her pronouns etc to them.

    One of your children could be trans themselves so it’s great to show them that can be a happy good thing. I would start with teaching them that being a girl or boy isn’t about the partsbyou haven but how you feel and you get to decide that. They might decide they’re a boy one day and a girl the next. I think this kind of gender play can help them feel comfortable with it and make it feel lighter. Try and respect whatever pronouns they ask to use! You can even ask them what they feel like.

    I’m here for the kid perspective if you want it: [email protected]

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