As the holidays draw near, the reality of existing as a trans person around extended family looms. I count myself as extremely lucky — I have come out to my family and most of them have been accepting. My parents have been by my side for all of it and have stood up for me when they could. That doesn’t mean it’s all easy, though. Here are some of the things I do to make it easier and safer for myself. Setting boundaries is essential for staying sane around lots of people. It is so hard, it is a journey, but it is worth it.
The number one most effective way to get out of uncomfortable situations is to leave them entirely. While this might not always be possible, it is sometimes necessary. You can make any number of excuses ranging from needing to use the bathroom to doing homework or even just straight up leaving the room without an explanation. It is okay to do this, your mental health is important. Even though you might be required to spend time with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, that doesn’t mean it has to be all of your waking hours. You can go on a walk, read a book, or just hide in a closet (figuratively and/or literally).
Maybe more important in the long term is having a support system to fall back on to. Whether or not you are out to family members, misgendering is likely to happen. Getting routinely misgendered is obviously exhausting, but having people to talk to about your experiences will help. Even just writing it all out could relieve some of the emotions that will build up. It sucks to hear terrible things said all day for many days on end. You shouldn’t have to deal with that alone. No one should.
If conversations become unavoidable, try to put things in perspective for them. Arguing will get nowhere with people who believe irrational things, so rationalize it for them. Make metaphors, listen to what they have to say and shape their words to your benefit. Push them to give examples if they point out wild facts. Most importantly, keep it subtle. As soon as they know you’re trying to change their mind, they will become defensive and retreat.
Calling someone out on slurs is one thing, but if someone says something slightly bad, try to get at why they said that. Don’t let conversations end when actions could possibly be changed. This is definitely the most challenging thing to do, and it requires some level of trust between you and the person you are trying to change the mind of (or, at least someone in the same room).
People living with this daily will see these things as normal and obvious to the point of it almost being an instinctual thing. If you have a trans sibling, or are close to trans people, you can also help — if they want that. Pay attention to what people say and if said gender-expansive person reaches out, just be there for them. If you aren’t close to a trans person, you can still be aware of what you and your own family members say.