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Emily Rizzo

December 1996

The Parents' Corner

Mom Accepts Transexual But Not As a Lesbian

Iím a male-to-female transexual who recently completed surgery. My mother was really supportive of me both before and after and really seemed to enjoy shopping with me. I just told her, however, that Iím now a lesbian since Iím still attracted to women and sheís having a lot of difficulty with that. Why wonít she accept me?

A. First of all, you are fortunate that your mother has been so supportive of you. As list owner of TGS-PFLAG, the e-mail list for transgender family support, Iíve met many people who were not so lucky. Transitioning in our society is still extremely difficult and family support can make a big difference.

If your mother never had a daughter previously, she may really enjoy now having a daughter instead of a son; she may relish to opportunity to do women-only activities such as shopping, as you mentioned. Also, now that you have gone through your transition, you are probably a much happier person which means youíre undoubtedly a lot nicer to be around.

Your mother has made a tremendous adjustment to having a daughter now instead of a son. She may still be processing some unresolved emotions and feel she simply canít deal with anything else for a while. It sounds also as if she is reacting purely on an emotional level at this point. Perhaps she can understand how it feels to be a woman but canít understand how it feels to be a woman who is attracted to other women.

As for rejecting your lesbianism, many people still donít grasp the difference between gender identity (whether you see yourself as male, female, or somewhere in between) and sexual orientation (whom you are attracted to). Between 30% and 50% of all transexuals find themselves identifying as homosexual after surgery; while your body appearance may change, your attractions wonít. Itís not that easy a concept and I suggest you do what you can to give her the information she needs to learn the difference.

Talking about sex, as in who we sleep with (or want to sleep with) can still make a lot of parents uncomfortable, especially when it is their own children they are talking with. For too many people, homosexuality is still only about sex!

Your mother may also be concerned about ďwhat the neighbors will sayĒ and she may be hoping that now that you are a woman you will lead a traditional, respectable life, get married to a man, etc. She may be secretly (or not so secretly) ashamed of having a lesbian daughter who will be perceived as living outside the mainstream.

She may also, quite simply, be concerned for your safety and well-being. She might fear that if you live as an open lesbian you will be subject to discrimination and a target of gay-bashing. She may not be aware that transgendered people are far more likely to be bashed, no matter what their sexual orientation, than gay people. In fact, many hate crimes against gay people are really sparked by their gender-bending appearance rather than their behavior.

My advice is to get your mother to a PFLAG meeting where she will meet other parents of lesbians who have learned to ďget over itĒ and accept their daughters for who they are.

Be sure to check out the unofficial PFLAG web page for a list of chapters, PFLAG pamphlets, and other resource material.

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