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"My mom thinks that Caitlyn Jenner is just pulling a publicity stunt and 'isn’t really trans.' What do I say to that?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

*sighs heavily*

There are two kinds of moms/people in the world, so it really depends on what kind of mom-person you are dealing with. I am hoping that you have the kind of mom-person who says, “I THINK THIS THING BC OF BLAHBLAH,” but who will then respond to calmly-delivered exchanges of information intended to help educate her more on the issue that she’s blabberin’ on about right now without much knowledge. Moms being people, too, though, you may have the kind of mom-person who doesn’t want to listen, and who doesn’t want to learn. There are many people out there who, sadly, for reasons of hatred or phobia or a combination therein, latch onto the first thing they can find to dismantle the lived reality of other people and refuse to let go of it for any reason.

It’s Monday, though, and I need to grab a hold of some positivity, so I am going to assume that your momma is going to at least allow a conversation to happen. Cool? COOL.

Here is what I would say:

“Mom, the things you said about Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans as ‘a publicity stunt’ upset me. I know that Caitlyn is someone who has lived much of her life in a spotlight of some kind, but her experience as a person on this planet deserves to be believed as much as anyone else’s. Especially for trans people, who many discount or disbelieve whether they are in the spotlight or not, it is so important that we remember that we cannot know any person’s experience better than they can know their own. It’s also so important to remember how scary and difficult it can be to tell anyone about parts of our gender identity and sexuality… let alone the entire planet.

That said, I know that most of us don’t have a lot of knowledge about what it means to be transgender, and so it could be a bit confusing. I put together a little list of articles** that I think could be really helpful in getting a better understanding of trans communities, and was wondering if you’d consider reading them? We could even read them together! Before you even get there, though, I would love to watch the speech that Caitlyn gave at the ESPY Awards with you – in it she directly speaks to some of the feelings you’ve been having, and explains how important her visibility is to the thousands of trans youth across the world.”

Now, your mom may interrupt you at various points while you talk – maybe she will say she does understand what transgender means and counter you, or maybe she will say she doesn’t understand how her opinion could upset you personally. Think about each of these sentiments that you are speaking so that if she pushes back, you can (calmly, if possible) explain yourself further.

The biggest point, in my mind, is to ask her how she would feel if she shared something about herself and was met with people who thought she was simply doing it for attention. My biggest successes in these kinds of situations happen when I draw parallels to something that the asker/non-believer (in this case your mom) has been through. We are humans, after all, and we tend to be pretty self-centered. If we can pull on mom’s experience to show her that not being believed when we share a part of ourselves with anyone is very hurtful, she may develop the empathy she needs to be supportive of both Caitlyn and the thousands of trans people across the planet who also desperately need to be believed, respected, and celebrated.

**There are many places that you can pull resources for your mom, but the ones I know best are The Gender BookThe Parents Project – Gender Section, and The Art of Transliness Resource List – readers, add more if you have ‘em!

***

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