If someone you love is having transgender surgery or coming out as trans, you may not be sure how you can be supportive. There are four important ways you can show your transgender family member that you love them: Listen, Ask, Learn and Help.
When a family member comes out as trans or mentions the idea of transgender surgery, don’t interrupt with questions. First, you need to listen. The more you listen to your loved one, the more you’ll learn about who they are and why them transitioning is important. This is probably the hardest yet most positive thing they’ll ever go through, and listening to them offers a great way to show that you care and that what they are saying is valid.
After you’ve listened to your family member, you can ask questions about what they would like to be called. Your loved one may be known as Dylan now but are looking to be called Sara going forward. They also may need your help talking to another family member, and you’ll want to ask what they would like you to say on their behalf.
Learning never hurt anybody. Take some time to read up on the transgender community. Learn about what your loved one is going through by looking at what trans activists are posting on their blogs and YouTube channels. There are many websites specifically designed for the family members and loved ones of those who are transitioning, and they provide great resources to help you learn and familiarize yourself with trans issues.
Ask your family member this important question: “How can I help?” Being an ally means offering support in whatever way your family member needs. It may mean marching in a parade or demonstration or simply being available when your loved one needs to talk. The best thing you can do to support your loved one is to help them in the way they want. Another great way to help is to teach those around you about the transgender community when it comes up in conversation. Explain to people what your loved one has taught you about pronouns and how misgendering hurts. Tell them that it’s not okay to make fun of someone who is having transgender surgery. You can do all this without bringing up your loved one’s name or giving specifics (unless they give you permission to do so).
There are support groups available for you that can help you deal with your family member’s transition. If your loved one is having transgender surgery, you can consult a surgeon to find out what the surgery entails and how you can be there after the procedure to take care of your family member.