Wellness Guide: If Your Family Misgenders You Over The Holidays, Here’s How To Respond

Wellness Guide: If Your Family Misgenders You Over The Holidays, Here’s How To Respond

It may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, but for a lot of trans people, going home for the holidays can actually feel pretty scary and lonely. Visiting family can sometimes mean enduring comments about your clothes or hair, getting dead-named, and being misgendered. If your family misgenders you over the holidays, or refers to you with the gender and name you were assigned at birth, it's easy to feel like there's no place for you at the table — especially if your place card literally reads your dead-name (@ my house).

For many trans people, being dead-named and misgendered feels like a form of violence. Regardless of whether you've just come out or have been out a while, being referred to as a gender with which you don't identify can feel awful. It's erasure, and can be incredibly painful and difficult to handle. It's not easy being misgendered, but there's good news: Decking the halls with trans safety-centered strategies can help you to feel strong and supported throughout this holiday season.

I spoke with Lisa Phillips, LSW and Trans Care Specialist of Philadelphia's LGBTQ health and wellness Mazzoni Center, about ways to handle being misgendered over the holidays and different methods to remind yourself that you're a flawless trans angel.

Establish your limits.

Coming out as any flavor of transgender can sometimes mean being subjected to intrusive questions (even if well-intended). From ducking inquiries about surgery or hormones, to being forced to listen to unsolicited opinions about your appearance, there's no shortage of inappropriate conversations you might have to endure.

"Think about what your boundaries are prior to family time; maybe even create a list of topics or behaviors that you could overlook and things that you cannot tolerate," Phillips says. "It is always OK to say 'no' or disengage from a conversation that feels uncomfortable or invasive. Thinking about your boundaries ahead of time might help you be better prepared for more challenging conversations. However, sometimes we don’t know we have a boundary until it’s been crossed, and this is OK too!"

Knowing what you are and aren't willing to discuss can be helpful when heading into a family event. If a boundary gets crossed, it's OK to leave the table, or even the event, if it means ensuring your safety and wellbeing. If it feels like all eyes are on you, and you don't want to "make a scene," it's OK to pull yourself away from the conversation and address the conflict at a later time. If you know you have allies at the gathering, perhaps asking to grab an eggnog refill or take a lap around the house can serve as a well-deserved break.

Read the full article in the Wellness Guide:

Mazzoni Center Wellness Guide 2020