Ever since that coming out three years ago, nobody in my dad’s family has ever taken initiative to contact me. No phone calls, no text messages, no FB messages – nothing. Every single contact so far was always me messaging them first. They haven’t invited me for anything in three years. Whenever I have asked about any kind of family get-together – Christmas dinner or whatever – they have used Covid as an excuse, saying they weren’t having any dinners. But I have a really hard time believing they have never had any family dinners whatsoever in over three years; they don’t seem like the type to be super worried about Covid, and during the times I have met my dad since then, he has never worn a mask. I think they had get-togethers but just didn’t tell me because it would be awkward having me at the table.
I’ve visited my dad and stepmom a few times, but it was always me making the first step. If I don’t contact them, they just kinda pretend I don’t exist. They never call in to ask how I’m doing. They’re always friendly when I’m there, if a bit reserved. But I always get this feeling like they’re just… being polite. I hadn’t heard anything from my dad since he sent me a cursory “happy birthday” text back in June until I texted him again last week. We only live one hour apart, and yet I’ve seen him only three times since my coming out three years ago. Sometimes when I message him, he doesn’t respond at all.
I can’t believe I have lost so much of my family in such a short time. I don’t have many family members left now. My mom, who embraced my gender identity, loves me very much but is going to die of cancer soon. All I will have left are a childless aunt and uncle I see once every four months, and if they’re ever gone, there’ll be nobody else left, except the ones who shunned me. And I likely won’t be able to start a family of my own; I’m infertile, I’m attracted to men, and few people want to seriously date a trans woman anyway. I don’t feel like I can count on finding a relationship to “save” myself from winding up alone. On some days I just feel crushed by loneliness and feelings of rejection, like everyone else is gonna have a family for the rest of their lives while I’m just gonna be left behind, unloved and alone . How do I cope with the loneliness due to being trans? – Lonely Trans Woman
I’m so sorry your family has shunned you for being yourself. I can’t imagine the feelings of rejection, loneliness, and betrayal, but I hope you know that their behavior is only a reflection of their limitations and not yours. You are a person worthy of deep love, of community and family. For many people, their family of origin is toxic, causing far more harm than offering benefits. If you are someone who was/is abused, who is rejected for being yourself, and whose boundaries are not respected, you are better off cutting ties with the people who harm you in this way, even if you are related. But that doesn’t mean you have to be alone or that you have to be without a family.
“Family” can be created through connections with people who deeply care about us, who respect and accept and love us for who we are, and who make us feel good about ourselves. Do you have friends in your life who fit this role? Then, congrats – you have a chosen family! You can foster these connections by initiating with them the kinds of things you would like to do with a family, like having dinners together, celebrating holidays together, traveling together, supporting each other through difficulties, and celebrating good news together.
If you don’t have friends you consider close enough to build these kinds of connections with, it’s never too late to find them. It’s also not impossible for you to find a love connection and build a long-term relationship – and family – with someone. I follow a non-binary activist on Instagram named Jeffrey Marsh. They are a wonderful inspiration for overcoming childhood trauma and family rejection and for finding long-term love. (They’ve been with their partner, Jeff, for over 11 years, and they were older than you when they met their now-partner.) I would recommend giving them a follow and checking out their videos, their book, and whomever else they recommend following. They talk a lot about exactly what it is you’re feeling right now – that sense of loss from being rejected by family and the fear of being alone. I think you could find a lot of inspiration in their story and maybe even connect with others in their instagram community who might be feeling similarly. Jeffrey also offers one-on-one coaching, and you might benefit from speaking to them or someone else in the trans community who offers counseling or coaching for a unique perspective on the very issues you’re dealing with. I think it could be especially helpful to connect with people further along the path you’re on and hear what helped them reach a place where they could fully live as themselves, embrace and celebrate who they are, and create fulfilling lives for themselves.
The most important step you can take at this point though is to stop trying to connect with the very people who have rejected you. They don’t deserve to have you in their lives. They don’t deserve your attention and your effort, and they should not be given space to continue making you feel less than the extraordinary person you are. It’s their loss, not yours. If their love for you was conditional, it was never really yours to lose anyway. A deeper love exists for you, and if you can open yourself to that possibility – to the possibility that it may exist in a package you didn’t imagine and present itself in a way you haven’t experienced yet – I have faith you will find it.