Disclosing your child’s gender to families at holiday gatherings

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, family and connection. But it can also bring stress, fear, and sadness. It can be especially stressful if the rest of the family hasn’t been told about your child’s transition, new name and pronouns, or a shift in their gender expression. 

In typical years, you might have to sit through an uncomfortable holiday meal with extended family or even spend a long weekend under the same roof with relatives you rarely see. But because of the pandemic, chances are that you will be doing shorter video visits instead. The stress of being on screen or answering questions over a format that feels less personal is still real.

Here are a few suggestions for how to handle disclosing (or not) this year.

  • Consider giving others a heads-up message prior to the official holiday visit, especially if there is a new name and pronouns you want them to use. Having at least a couple of days to practice the name will increase the chances of it being used correctly.
  • Explain to family members that your child is still the same person even if their appearance is different. 
  • Let people know that you expect the new name and pronouns to be used, but understand that there might be mistakes and that you will gently correct them. This can take the pressure off of everyone to have a “perfect” holiday, but also reminds others that your child’s identity needs to be respected.
  • If someone reacts negatively and says they won’t support your child, it’s okay not to invite them to your gathering or to skip theirs. 
  • After the visit, if things went well, don’t forget to reach out again to say thank you and answer any questions they might have. 

If your child isn’t ready for others to know, there are still a few ways to navigate the visits.

  • Hats, a holiday-themed “costume,” or the fun video affects offer by some video services can disguise physical changes like switches in hairstyle, facial hair, and the like.
  • Center yourself on the screen with your child off in the background so they are part of the video chat but not really in focus.
  • Use video fatigue from online learning as an excuse for your child not joining on video and offering a special phone call with them later.

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