Q. Transgender conversation: My sister-in-law is mad at me for coming out to my 13-year-old niece. I have always known that I was trans and at 54 I am finally starting the process to make this happen. One of the first people I told was my niece, who changes her orientation on a weekly basis and thinks it is cool to have an aunt that will now be an uncle. I did tell my brother about it and he did not have a problem with it, but now his wife has found out and is very concerned about me having this inappropriate conversation with my niece. It was actually my brother and my niece who advised not saying anything to my sister-in-law. Now she wants to discuss this with me. What is the best way to approach this?
You won’t be surprised, I think, to learn that I don’t think it’s inappropriate to tell a 13-year-old that you’re going to be transitioning, especially since you’re, you know, planning on transitioning and she was probably going to figure out something was up somewhere between changing your name and having everyone else start calling you “Uncle.” Under other circumstances I might give some space to the real possibility that your niece’s mother might have a non-transphobic reason to want to be more involved in that conversation, or at least to have a heads-up about when it took place so she could do some follow-up parenting, but if both your niece and your brother “warned” you to keep who you spoke to about your transition a secret from your sister-in-law, I think we can go ahead and safely assume that what she considers “inappropriate” about that conversation is the fact that you’re transitioning. You may want to proceed diplomatically if you’re worried she’ll attempt to keep you from seeing your niece (I don’t know if she’s likely to take things that far, or if you think you’d lose your brother’s support should she become openly hostile; you know the specifics of these relationships better than I do, so follow your own judgment there), but you don’t have to apologize for being straightforward about your transition, or concede that it’s an adults-only topic of conversation. You weren’t asking your niece to scrub in on your top surgery; you were letting her know you were trans. Being trans isn’t inappropriate; hold your ground on that one, and enlist your brother’s support if you can. Good luck!
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