An End-of-year Message from Trans Lifeline

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The end-of-year holidays are supposed to be a time when families come together to celebrate joy, create lasting memories, and share the warmth of the festive season. However, for many trans people, spending time with family during this season can evoke feelings of dread. These lasting memories may be tainted by experiences of judgment, rejection, or dismissal. Unfortunately, for many trans people, family is not a place of warmth and safety, and being around them could involve tolerating insensitive comments, snide remarks disguised as jokes, or even facing open antagonism. Coupled with the cold weather and long nights, it becomes easy to feel overcome with despair.

For many of us, one of the most significant realizations in our journey of self-acceptance is that we don’t owe anything to anyone. Often, we are taught that being related to another person means we must grant them access to every aspect of our lives, and setting boundaries is viewed as disrespectful and rebellious. We were raised to believe that we owe our parents and elders the right to decide over our bodies, genders, names, and almost every choice and decision about our lives. These beliefs and expectations can be particularly ingrained in some cultures, making setting and upholding our boundaries very challenging. However, as deeply ingrained as they may be, beliefs and expectations are just that, and you can release yourself from them. It may take time and practice, and in some cases, it might lead to distancing yourself from a relationship. Sometimes, this distance is necessary to allow space for growth, healing, and reconciliation. And sometimes, that distance must become permanent for your safety and survival. A true family is bound not by blood but by mutual respect, understanding, and care. Trust and respect must be reciprocal in any relationship, regardless of the familial ties that bind you to them. You are allowed to restrict access to your truth from those who cannot honor and value it.

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Whether you are spending holidays with unsupportive relatives or grappling with the realities of living in a transphobic society, please remember that you are not the problem. Regardless of whether you are trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, intersex, or questioning, who you are is never, ever the problem. You are not a mistake, you are not a sin, you are not abnormal, and you are not unlovable. The problem, the sickness, lies in a society where bigotry, hate, and intolerance are the norm, relentlessly touting negative and ignorant opinions about us as truths. Constantly being told that something about you is distorted, unfitting, and unforgivable can make you believe it’s true. It may feel impossible to love yourself when all you hear is how undeserving of love you are. Yet, you are worthy of love; you deserve a fulfilling life.

A heart depicted in a watercolor style.

The judgment and rejection from our family don’t necessarily indicate a lack of love. Their beliefs and expectations are influenced by the same societal norms that we, as trans people, don’t conform to. The extent to which one is willing to invest energy, patience, and grace in attempting to mend a relationship or simply educate the other person is a personal choice. You are entitled to set boundaries, withdraw from hurtful situations, and prioritize self-care. In turn, these actions contribute to the growth of your resilience and confidence in setting your own path. Those who genuinely love you will come around and walk alongside you on that path. For those unable to extend themselves beyond narrow minds and closed hearts, you have the right to leave them behind.

As we end a year filled with extraordinary challenges, both as individuals and as an organization, we reflect on the resilience that has carried us through trying times. Alongside the resources we’ve compiled while our Hotline operators are on break, we also want to share some of the ways we’ve found purpose and joy during these times:

“During this time of the year, I find support by staying in community. Sharing with friends and others who don’t necessarily find these holidays joyful. By doing so, we cancel out and create our own special occasions and, in turn, replace negative experiences of the past with new ones. After all, what makes an occasion special is not so much the tradition, but the people sharing it.” —Yeniel

“When dealing with unsupportive family, I try to remind myself that I am and will always be the world’s leading expert on myself. The nuances of my internal experience are an intrinsically personal matter. That doesn’t mean I’ll always know what’s the best path for me, but it does mean my best guess will always be the most accurate. The best you can do is the best you can do, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choices in the pursuit of happiness.” —Steph

“I’ve come to accept that suicidal ideation is a permanent inhabitant in my body and that even in my strongest mental health periods, I know it’s still patiently waiting in the wings. For me, recontextualizing suicidal depression as a familiar presence —an overeager, bothersome, but well-meaning old friend, always offering up the same solution to every problem— was a way to exteriorize that piece of myself enough to loosen the grip it had on my life. By painting my SI as this irksome, stubborn tenant, I could begin to separate my genuine, rational thoughts (the real me) from the irrational ones (my predictable, short-sighted neighbor). I relate to it like I might an unruly child, with almost a fondness for its consistent presence, waiting for it to exhaust itself, no longer beholden to its every whim. This is what radical self-acceptance looks like for me, even in crisis.” —Sia

“When I feel overwhelmed or hopeless, it helps me to remember that transphobia, gender expectations, and bigotry exist outside of me. They are part of the external world, but the truth of who I am belongs only to me. While the external world impacts most aspects of my life, nothing can take away who I am. Through all the work I have done to know, forgive, accept, embrace, and fully become my authentic self, I have earned the right to love who I am, and no one can deny or take that away from me.” —León

We express gratitude for the unwavering support, dedication, and courage demonstrated by our community throughout this trying year. May the upcoming year bring renewed hope, opportunities for positive change, and the continued strength to overcome whatever challenges lie ahead.


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