Communication and the Search for Truth
Diana Aitchison BSc.
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Almost immediately on arriving one is quickly reminded that the weekend is all about communication. Not just in English either. Delegates from Holland, Belguim and Norway were welcome members of our diverse band, adding to the flavour of an extended network.
The time came for my own talk and the subject of my presentation was some preliminary findings from the returned data on the study of Children of a Transgendered Parent that I am currently running. It wasn't really surprising that the children who had expressed an opinion had inferred that;
were issues that were a major cause for concern for them. They spoke about their sense of isolation and it seems that the children who are fully integrated into an understanding of transgenderism and are included in family discussions after the age of seven or eight, fare better emotionally than the children who are shielded from any opportunity to ask questions.
This finding brings the concept of communication as a learning tool that can help ease the children's fears, into the arena. It is naturally understood that a mother would wish to spare her children from deep grief and suffering but it is possible that this is one of those time when silence is not golden. Of course, if hostilities have broken out between the parents there is a risk of the child suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome (Gardener 1978), a common effect of divorce on children, regardless of whether a parent is TG or not. Not being able to communicate with one parent because the parents themselves cannot find common ground for a temporary cease-fire must have a negative consequence for children, not unlike bereavement. However, it is fair to say that for some wives and partners the hurt resulting from past behaviours while their spouses struggled with their gender identity problems is too much for them to dismiss lightly even just for a few hours each week. There are other fears too - if I let my son see his father as a woman will the behaviour be passed on? Often the mother may feel that it is better to cut all ties rather than try to deal with the problems and consequences of communicating.
Communications between generations can cause problems too - if they do not take place! It seems to be a European tradition to not mention that some one in the family either in the current generations or in the far and distant past had a difference except to mutter, 'well, your great-uncle Fred had some odd habits they tell me', and leave it at that. While there is still no evidence of a genetic or inherited factor for GD, it was never-the-less very intriguing to read e-mails from adult men and women who, having a difference themselves, have discovered some thing similar in a past relative. The difference may simply be a trait but people who corresponded said that it was very satisfying for them as adults to find that they weren't oddballs after all! Again the lack of communication concerning family traits and differences, leaving the possible re-emergence in future generations up to fate, had left these writers feeling alienated from their family, unable to discuss their feelings until they became old enough to risk possible rejections.
If people are able to communicate their feelings during their formative years, through adolescence or into early adulthood, there is less likelihood that they will make the errors that occur later on when they attempt to conform to societies wishes - that they marry and produce the next generation while performing the duties and responsibilities that the role incurs. One can completely understand that many GD people have a deep and natural need to be a parent in a loving relationship but this goal needs to be sought through early communication of their true emotional and gender expression. If this does not happen there will undoubtedly be conflict, hurt and a sense of betrayal resulting in another family torn apart.
Communicating, articulating, discussing or just simply 'coming out with it' can be the hardest thing that a GD person has to face. Little wonder that they prevaricate, enter a denial period (sometimes lasting twenty years or more) or simply avoid the truth about themselves. Avoidance of such complex truths, not just about GD and personal identity but of the risks involved with telling the truth about anything equals just putting off the moment when revelation is unavoidable. M. Scott Peck, an American psychiatrist notes that;
'Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it'
When we return to Manchester for Gendys 2002 we will be once again confronting truths; truths that help outsiders come to an understanding and acceptance of the state of being GD and the difficulties which GD people face. We will not be telling untruths in order to excuse them their excesses or their mistakes. We will be telling it 'how it is', warts and all. And in communicating these truths we might be able to assist in creating a better place for everyone else to face their truths too. Then hopefully, everyonewill start talking.
Gardner, R (1978, 1998) The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition. Cresskill, New Jersey, Creative Therapeutics.
Scott Peck. M (1990) The Road Less Travelled. Arrow.
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