Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Father wants back in your life after disowning you when you came out to him as transgender? Afraid you are losing your brother to QAnon?

DEAR NATALIE: Years ago, my father and I had a big blow out fight when I came out to him as trans. My mom died when I was small and it was always just my dad and me. He was a great dad to me. I think he always knew that I was “different,” but when I told him the truth when I was 24, he basically disowned me. Five years later, he has started to call me and send me letters, begging for my forgiveness. He is sick now, and I think he realizes how wrong he was to do what he did. My wife thinks that I should make amends with him, as we are expecting our first child together. I can't help but want him back in my life, but I have no idea how to begin the healing process. I am still so deeply hurt by him.  —MAKE IT RIGHT

DEAR MAKE IT RIGHT: If you want to make amends, this is the moment to do so. Your dad’s illness is a turning point for him in recognizing his own mortality. He most likely feels remorse, shame and regret for cutting you off. Often, when grief is not expressed constructively, it becomes anger. He may have just not understood what having a child who identifies as transgender meant. He may not have been ready to accept it. It doesn't condone his behavior or how he treated you. I am so sorry he couldn’t see beyond himself and center you in this. But I do believe in second chances. If he seems genuinely sorry and truly wants to embrace fully who you are, it may be a positive thing for you both. After losing your mother, it sounds as though you and your father had a close bond. Maybe you won’t have that relationship again, but perhaps you can build something even better now that there is a different level of honesty between you. If he is willing to educate himself, act with compassion towards you and your family, accept you for who you are and love you for who you are, then it might be worth exploring. Life is short and a chance you have to mend fences with your dad is a chance worth taking. You will know right away if he is genuine or not. It starts with a phone call, a letter, or a visit. Do whatever you feel comfortable doing. Involve a therapist if you think mediation will help. Your dad has to meet you where you are, on your terms. I applaud you for being willing to forgive him and take a step towards healing while you still have time. 

DEAR NATALIE: My brother and I were always close growing up. Over the years, he has become paranoid and invests too much time into reading QAnon theories and other conspiracies. This past week really showed his true colors because he sympathized with the people who stormed our Capitol. My family is beside themselves and my sister says we have to cut him off. I don't know what to do. There is no reasoning with him. I love him and I don’t want to cut him off. What should we do? —Q RIPPING US APART

DEAR Q RIPPING US APART: While you can’t control what your family members each individually decide to do, you can control how you engage with your brother. It isn’t easy to try and pull someone from the clutches of conspiracy theories. We all know that if they are down this rabbit hole, it can feel like your friend or relative is a lost cause.  You really can’t talk someone out of this stuff. Instead, try a different approach. Offer to switch “research” with them. They have to read something you bring to them and you offer to read something that they give to you. At least this way, you can open the door for dialogue and perhaps poke a few holes, weakening their arguments. It may plant a seed. In any case, my fear is that if your family cuts off your brother, he will only isolate further. Engage with your brother and help pull him away from those discussions by setting ground rules when you are together about what you will and will not discuss.

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