DEAR ABBY: I am a 19-year-old trans man. I told my mother years ago, and while she hasn't stopped me from transitioning, she's wholly unsupportive. Despite telling her my new name and pronouns, she refuses to refer to me that way even when we are alone. (I can't tell the rest of my family; they would disown me.)
Every time I bring it up, she gets quiet or changes the subject. I love her and she loves me, but it breaks my heart to see her ignore who I am, and I know she won't back me up if the rest of my family finds out. I feel hopeless. What do I do to make her understand? -- TRUE SELF IN GEORGIA
DEAR TRUE SELF: Parents usually want to protect their children. They can also be misinformed or confused about the issue of being a trans person. The announcement may be hard to accept because many individuals have known they're trans for a long time but hesitated to tell others, including their parents. The revelation can be awkward and challenging to respond to with patience, love and care.
Take your mom to a PFLAG meeting, if she's willing to go. It can make a huge difference for parents, and it's what I recommend for you. To find a local chapter, visit pflag.org/find. PFLAG booklets like "Our Trans Loved Ones" or "Guide to Being a Trans Ally" could be enlightening for her (and you).
For your own emotional support, find community that is accepting and affirming -- PFLAG, a faith community or a transmasculine support group -- to gain confidence and safety. And do not underestimate the power of "chosen family." Create a plan to get your life in order if your family can't be accepting. There are people who will love and care for anyone whose family can't love them. Seek them out.
While it may be challenging, look toward community gathering spaces and meetup groups. People are there; it may just take a bit more work to find them. Consider starting the search in a nearby larger town or city to find out who else travels there for support, or to find a safe space to explore away from home to gain a broader perspective.
Stay safe. Educate yourself about resources online (affirming communities, crisis and emergency hotlines, state laws and rules). Planning ahead is something people forget most often about the transition process. I wish you only the best.