I’ll never forget the night my dad kicked me out. I wound up going to a friend’s that night, and though I could not stay with this friend for long, it made me feel safe and secure about who I am and who I was around.
From that moment on, I knew how important it was to surround myself as much as I could with a supportive chosen family. I found people in a church I attending who accepted me for me, used male pronouns and affirming language, and treated me as one of their own… a part of the family.
I have not spoken to my “dead beat” since he threw me out of his house, nor has he tried to contact me. The silver lining? Life is a bit better that way: the stress of worrying about what he says is gone. This allows me to focus on me and my own well-being.
Tips for Staying Positive When Your Family Isn’t Supportive
1. Surround yourself with people who accept you and who stand up for you.
If you’re dealing with emotional abuse, transphobic or mean comments, or other negative experiences with your family, it’s important to create a chosen family of friends and trusted loved ones you can lean on. If you’re able to leave the situation, you should – even if it’s just leaving the room when it gets to be too much. If possible, you can spend the night or some time at a friend’s house who is accepting and understanding. The physical distance of leaving a harmful space like that will help distance yourself from mentally negative thoughts, too. We know that family is hard to let go of, because they are the people who are supposed to know and love us no matter what. You may consider trying to help them understand your identity (I recommend the book Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue). Even if they are still unwilling to try to understand, you know you made an effort to try to keep your family in your life – and know you as the real you.
2. Get involved with or start your own trans support group.
Getting involved in something you are passionate about will help you stay positive and motivated. You can join an online group via Facebook, reddit, tumblr, or other social media platforms or contact your nearest LGBTQ community center to see what options are in your local area. If you’re a student, ask a counselor or your student body president about forming a club on campus. Meeting new people and sharing your experiences about your family is a great way to heal and feel connected.
3. Always tell yourself you are loved, you are beautiful, and you are enough.
Whatever anyone else thinks or says that’s negative is not important. You are enough, exactly as you are. Positive affirmations make a huge difference on our self-worth and our happiness, so remind yourself these ideas every morning.
4. Have at least one person who can listen to you vent whenever you need to.
My go-to friend lives in Denmark. He is a great listener and always seems to know just what to say once I’ve gotten it all off my chest. Everyone needs at least one trusted friend we can confide all our stresses in on dark days. Find that person or people and give them a call when you need to get things off your chest.
5. If you fear you’re on the verge of being homeless, create a plan.
If you are living with your parents or family that is not accepting, and worry that you may become homeless, look into organizations that house transgender or LGBTQ youth. Here in my home state of Arkansas, we have Lucie’s Place in Little Rock for young trans people aged 18-25, as well as Covenant House who takes in youth as young as 14 in certain circumstances (Covenant House is a religious organization, but my experiences there when I identified as lesbian were very good. In my experience, no one judged me for being LGBT oriented, ever.) Do research in your own state by calling LGBTQ centers or searching Safe Place to find groups or shelters that support homeless youth, and be sure to know your rights – the National Center for Transgender Equality has put together this helpful guide. Finally, communicate these fears to your chosen family. Knowing where you can go in a time of crisis is important.
6. Keep a go-to list of activities you can do by yourself to feel good.
If I’m feeling down and my chosen family isn’t available, I’ll go to YouTube and watch videos of other trans folks or funny videos and find myself laughing and immediately having a much better mindset. I also enjoy making friendship bracelets, riding my bike, and taking my dog to the dog park. Find activities that relax or cheer you up, especially self-care activities if you’re feeling dysphoric, and try to make them part of your daily or weekly routine.
Not having family support and acceptance can be a huge disappointment to have to go through and deal with. Remember: you are not alone, and things will get better. By reminding yourself of your worth and having loving people around you who understand, you will be better-equipped to deal with those challenges. Please don’t ever stop looking for people who love and support you. They are there… they are everywhere!