Chapter 4: Grief in trans communities
I had spent my life living two separate lives in one body. It was confusing even for me. I would wake up and think, “Am I man or a woman? Am I going to be a woman today or go back to the drudgery of being a man?” It was incredibly lonely. But I had such a sense of inner peace when I stepped out as a woman that I couldn’t go back to my old self.
As a trans person, you may experience times when you feel great joy and excitement as you move toward your authentic self, yet you may also feel some sadness. For example, you may be feeling the loss of a connection with your life before transition or loss of relationships with those who do not accept who you are. It can be confusing to have these mixed feelings, but they are normal.
You may find that some people fail to understand your grief because they view the changes as ones you have chosen, but grief isn’t always so clear-cut. This can mean that much of your grief is unacknowledged. Even when you gain something, it is often true that something is also lost.
Below are some of the different emotions you may feel. Click on each tab on the left to reveal more about these feelings and how they may affect you.
Feeling both joy and sadness about your transition and your relationships can be confusing. It may take some time for you to sort through all your thoughts and feelings, and these may change over time.
Your family and friends may experience their own grief as they witness the loss of the person they knew as “you.” Their expressions of grief may cause you pain and confusion, especially if they are struggling to accept the “new” you.
You face added layers of discrimination, both within and outside 2SLGBTQ+ communities. The threat and reality of violence, including death, is a significant source of fear, suffering, and grief.
You face greater physical and mental health risks, many of which are due to general discrimination, rejection, and lack of education among healthcare providers.
What may help
- Remind yourself that mixed feelings are a normal and expected part of transitioning. Pay attention to them and notice changes.
- Endings are as important as beginnings. In the process of welcoming or birthing your new identity, you may need to grieve the loss or death of certain aspects of your old one.
- It’s difficult to grieve losses that aren’t recognized. Give yourself time and permission to identify and grieve your losses.
- If family or friends seem unable to welcome your transition, remember that they may also be grieving losses connected to their relationships with you and the roles each of you each had in the other’s life. You may need to give them time to adjust. In the meantime, reach out to people who are able to understand and support you.
- Consider ways to celebrate or honour your new beginnings, on your own or with people who are supportive. For example, you might choose a new “birthday.”
- Find ways to grieve the people and relationships that have not followed you in your transition. For example, you might create a ritual or ceremony that helps you to acknowledge these changes.
- Take steps to increase your personal safety and reach out for support in managing your fears. If it feels right for you, seek or create opportunities to increase awareness and protections for trans people in your community.
- Look for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about risks to trans people. Play an active role in managing your care.
- If you need additional support, reach out to a trans community peer supporter, counsellor, or therapist with experience supporting trans people. (For peer support by and for trans and questioning people, call the Trans Lifeline's Peer Support Hotline at 1-877-330-6366.).
Chapter 2 - Unrecognized and unsupported grief (of this module)