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My Sister Became My Brother

I considered myself open-minded and accepting of other people's choices in life. I had three siblings - two brothers and a sister. One of my brothers was gay, and my sister was a lesbian. When I was in my late teens and early adulthood, I had a lot of exposure to gay culture, and I felt very comfortable with that group, and was very supportive of my friends and family members who identified as queer.

But when I found out (accidentally, through one of those marvelous coincidences the internet can create) that my sister was now identifying as transgender, and was in the process of physically changing herself into a man, I couldn't handle it. It didn't make any sense to me. She had never indicated any interest in men, and she was in fact a vocal man-hater for many years. She never expressed any of the feelings of being born with the wrong body that so many transgender folks experience. I just couldn't believe that this wasn't the result of too much therapy, of some bizarre influence, or just what I perceived as her desperate need to be different.

It didn't help that my sister and I had always had a difficult relationship. She was quite cruel to me when we were young (we are two years apart) and even in young adulthood we struggled to maintain any kind of friendship. When she came home for a recent holiday - her first trip home in many years - seeing her felt more like she just wanted to shove her new identity in our faces in a confrontational manner. Here was this person telling me that she's a man, when I know genetically she isn't. And she hasn't expressed any interest in me as a person for years; so why is she here forcing her new identity on me?

Obviously, her decision to change her gender and her visit home brought up a lot of unresolved anger and resentment about our connection as siblings. It was easier for me to use her transgender state as a scapegoat and blame all the anger on her decision, rather than to deal with it head on.

I'm trying to change that. I'm reading a lot about gender issues and I'm very interested in talking to other people who have transgender siblings. I'm learning to respect her decision and to understand the biological and emotional issues behind it. I have a long way to go until I fully embrace and accept transgender folks, but I'm working on it. And I'll get there eventually.

deleted deleted 26-30 16 Responses Jul 18, 2008

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He's your brother now. Maybe this is your chance to reconnect?

You say you know what gender he "genetically" is, but do you? Because it's not true that there are only two genotypes for gender, nor are there only two phenotypes. Genotypically one can be XX or XY, but also X, XXX, XXY, XYY, XXYY, XXXY or XXXXY. And phenotypically you can be born looking like we expect a male to look, like we expect a female to look, have both male and female characteristics, or have characteristics that are indeterminate. A few people are born with XY chromosomes but develop vaginas and ovaries, and a few people are born XX but have penises and testes. Unless his genetic makeup has been tested and you know what the tests showed, you do not know for sure what his genotype is. Unless you have been tested, you don't even know what your genotype is.

That's why it doesn't matter what is between your legs--gender is all in the mind. You know your gender, right? He knows his gender just the same way you do--he FEELS male. You don't have to understand, but if you don't accept, it will be your loss, not his.

It's possible that he used being a "man-hater" as a beard of sorts to hide his true identity. I've done something a little similar, and so have a lot of other trans-guys/girls. I think its great that you're trying to understand him.

I felt the same way...I was angry with myself for not feeling the way I thought I should at first

I am in the same boat. My sister has been a "man" for a 5 years now( name change, birth certificate change,gender change) and will soon have the tops removed. As a young child I have always known "she" was a lesbian. Growing up everyone asked who my brother was. This is not a shock to our family but the actual changing of genders is. She is now a he, and I have to always stop to say brother instead of sister. How do you do that after 40+ years. I am glad to know I am not alone but is still hard. Life gives you a sister...........oh wait let's make it a brother..........mind boggling. We never had a great relationship growing up and I assumed it was from the confusion of who he was. I can accept that. I do support him, but do not understand it. I do believe if you are happy, so be it. I think I can fully embrace this knowing what I grew up with but still hard to say my Brother.

I completely understand your situation. I too consider myself accepting but when my sister claimed she's a man, I shut down and can't handle it. Im still angry so I'm not very helpful with advice, but you're not alone

As one just starting my transition from male to female I suggest you hit amazon for some books to read family stories that will help most understand this is not about physical relationships with same/opposite genders. It is more about feeling that you are a runway model stuck in a plumbers body. Everything about the way you present yourself to others and feel inside about yourself is the heart of it. We are still the same loving caring compassionate person we have been, except now we are comfortable with our inner self. There are several books that will help those in transition and the many loving people we have around us.<br />
<br />
Vicki

" I just couldn't believe that this wasn't the result of too much therapy, of some bizarre influence, or just what I perceived as her desperate need to be different."<br />
<br />
I have recently found out that my sister identifies as Transgender and the way you have put this and MatEP about the new identity not being authentic, it's exactly how I feel. My sister has overnight (well to us) changed into my brother, with a new name and a new identity and I can't get used to it.<br />
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I love my sister and we have always had a great relationship even though she's 7 years younger than I am. But I am feeling hurt and ashamed and I can't stand to be ashamed of my sister, that doesn't feel right at all.<br />
<br />
I feel like my parents and my sister are handling this a lot better than I am, that they're coming to terms with it and that I'm going to be the one that's different because I can't get used to it even though I'm trying.

" I just couldn't believe that this wasn't the result of too much therapy, of some bizarre influence, or just what I perceived as her desperate need to be different."<br />
<br />
I have recently found out that my sister identifies as Transgender and the way you have put this and MatEP about the new identity not being authentic, it's exactly how I feel. My sister has overnight (well to us) changed into my brother, with a new name and a new identity and I can't get used to it.<br />
<br />
I love my sister and we have always had a great relationship even though she's 7 years younger than I am. But I am feeling hurt and ashamed and I can't stand to be ashamed of my sister, that doesn't feel right at all.<br />
<br />
I feel like my parents and my sister are handling this a lot better than I am, that they're coming to terms with it and that I'm going to be the one that's different because I can't get used to it even though I'm trying.

I came across this just today, and joined EP to comment. AliceBorealis, what you wrote is so precisely like how I feel about my older brother "coming out" as a woman. I don't feel like his new identity is authentic at all. Rather, it seems far more likely to me (and my younger sister and my mother) that this is the result of my brother's desperate desire to be part of a disenfranchised group, suggestive therapy, and/or his tendency to be easily influenced by others. <br />
<br />
My brother has, as long as I can remember, been uncomfortable with himself. I think, in order to deal with these feelings of being out of place, he has always been very into being different (provided he could be different with a group of similarly different friends). Until he came out, he hadn't expressed any interest in anything typically considered girly. Even now, seven years later, his interests remain what they always have been - no new or newly-revealed interests in typically feminine concerns or activities. His wardrobe, save one dress that I have ever seen, is largely the same exact pants, shoes, and sweaters from before he came out. (My now-husband stated that if I hadn't mentioned the transgender thing before he first met my brother, he wouldn't have even guessed my brother was trying to be a girl: he'd just have appeared to be a guy with long hair and an odd choice in earrings.) <br />
<br />
There are many parts about this identity change that bother me. At the top of the list is that my brother has never had private counseling. With the history of mental illness in our family, investigating if insecurities might be tied to depression is, to me, a reasonable first step (not "maybe I should be a girl.") I am being treated for depression. His not looking into depression is dismissive of the journey it took for me to finally get help and the improvement in my quality of life since. My brother has attended group sessions. For transgender issues. As susceptible to suggestion as he is, group therapy doesn't seem a great place to determine if he belongs in the group in the first place. <br />
<br />
A second part of his change to a woman that bothers me is the notion that that change can happen at all. If you did not grow up as a female, I don't feel you can ever understand womanhood. Girls are treated differently: they are given stricter rules by their parents, they are hooted at by strangers when they have done nothing to draw that attention, they have periods and the hassles and expenses that goes along with them. Or perhaps they never have a period or start very late and feel there is something physically wrong with them. There are many parts of girl culture that you cannot get if you weren't there on the ground floor. If I felt that I should have been born black and decided to start expressing that at 30, the black community rightly would not accept me as one of them. Similarly, referring to my brother as a woman or my sister ignores that difficult path of growing up a girl and the ways that it is unique.<br />
<br />
So far, IF he is transgendered doesn't seem to be a question that's crossed his mind. It appears that a while back, someone noticed how uncomfortable my brother is with himself, suggested he should try life as a woman, and he hasn't looked back since. My father has always been blindly accepting of anything my brother does, so my mom, sister, and I, not wanting to incur my father's wrath, haven't pushed the issue. If I thought this was making my brother happier or more confident, such pushing wouldn't be appropriate anyway. But the way he expresses himself as a woman is half-hearted, has involved almost no monetary investment in new clothes, a haircut, or anything beyond a couple $2 makeup products, and leaves him as insecure as he's ever been.

Hi, I have two sisters, and the oldest one (we're 6 years apart) we think or kinda discovered through accidently read messages on internet, etc... that she wants to be a man, she's almost 21 and until she was 14 years old she was a super girly normal sweet girl. The change in her was so radical... none of us understand... also... It's almost sure that she doesn't like girls... so we think she may want to be a gay-man, all this is so confusing, specially when going out w her and other people confuse her w a guy. It's awkward because for us she will always be our GIRL-DAUGHTER-Sister! <br />
<br />
Unlike you, our relationship is very very good, but she never tells me anything about that subject.. is like it doesn't exist. It's so weird. <br />
<br />
Don't know what to do ... also, I'm always worry that she's not happy..and worry that if all this is something that has to do with a trauma, a rape or smt.... she's a student so maybe she has not gone to therapy cuz she doesn't have money for that and doesn't wanna ask dad or mom for that, they always fight though. I love her ... not him! :-(

Hi, I have two sisters, and the oldest one (we're 6 years apart) we think or kinda discovered through accidently read messages on internet, etc... that she wants to be a man, she's almost 21 and until she was 14 years old she was a super girly normal sweet girl. The change in her was so radical... none of us understand... also... It's almost sure that she doesn't like girls... so we think she may want to be a gay-man, all this is so confusing, specially when going out w her and other people confuse her w a guy. It's awkward because for us she will always be our GIRL-DAUGHTER-Sister! <br />
<br />
Unlike you, our relationship is very very good, but she never tells me anything about that subject.. is like it doesn't exist. It's so weird. <br />
<br />
Don't know what to do ... also, I'm always worry that she's not happy..and worry that if all this is something that has to do with a trauma, a rape or smt.... she's a student so maybe she has not gone to therapy cuz she doesn't have money for that and doesn't wanna ask dad or mom for that, they always fight though. I love her ... not him! :-(

Hi Alice,<br />
I just posted my own story about struggling with my brother transitioning to become my sister. I resinate with this idea of it just not making sense. For years what was happening in my family and with my sister made no sense to me. I found myself often alone trying to wrap my head around this unreal change. I would love to talk to you more. Thanks for sharing...Ali

I know exactly what you mean!

You're really a very special person & It's a shame your sister hasn't yet realized it. I wish you much success in your reading & other research. There's more available than one might think.

I tried to comment yesterday but my internet connection sucks. Anyway I just found out yesterday that my brother is transgender. If you want to talk on here I would be happy to. :)