Dear Readers: Like you, I’m often curious about what happens to the advice I offer once it leaves my desk, and so I’ve asked readers to send in “updates” to let all of us know how things turned out.
The responses have flowed in, and I’m interested and often gratified to learn what impact this experience has had on readers. Publishing these updates reminds me that we have been through a lot over these past decades.
(It’s important to understand that most of these updates offer a positive outcome. I assume this is because when things go well, people are more willing to share their experience.)
To refresh all of our memories, I’m running the original Q&A, followed by the update.
Dear Amy: I am one of six adult siblings. We gather once or twice a year in a low-key kind of way to stay connected and catch up.
My brother “Tom,” his wife and three adult children stopped attending these events a couple of years ago. This left us perplexed.
Recently Tom’s son (my nephew) shared with the family that he was gender-transitioning to being a woman and would be known as “Laura.”
We siblings reached out to Laura and to Tom, in our individual ways, with messages of support and acceptance. Tom followed up with an email explaining that this was the reason for the recent absences, as they took time to process it and to support Laura, who wasn’t yet ready to share her changes with the broader family.
We will soon be having another gathering and Laura may be joining us. I am at a loss as to how to greet her when she walks through the door (after giving her a big hug, of course).
I want to say something that acknowledges this important step in her journey, but I do not want to say anything that might seem insensitive or awkward.
Amy, you always seem to have the right words for any occasion. Please help!
Dear Aunty: Keep in mind that Laura is likely as nervous (or more nervous) than you are.
She will be part of your family for the rest of her life, and so don’t force yourself (or her) to cover too much ground in this one meeting.
No awkward string of words is really necessary when you can deliver a hearty hug. Make eye contact with your niece, and say, “Welcome back, Laura. I’ve missed you!”
After that, you will find ways to resume your relationship, which was presumably well-established before her absence. Don’t worry about igniting an instant connection, but let her reveal her own story as she chooses, through time. You will all adjust.
(Originally published in January 2018)
Update, from “Grateful Aunty”: Dear Amy, I remember your advice – first to relax about this and then to remember this would not be a “one and done” encounter.
I greeted Laura just as I would any other niece or nephew whom I had not seen in a couple of years – with a big hug and lots of enthusiasm.
We did a lot of catching up about life in general, not the “big change.”
The conversation meandered in a very natural way with Laura occasionally alluding to her transition (like how long it was taking to get her name changed on her driver’s license).
The bigger point I want to make – and I realize this is only based on my singular experience – is that she seems so much more at ease socially than before.
That evening she was more expressive, engaged and outgoing than I had ever seen her before her transition.
As I was driving home later that night and reflecting on this, it occurred to me that before her transition, she typically stood with arms folded across chest and with shoulders slightly hunched. Now she speaks animatedly, using her hands freely and with terrific posture.
This to me is the surest sign that she is finally becoming who she was meant to be.
It gave me chills and made me appreciate more than ever how important it is to personally support loved ones on this journey, as well as advocate for them in a larger context.
Dear Grateful: This relationship is thriving, just as it should.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
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