Transitioning can be brutal. And no, I’m not referring to surgery, or the impact of hormones. I’m talking about the reaction of our families and friends to the changes we are making to our lives. There’s no hard and fast rules to how people will react. Sometimes the people you are most scared of telling turn out to be the ones who have your back, through thick and thin. Sometimes the ones you love and trust the most are unable to see past the transition and realise that you are still you, and need their continuing love and trust.

Some friends and family become the loudest, proudest trans-allies, whilst others are happy just to carry on loving their loved-ones the same way they always have, just with a different name and pronouns.

I have been very fortunate – whilst my family are unlikely to ever march in a Pride celebration, sporting brightly coloured transactivist T-shirts, most of the people in my immediate and extended family are supportive and loving, and appreciate why I am doing what I’m doing, even if they’d probably rather I wasn’t. Similarly, most of my friends seem happy to take me as I am, and really, I can’t ask for more than that.

But I have lost people I love – some forever, and some I hope in my heart will come back to me one day. Anybody who has ever suggested that being transgender is a lifestyle choice should consider how much some of us have lost simply by being honest about who we are.

Trans people lose members of their families – parents, partners, children, siblings. Sometimes literally – they are told to move out and never come back. Equally, while some people stay in our daily lives, they are lost simply because they refuse to acknowledge or support us at our most vulnerable. Which is where I come to DIY family. We need to make our own families, and open ours up to others.

Whilst we can’t choose our blood family, or force them to react to our situation in a way that will make us happy, we can find other people who WILL support us. I don’t mean that you should abandon those members of your blood family or friendship group who ARE loving, supportive and kind – anything but – but rather than bang your head against the brick wall of a relative or friend who will not and cannot budge, look elsewhere for the understanding you need.

I am a bit reluctant to use the phrase ‘trans community’, because that implies that all trans people are similar in their outlook, aims and willingness to be a part of ‘a group’. However, within smaller groups of trans people, be they social groups, support groups, etc. there is a huge resource in people who have at least a partial understanding of what others in that group are going through. I’m not trying to encourage dependence, as the last thing anyone needs when they’re feeling vulnerable themselves is someone else relying on them for support. Support and care go both ways.

Sharing a cuppa and providing a listening ear for a while can make you an important person in someone’s life, if nobody at home will listen. Getting together to take part in gender-appropriate activities with someone whose gender identity is being denied by other people in their life will help them. Whilst the idea of being a role-model can be scary, maybe that’ll make you feel good too.

When building up a DIY family, you can mix and match blood family, old friends, new friends, different ages and different backgrounds. Sew all of these into a patchwork blanket that will provide you with the love and support you need, but try to leave room for the ones you’ve lost to return: we’re not the only ones changing.

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