It Gives Me Hope

Walking down the stairs at my parents’ house this holiday season, one of the first things I noticed was my Christmas stocking. All of our stockings were hung in a row at the landing, hand-knit stockings that my paternal grandmother made for each of us long ago (so long ago, in fact, that I cannot remember a Christmas without them), our names knit into the border at the top of each stocking. Mine, this year, had a little sign my parents had made, which designated the stocking as belonging to “RYAN.”

This holiday season has really brought home to me how incredibly lucky I am in my family, friends, and family friends.

Starting from when I came as gay a few years ago, the people I know and love barely gave a collective blink. I received support and well wishes from all over. My parents were, and remain, fantastic.

When I started coming out as trans, I was still apprehensive. After all, the word “gay” is fairly well known; the word “trans,” not so much. And while it’s true that many people haven’t quite known what exactly I was saying (and to be honest, I’ve not always been completely clear on what I’ve been trying to say), the people in my life have been amazingly supportive. I am so lucky.

My parents are, as I said, incredible. My mom, in particular, has been outstanding — she remains proud of me and continues to make it clear to me that I will always come first if anyone has problems with me being trans. She doesn’t shy away from telling people that I’m trans (now that she has my permission and go-ahead on telling people at large). She even refers to me using gender-neutral pronouns. My mom is my strongest supporter and my fiercest ally.

The rest of my family has also been amazing. I know my dad (though less given to emotional conversations than my mom) loves me, and he does make an effort at calling me Ryan. My brother has pretty much taken it all in stride. I came out as trans to my large extended family, and they were nothing but supportive. Not two minutes after I told my (82-year-old) grandparents that I’m now going by Ryan, they were calling me Ryan.

Over the holidays, I’ve attended get-togethers with a number of different family friends. These are people who have known me since I was a baby; some of them were even at the airport when I first came off the plane from Korea. And every time sometime called me Ryan, it made me feel warm inside. So many of my pseudo aunts and uncles — the man who was Best Man at my parents’ wedding, my mom’s best friend from college and her husband, and one of my mom’s other closest friends, in particular — have been using my chosen name. Even my younger cousins — my only cousins on my dad’s side of the family — have called me Ryan and let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I’m still their cousin, and they love me. My oldest cousin has been amazing about everything since I first came out to her; she was the first person who knew me by my given name to call me Ryan in person (while email is fantastic, it’s not quite the same as face-t0-face conversation).

I have not heard a single negative word from any of them. I feel so incredibly fortunate. I know — from statistics, from reading, from my friends’ experiences — that the overwhelming acceptance I’ve encountered is rather a rarity, but my experiences give me hope that, with a lot of effort, the world can change. I do believe that diversity in gender identity and expression will eventually be respected and, one day in the very distant future, even celebrated.

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