a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

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  • Healing.
  • Connecting.

The other night, my partner and I had dinner with our 30-year-old son. We don’t see him all that often, but when we do there is a lot of conversation. He went from being a kiddo who wasn’t big on talking to a young man who is interested in a lot of subjects and even initiates conversations. He is curious, introspective, adventurous, and smart. 

It might not seem unusual to some folks that their children are talkative and engaging, but it wasn’t always like that in our household, and the change continues to delight me. Watching him grow – seeing him be more attentive to the world around him, doing things like remembering Mother’s Day, or sharing a story about something he recently learned – is a beautiful thing.

He is also a kid who doesn’t hold a lot of shame – which I am also so grateful for. He also doesn’t have a lot of stigma, either, around subjects that many families teach kids to stifle. He is who he is. What you see is what you get. And I love that. 

When we were driving him back home, I asked him for his permission to possibly talk about him in one of my upcoming trainings. He was so goofy. He kept repeating that my history is MY story and that he doesn’t need me to ask him if I can talk about him. I kept repeating to HIM that it was also HIS story, and I didn’t want to talk about things without his overt permission. (I also told him that I, of course, wouldn’t share any kind of story that would be embarrassing to him. He didn’t seem phased by that either – like it would be ok, even if I did.) 

He also kept saying – “I wouldn’t even know if you did talk about me, so why are you asking?” (This was all said in a non-confrontational way, but just like “Dude, why are you asking me this – AGAIN!?”) 

I have an August workshop at the Violence Against Men and Boys conference (on the intersections of trauma, sexual harm, and suicide), and a keynote at another conference focused on suicide prevention. I haven’t written my notes for either of them yet. But I know that I would like to include some content around Marcelle’s suicide (my son’s birth father, my partner’s life partner) in the stories I share. Talking about Marcelle = also talking about my partner and my kid. I can’t (easily) do one without the other. So, I wanted his permission. (Which he was of course giving me by his repeated “Duh, why are you asking me this again?”)


For both trans people and for survivors of harm (or those of who are both), agency over our stories can be extremely important. Because our power and histories have often been taken away from us, we may hold onto our stories, guarding them or being highly selective about who, what, when, and how we share parts of ourselves with other people.

Some trans folks want to be in total control of their story and don’t want anyone else to share any pieces about them that relate to their transness. For example, some trans folks may not want their parents (who might be super loving and accepting) to tell any of their friends that their (young or adult) child is trans. For some trans folks, they may not care if their 90 year old grandparent knows they are trans or uses a new name or pronoun; but in every other part of their life they want to be able to selectively share their identity. For other trans folks, they may want others in their family to reframe history to align with their current gender (e.g. not referring to them as their name given at birth, or having photos out of when they were younger). This can be challenging to navigate – for all people involved, since each person has their own story(ies).

This is also true for survivors of harm. 

For other trans people (and survivors), they view their story as something that might be a collective experience. For example, if a survivor of street violence is highly sensitive to loud noises, their household with their partner may be directly impacted by this part of the survivor’s story and experience. The survivor may wear noise-canceling headphones or need the TV to be on at a lower volume, or may suggest going to the basement when there are fireworks to help mute the booming sounds. The survivor’s partner’s life is impacted by some of these coping and adaptive strategies used by the survivor. Their lives together may need to involve higher levels of communication, coordination, and cooperation. Both have their own independent “story” about how they live together. Both have a collective story about their lives together. 

In this one fairly simple bit of trauma-adaptive-behaviors, how do they navigate who can share this information with others? For example, if the couple’s close friends invite them both to a 4th of July fireworks party, how can each of them respond to the invitation? Is there a mutual agreement in these cases that either partner will respond with something generic, like “Thanks for the offer, but we already have other plans.” Or can one OR BOTH of them say, “Hey, we really appreciate the offer, but the 4th of July is really hard with all of the noise because of some of the abuse that happened in the past. We prefer to stay in that night.” Or, to take things a bit further, in terms of who has agency over the shared story, can the survivor say why they are staying in, but the partner can’t? Or the other way around? Or do both people have permission and agreement with each other that they can share what feels right to them – either a generic “no thanks” or a more explicit reason why they are turning down their friend’s offer?

In an ideal world, there would be much discussion around various bits and pieces of each person’s life and story and mutual agreement on how to navigate the areas where one person may want more control over the information than the other might want them to have.

No style or approach to story ownership is inherently right or wrong. Every person has a right to define for themselves and communicate with the people around them what their needs and boundaries are. When possible, there would be agreements between people in relationship with each other to honor the level of privacy or agency each person needs and deserves.


When I reflect on the conversation with my son – even though I was nearly positive of what his answer would be around the issues of disclosure – it was 100% vital to me to get his overt permission. By asking, it would allow for an opportunity for him to have a nuanced or firm preference for what is shared.   

We have some interesting dynamics in our family about story ownership. We have some unique ways about how we conceptualize our family’s shared and distinct experiences.

Being the survivors of a suicide in our family was hard. Very hard. Sometimes it is still very hard. Even after 24 years, I am sometimes still amazed that we all made it through those initial very challenging years, wondering how this profound event would impact our then 6-year-old kid.   

As part of those conscious choices about what to disclose to him when he was a small child, to how we talked about other tough issues, we ended up with a (mostly!) emotionally healthy set of three adults. We have a family that can talk about depression, anxiety, suicide, abuse in relationships, cooking, bodies, politics, as well as a shitload of so many other topics.

I’m looking forward to being at conferences that allow me to talk about suicide. This is especially true because I don’t often tell personal stories. By sharing my story, my son’s story, my partner’s story – with permission from both – our collective healing continues. As we talk about these stories each time, we unearth or solidify new points of opportunity, healing, and connection.