When a Sibling Transitions

What I call heroism, Kenyon calls survival. I get worked up when our friends say, “We’ll love her anyway,” or “That must be so hard for your family,” implying that Kenyon’s transition was a problem, not a solution. But Kenyon simply says: “Well, yeah, it is weird. But all I want is tolerance.”

I wonder, Do these friends understand why I’ve called my brother “Lolly” and taken an extra second to correct myself. Do they know I wore Lolly’s jacket to a friend’s house, hoping it still smelled of her? I wonder if they sometimes think about who Kenyon used to be.

I think Kenyon knows Lolly still exists somewhere for our family. I don’t talk about it with him very often, because I have been the one to coach my parents out of their ignorance, and I’ve worked hard to show Kenyon that I agree that transitioning is the best thing he’s ever done for himself. He’s happy now, and proud of his work toward a graduate degree in chemistry. Three years after he began his transition, he says he is the most emotionally and physically comfortable he’s ever felt. When I see stories about people like Leelah Alcorn, the Ohio teen whose parents refused to accept her as transgender and who killed herself, I think about how everything could have turned out differently for our family.

In GlamourMeghan Tear Plummer reflects on her sister’s transition to her brother late in life, and wrestles with what his liberation means for their relationship.

Read the story