My son and his fiancée are getting married in June. I'm an MTF transsexual whose been living full-time for nearly 5 years. Both my son and his fiancée are generally accepting and often invite me to social occasions with their friends. His fiancée comes from a well-to-do family and the wedding reception will be at their country club. Since transitioning, I've met her father and mother, and it's quite clear they are very status-oriented.
My son approached me several weeks back and told me that his fiancée asked that I not reveal my relationship to him and his fiancée at the wedding or reception. I'm not a part of the ceremonies, but I am paying for the rehearsal dinner. My initial reaction was disappointment, but I did understand that this is her (and his) day and wanted to respect their wishes. I've been planning to go along with it...
Yesterday, my son told me that I wasn't going to be invited to the bridal shower either. I was disappointed and it made me realize that I hadn't come to grips with my hurt feelings. I want to do what's best for all of us, but I also believe that I need to be as "out there" as possible because I wouldn't have had the life I do if it weren't for the courage of my trans brothers and sisters who've gone before me.
I have lots of thoughts going through my mind about how to handle the situation. Should I just go with the flow and be there for them, but essentially invisible? Should I call them out on it so they'll understand how they've made me feel and then just go with it? Should I just attend the wedding itself, and skip the rehearsal dinner and reception? Or, should I tell them that if they want to invite me, I won't go along with the charade?
TransParent: At My Son's Wedding
Thank you for sharing your dilemma with me. I really sense the heartache in this decision. I suspect there is heartache for your son too.
Who are these requests regarding your (non)participation designed to please? Your son or your future daughter-in-law? Her parents? When he asks you to not make your relationship known, from whom is it he is seeking to withhold this information and for what and whose benefit?
Seems to me that this is a good teaching moment. Not about transgender issues though, about relationships, namely family relationships. I suspect your son is experiencing shame about the "differences" in your family, and he may be fearing the judgment of strangers and he may fear his new in-laws judgment of you. It's hard to tell who he is protecting, and whose need is being met by asking you to lay low. It's possible he wants to protect you, even if his efforts end up hurting you more. We humans are imperfect like that.
Other possibilities that strike me about what might be going on are that his non-traditional family brings up shame for him that he has not figured out how to address. This is a great opportunity to explore that (though probably at greater length after the wedding when stress levels resume to a more predictable baseline level.)
While your gender transition is obviously influencing this situation for your son, it strikes me as more an issue about how he's (not) managing his feelings, standing up to his fiancée and expressing what is important to him (i.e. having you visible at his wedding), his potential shame, his fears of his own rejection by her family, and possibly a whole set of other worries unrelated to you that when your gender piece is placed on top of those other worries, he fears that last straw will surely break the proverbial camel's back.
Talk to him about how he's feeling and what his fears are about your wedding involvement and (in)visibility. There's too much room for misunderstanding without adequate communication about what's really going on here. Weddings are so stressful, and much like holidays, they begin to establish a hierarchy of important relationships. You are wise to be concerned about the precedent being established here. Get more information about what these requests mean, and whether or not they are actually his - or if he is relaying them for someone else (like his in-laws or fiancee) before you decide how to respond.
Talk to him. Share with him your understanding of his feelings and your desire to support him in making this day special. Share with him your concern that he picked up shame about his family and the differences. Tell him that you love him and you want what is best for him.
Most of this is about him. He's the one in the hot seat, but this next part is your task. Teach him how to treat you. Gently, respectfully, and with compassion let him know what will work and will not work. If you cannot celebrate his wedding from the shadows where you are not acknowledged or included, I would be honest with him. Give him the opportunity to learn - not about transgender issues at this point - that's not what this is about. Rather about your relationship. It's about his ability to stand up for what's important to him. It's about your ability to stand up for what is important to you.
At the end of the day, I get the feeling you both have a similar struggle. Weddings are a team sport. He's not the only one making decisions. Get more information. Be compassionately direct with him about your feelings. Teach him how to treat you. Show him how to be true to himself by modeling this behavior.