This series features first person narratives about personal LGBT-related issues and experiences. In this article, Rosemarie Skoll, the sister of LGBT Perspectives columnist Dianne Skoll, shares her thoughts about her new sister’s news.
By Rosemarie Skoll
Special to LGBT Perspectives
SAN DIEGO — One evening, about 18 months ago, my brother David telephoned me in San Diego from Ottawa and asked if he could talk as he had something important to tell me. What David told me next came as a total shock. He asked if I knew about gender dysphoria and because I was unfamiliar with the technical term, he explained it to me and said he had been suffering with this condition for many years. My immediate reaction was tears of sadness – for all the years that David/Dianne had been uneasy within herself and that none of us had any idea of what she was going through. My words, however, were something to the effect of “If that is who you are, then you deserve to be happy and you should do whatever it takes to feel complete.” I am glad that Dianne told me over the telephone rather than in person because she heard my words of encouragement and did not see my tears.
Dianne asked me not to say anything to anyone about the fact that she had always wanted to be female as she wasn’t sure if she would transition. She called me again the following day to say I could tell my husband. Naturally, he was taken aback by the news at first, but said that he had always admired Dianne’s amazing parenting skills and that being male or female made no difference.
Not wanting to ask too many personal questions, yet feeling ignorant and ill-informed, I looked up information about transgender people on the Internet. YouTube proved a particularly interesting place to find all sorts of information published by all sorts of individuals.
As Dianne began to go out in female mode more often, I suggested that wherever possible she should let people know in advance by phone or email of her change of gender. This would give them a chance to absorb the information and be more composed in their response – particularly as Dianne was sensitive, vulnerable and unsure of what lay ahead. I told a couple of my closest friends that Dianne was transgender, knowing they would be completely accepting.
Months later, Dianne changed her Facebook profile and planned to tell her staff of her official change of gender in the near future. Hoping to give her confidence a boost – and knowing that the majority of both family and friends would be supportive – my Facebook post read as follows: “After many years of feeling she was in the wrong body, my former brother David has become my new sister, Dianne. Hallmark probably has a card for the occasion, but putting it in my own words – Dianne, we wish you every blessing for the exciting journey ahead!” The positive responses were overwhelming; there were some people who were either neutral or indifferent. Those with negative reactions did not post their comments on Facebook. I emailed Dianne’s news to my friends who were not on Facebook. Although most were surprised that she was transgender, all were non-judgmental and wished her only the best.
One of my friends was “conservative” in his views and it took me a while to tell him about Dianne. When I spoke to him, my words were: “I have something that I want to share with you because you are a good friend, but I’m telling you in advance that this is a sensitive topic and you mustn’t say anything negative.” To his credit, we are still friends! Fortunately, my personal experience has been that people – in general – tend to be kind and tolerant. One likes a person for the inner essence and not the outer mask.
Recently my mother gave a presentation at her seniors’ group describing how much more she enjoyed going shopping with her daughter rather than her son. The audience reaction was whole-heartedly supportive. In fact, the group has invited a neuroscience expert to give a talk on gender and the brain.
Eighteen months after breaking her news to me, Dianne is enjoying her new life as a woman. Despite the many challenges she faces, she has blossomed in every way. She is active and vocal in standing up for human rights and dignity.
Dianne, we are so proud of you!