Friday, March 25, 2016

Recording a Transgender Family Member

There are certainly mixed emotions on the transgender topic. I do not plan to write an opinion piece on transgender issues on a genealogy blog. Rather, this post is dedicated to what do we do and how do we do it when a family member has transitioned.

I have researched and read many ideas on recording a transitioned family member but have not found consensus across genealogists. For many, this feels like a new topic as the transgender community has found itself frequently in the news as of late.

The various genealogy software platforms have not introduced any way to note a transgender person. We get very clear choices for sex: Male, Female, and unknown.

Family history, to me, is like medical information. We should have it as accurate and truthful as possible. So we have to ask ourselves if we are keeping our trees for biological bloodline research or for the stories, the physical people who make up our story. For me, it is a little of both. I love using DNA to find new cousins and share research and trace my paternal and maternal bloodlines. But, the family tree I write about, share with family and friends is about the people, the individuals. I feel I would be short-changing the life of an individual not to include their transition as a part of that story for the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Future generations should not have to guess who these two supposedly different people that will show up in the census or disappear from records were. Documentation will allow those who write about all of us in 75 - 100 years to get it right on the first try and tell the right story.

As I have read on this topic, some like to leave the original birth information as the only information on the tree, others will leave off the original information after transition.

So what have I done?

I have marked the individual in my family with their preferred gender and name with a note: "transitioned in XXXX" and include original names, gender, and other identity information in a comment section. To document, I have sought out the court documents or newspaper legal posting documenting the change in name and keep in my personal family tree files.

I would love to hear how others have handled this, often sensitive, information in their own family trees.

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