I’m happy to share this guest post, written by a daughter who is redefining the relationship with her father, and recognizes the importance of sharing their story and their new growth together.
When your father, the decorated veteran with a voice deep as James Earl Jones’, tells you he should have been born a girl, what do you say? He stood by you without judgment through dark moments; a call from the police, that older, miscreant boyfriend, and when those condom wrappers were discovered in your bedroom. Throughout those times, he never threatened to disown you, never acted ashamed.
Your father was your salvation after your first daughter was born and you found yourself in shock, having completely misjudged the demands of motherhood. He took your crying infant from your arms and walked her around the yard, whispering, This is a rose, this is a leaf, the leaf is green, giving you the time to shower. Once, through eyes teary with postpartum depression, you apologized for being a burden. Your father said, We’re all in this together.
You now have two daughters and your father takes care of them daily. He teaches them woodworking, makes them toys, and creates buildings out of blocks with them for hours. You refer to his time with them as Granddaddy Daycare. You watch as your littler one turns to your father and says, I love you, granddaddy daycare. Each of your daughters has referred to him as her best friend.
A month ago, your father told you he should have been born a girl.
He remembers reading Little Women and identifying with it more than Little Men. He remembers a magazine spread of a GI who returned from WWII and had a sex change. He remembers thinking he was stuck because sex changes were only for the rich. He tells you he recently realized he could dress as a woman without going under the knife. He’s been going to an NYU clinic to learn to speak with a higher voice. That deep voice that people praised he considered a curse, another layer of malehood encumbering him, like those ties you gave him every Christmas.
What do you say to this father? Other than I’m proud of you. You say it without hesitation, so he knows your support is wholehearted. You tell him he must make a beautiful woman because people say he and you look alike, and you’ve been called beautiful. He says, yes, it makes him happy when people comment on your similar looks. You tell him you noticed his nails were longer. He complains about them breaking. He tells you he likes red nail polish. He texts you a week later and asks how much to tip for a manicure.
Your father shares that he’s the president of a trans support group. They meet once a week and have a closet full of clothes. Many of them dress from that closet when they arrive, because their trans identities are secret from their families. He talks about his girlfriends and his best friend Laura (he and Laura are the prettiest in the group, he tells you). You’re happy he has friends. A lot about your father make sense now.
You admit to yourself that this is hard. You worry people will laugh. You worry he will get beaten on the subway. One of his friends, he tells you, was beaten on the subway. You fear you’re losing your father.
But does appearance matter? You won’t be losing the hardworking, fearless entrepreneur you’ve idolized. The same traits that drove him to success as a businessman, have driven him to make a hard life change. He wasn’t afraid to risk his life in war because he believed in democracy. Now, he’s not afraid to be categorized by some as a freak. He’s willing to put his own life at risk to change the world, to normalize being transgender. You’re not losing him, just his appearance as you knew it. And even then you’re not losing much. His face will still have the same features, his eyes will still be the same blue.
He’s willing to put his own life at risk to change the world, to normalize being transgender. You’re not losing him, just his appearance as you knew it. And even then you’re not losing much. His face will still have the same features, his eyes will still be the same blue.
You start to think maybe you’re lucky. You’re getting to know the most authentic version of him. You think about your own midlife transformation, how you stopped letting fear control you. You think everyone deserves that best version of themselves.
You ask him if he plans to dress as a woman every day. He wants to. But your mother is not okay with it. Why would she be? She married a man. She’s attracted to men. She tells you their entire married life people have called them a striking couple. She loved it. She won’t be hearing that any longer.
The joy you feel for your father is tempered with worry for your mother. Just like him, she stood by you, with that same unconditional support. And let’s face it, your father wasn’t an easy man to be married to. There were other women, but even that makes sense now, a woman trapped in a man’s body, trying to find happiness, but not sure how, feeling more drawn to women as friends but also sexually attracted to them. That doesn’t excuse anything, but you understand. It also makes you think again, does he really need to do this? He should give your mother everything she wants now.
You hope that in the future this problem won’t arise, because being trans will be acceptable. Had your father been born 70 years later, he would have transitioned as a youth, met someone who’d be interested in him as a woman, and your mom wouldn’t have been stuck with this bait and switch. But for the fathers of the future to feel comfortable transitioning in their youth and to protect the mothers of the future from marrying someone with a concealed gender, someone must be brave, like your dad.
About the Author: Anonymous Daughter was born to American parents. She currently lives in New Jersey.