Welcome to my first column for TransGlobal Magazine! I want to thank Venus for this wonderful opportunity and I hope that my experiences and insights can be helpful for others in the transgender community and also to those who are still learning about transgender people and issues.
Transitioning is not easy, which anyone who has gone through the process can attest to. One of the most difficult aspects of transitioning is how it effects the relationships with the people in our lives, most importantly our friends and family. Unfortunately it is all too common to hear of a person being disowned by their family when they come out as trans, which is heartbreaking. I have a difficult time understanding how family members can turn on one of their own simply because the person is making a change in their life which will allow them to live a life where they can be their true self and to be happy. As a parent myself I cannot understand this; there is nothing my sons could do which would make me stop loving them.
Fortunately I am one of the lucky ones because my family has been supportive of me, and most importantly, my sons have been completely accepting and supportive. As they have told me so many times, they love me and just want me to be happy. Their love and support has given me the strength to get through some difficult times, and they are what has kept me anchored throughout this whole process.
My ex-wife and I divorced when our kids were young, and I had sole custody. As a single parent my mainfocus was my sons, and I sort of buried all my gender issues and put off dealing with that part of my life out of necessity. I made a conscious decision that I did not want to burden them with having to deal with that on top of everything else they had to deal with at that point, and looking back I can say without a doubt that it was the right decision. It wasn’t until my youngest son was entering his senior year of high school that I began to think about my life after the kids were grown and out of the house, and finally began thinking about the gender issues and how to deal with them. I found a therapist who had experience working with transgender patients and she quickly diagnosed me with Gender Dysphoria, which was what I had expected, and I then made the decision to transition and began Hormone Replacement Therapy.
I had intended to wait until my son graduated from high school, but I simply couldn’t put it off that long. So I continued to present as a male, although I began making subtle changes such as starting to let myhair grow out, wearing clear nail polish, and getting my ears pierced. Those were small steps but made a huge difference to my psych and keeping the dysphoria at a manageable level. But I always made it a point to present as totally male when I was out with my youngest son because my biggest fear was causing him problems if his friends saw us and could tell I was transgender.
Several months later I knew the time was approaching when I wanted to tell my sons, so I began writingletters to them. I express myself better in writing and knew I’d be nervous and have a difficult time keeping my train of thought when I came out to them, so I decided having a letter for them to read andthen talking about it was the best approach. I worked on the letters for several months until I was satisfied that I’d covered everything and explained things as best I could. I included general background information about gender orientation, the difference between that and sexual orientation, and also a summary of my lifelong struggles with gender and how I reached the point where I was ready to transition. I tried to include everything I thought was relevant and that they needed to know, and also addressed questions which I anticipated they would ask.
I waited until I felt the time was right to tell them, and then I said I had something I wanted to talk about with them, so we went into the living room and sat down. I was so nervous and scared. My sons and I have always been very close and I knew in my heart that they would always love me, but there was stillthat nagging doubt in the back of my mind because of all the friends I’ve known who were disowned by their families. So I gave them each their letter and said we’d talk after they read them. And then I sat and waited, my mind racing with a million different thoughts, hoping and praying they would still love me.
I was sitting on the couch next to my oldest son, and after a few minutes he reached over and grabbed my hand and held it. That brought tears to my eyes because I knew things were going to be okay. Even now after all these years I still get teary-eyed thinking about that moment. After they finished reading we talked and they had lots of questions, and it took a while for everything to sink in. But they told me they loved me and just wanted me to be happy and nothing would ever change that. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
After that there was a period of adjustment while we figured out what we were comfortable with. It’s not like I immediately ditched all my male clothes and started wearing dresses all the time. It was a gradual process of transitioning from male to being more feminine and letting them get used to that. Eventually I went out in public with my oldest son, which proved to be a bit of a challenge because hewas very protective of me and would not hesitate to get in someone’s face if they stared or made a comment, which was a big problem because confrontation was the last thing I wanted. But we eventually came to an understanding that confrontation was not the way to handle those situations. And then once I was living full time as a women we were all comfortable going out in public together and it just became what was normal for us. So it was a process and it took time, but everything worked out really well in the end.
The funny part is that they still call me dad, but use female pronouns, which I’m okay with because I will always be their dad. I try to make sure that they don’t call me dad out in public, but any other time is fine. They’ve had a hard time calling me by my female name, which I understand and it’s not a big dealto me, so I don’t make an issue of it. I could not be more proud of my sons, and not a day goes by that I don’t realize how blessed I am to have them in my life.
When looking back I can see that it wasn’t just me transitioning, it was my family also being part of the transition process, and I think that’s a point which often isn’t acknowledged or understood. While we may be the ones who are undergoing the actual transition, everyone else in our life is also undergoingtheir own unique transition along with us. Parents have to adjust to the “loss” of a son or daughter and accept the new daughter or son they now have, and that is not an easy thing to do. It’s almost akin tothe grieving process after the death of a loved one. For us it’s something we’ve usually known about most of our lives and had all that time to understand and accept, but for everyone else it’s usually totally unexpected and a major shock. As I’ve said before, it’s a process, and it’s not just those of us actually transitioning who are part of that process.