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Friday, June 09, 2017

Father’s Day for a Transwoman

Written by  Laura Anderson

Father’s Day is upon us once again. For thousands of transwomen who are dads, this can be a difficult weekend. Some are no longer permitted to see their children. Others with grown children are kept away from their grandchildren and excluded from the family festivities. It is hurtful when once loving relationships are cast aside as transgender parents and grandparents struggle with their identities and family dynamics.

Being told you are no longer worthy to visit with your children and grandchildren is all too common across the entire LGBTQ spectrum, especially when religion is used as an excuse to justify alienation. The observance of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day highlights the binary and diminishes the reality of the gender spectrum. As many LGBTQ parents come to terms with their own sexuality and gender identity, they often do so at the peril of losing those they love. The risks to our identities as parents can be a difficult aspect of coming out.

Some transwomen insist on being called “mom.” This can be especially difficult for children of all ages when they already have a mom and mourn the loss of their father. This can also lead to even further hurt for a spouse. As important as it may be for us to finally acknowledge our true selves, many attempt to avoid being caught up in rewriting the past, especially if we espouse authenticity.

As much as I struggled with my own gender identity throughout the first 50 years of my life, I enjoyed my role as dad. I always loved my children and embraced being a parent and grandparent. I was never, nor could I ever be, their mom or grandmother – that just would not be me. Throughout my transition I encouraged my children to continue calling me “daddy” even in public or in front of others. I was recently introduced to my son-in-law’s boss as Laura, his father-in-law. (Prior to the chance encounter, my son-in-law quietly asked me how to be introduced – I told him any way that would not be embarrassing for him.) I was really glad he did it the way he did because it showed he was not ashamed of me and also helped show his boss that a transgender person can indeed be a parent.

I have written here that my youngest grandson has never known me as anyone other than “Laura.” At an early age he was puzzled that his mom called me “daddy.” How could Laura be anyone’s daddy, especially his mom’s? My daughter explained a bit, having known that the conversation would one day come. (Recently, my grandson, who is four, asked me why I decided to become a girl. That conversation will be discussed in a future article.)

As far as I can tell, so much about the daddy in me never went away when I transitioned – nor would I have wanted it to. It is really fun being a dad! I was afraid that becoming a woman would be perceived as taking away the father my kids had grown up with and had come to rely upon. I know that my transition has not been easy for them. For my estranged son, acknowledging me on Father’s Day is something that just cannot be done. Yet, one of my daughters told me that she is fortunate that she can always call her dad with a question or for advice. On the phone at least, I have not changed much at all.

So, each of us must deal with another Father’s Day – some will be fortunate to be acknowledged as the dad always loved but in a new wrapping. Others will be politely tolerated out of a sense of guilt or duty. Sadly, there will be those shunned and ignored – left to ponder what other possible course their lives could have taken to avoid hurting others so much.

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere – to those wearing ties, those wearing skirts, and those anywhere in between.

Laura Anderson is an educator, author, researcher, parent, and granddad. Her years teaching in public school classrooms as male provided the foundation for her more recent role educating future teachers. Living female for the past decade, she has come to appreciate the privileges she once held– both male and cisgender– privileges now replaced with the fulfillment of living as her true self.

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