Last week, I saw my father for the first time in about three years. He had moved away to be in a relationship with someone whom he has now divorced for a multitude of reasons. It was nice to see him and do something more than simply driving to his parents’ house & swapping stories. Specifically, I took him out to dinner for the first time in my life.
I also experienced another first: Sharing something extremely personal about myself to him. I came out to my father about being transgender. No one may be surprised to find that this was a very different happening compared with my mother or anyone else for that matter, but not in the way most may think.
Despite him being my father, I have always been very closed and secretive about the deep, painful things that I have encountered and endured throughout my life. He knows this as well, agreeing when I said I had never spoken about my personal life. My attitude towards my mother is very similar regardless of living under her roof when my parents separated and, eventually, divorced.
My father’s reaction, as I tried my best to find the words that I felt he could wrap his head around, was fairly collected overall. No over-the-top negative emotions. He was just listening. Regardless, the difficulty was much higher than it was with my mum partly because I had my sister there and that I had much more time to work up towards the moment. My outing with my father was something I pitched in a spurt of boldness the same week he told me he would be in town in a few days. Some would say that my relationship with my father is akin to friendship than by blood. And now he was listening to his “son” say she wanted to live as a female because being a “man” just never felt right.
He then did something completely out of character and shared something on the similar level of personal depth that he had “planned to take to the grave”. He wanted me to know this because he was absolutely assured that it was related to my gender conflict. The funny thing is, he too was hesitant as I was and when it finally came out, my reaction was 100% calm. I respect my father for being open with me also and will never repeat what he told me, but knowing that my coming out was the trigger for him to tell me this didn’t register as relevant in my mind. Yes, it was an unexpected tale, but he had begun to insinuate that this new information was supposed to make me rethink what he seemed to think was a decision of sorts prompted by indirect influences related to his story.
We talked at length at the restaurant, then more after arriving back at his parents’ house where he was staying. The discussion was heavily varied with spiritual rebuttals and references being thrown about. All the while, tying back to my confession and his defense against why I should reconsider knowing what I know now. He was being receptive, but not once did he express support for me beyond empathizing with how hard it was to tell him. The conversation had become exhausting and I was anything but pleased or relieved. As he hugged me that night, he used some of my wording to spin something along the lines of:
“Being a man isn’t a role…I really want you to think about what I said and listen to your spirit-man. You can fight this.”
This is what I tweeted that night:
I was angry at myself, confused, and unable to find my footing based on his story and spiritual basis that I, being Christian myself, could understand. Even though it had nothing to do with me directly, I was frustrated that I was being placed in yet another situation that yelled –
you are not your own person
you are not an individual
you are a product of someone else’s actions which have become your indirect influences
All my life I have clung to my individuality and reveled in being different. Now, I’m supposed to go back to “fighting” myself because of what he told me? It’s hard enough even saying that I might as well have been born a female, let alone all the shit I have to learn and unlearn to even convince myself that I have any self-worth to be seen and loved as a girl/woman. I’ve been “fighting” my whole life to understand why I have been so miserable and unhappy whenever I look in the mirror, knowing better everyone that I have just been fitting in according to a standard. The struggle of coming out again and again is so terrifying, but time has proven it won’t go away.
All these things making me feel worthless and ashamed all at once was soon quelled after a talk with my artsy friend. I felt much better about myself and came to understand that there is nothing wrong or demeaning about having natural influences that we have no control over. That it shouldn’t change who I am on the inside and who I have become as an individual. Most of all, what makes me happy is what makes me happy.
Though I’m the last person who can define “happiness”, I know that not expressing my true self and hiding behind the easy identity I have cultivated so well has not made me happy. The more I embrace my gender fluidity and plans to transition at my own pace, the less turmoil I feel inside. I’m so grateful for the support I have from my small circle of friends and trans* peers that continues to reaffirm me. Spurts of boldness are gradually happening more and the fear of being criticized or having my image defamed is declining as I become comfortable in my internal transition.
The only thing I am “fighting” is the risk of not becoming a whole individual and denying having a semblance of happiness of who I should be in this life. Fear has never gripped me so deeply as with publicly coming to terms with my physicality not matching the caged girl on the inside yearning to be freed. My father said of his own accord that “the way I walk, talk, and carry myself has changed since three years ago”. I hope one day he will extend love and support towards me rather than blaming something spiritual for me developing into my own person – for being transgender.