My father and I have always had a unique kind of relationship. One driven by our individual aspirations and spiritual/philosophical insights. In my youth, he endeavored to imbue me with as much knowledge of “family” and “being a man” as he could. In college years after my parents divorced, we would often be cheering each other on towards achieving our goals in life. I know he did his very best to be a good father, and after learning why he left my mother I don’t fault him for making that choice.
In truth, more times than not, his good intentions for me weren’t always the best. He often assumed that I needed advice when I rarely did and I would counter his advice with what I’m already doing to keep everything in balance for my life. In reality, I probably learned how to debate and play “devil’s advocate” because of the intensity of our discussions at times. All I really wanted was for him to hear me and not believe that somehow my thinking was flawed due to my age, but that seemed nearly impossible. Even still I took away that he always said that he would be here for me.
When it comes down to it, he is someone that believes he always in the right and will rarely accept anything beyond his own Christian beliefs. More times than not, I only took bits and pieces away from our discussion while he probably took nothing of what I had to say. He is a mix of old school and new school influences, except he hasn’t taken the time to grasp the extent of how much times have changed. Relying on the past to counter my forward thinking only results in us butting heads – I understood him, yet he didn’t understand me. At least, we were still talking.
So when he found out via Facebook with the rest of my 300+ “friends” that I was transgender which resulted in him not speaking to me for three months, I could have felt betrayed. Instead, he became a hypocrite in my eyes. When he finally called me, I laid into him and, by doing so, opened up a dialogue for potential understanding of what he was trying to cope with. Over that conversation and the next, his willingness to accept me at the base level seemed like he would come around in time.
Our next conversation was a complete 180. He was no longer listening to me and began doing what he did before – using his past experience to vilify my present lived experience which he couldn’t possibly comprehend without living my life firsthand. I go into more detail in this post, but overall it was a table-flipped mess that I had no desire to salvage.
I haven’t spoken to or interacted with my father since that conversation eight months ago.
So, besides my opening paragraph, what positive things could I say about him on this Father’s Day? A few things actually. Every year, I always remember the advice he gave to me as a young child while playing a fighting game.
Always stay on your opponent. Corner them until they can’t do anything but accept defeat.
This advice I have applied into every aspect of my life. My resilience and resolute attitude to learn and lead have served me well and continue to evolve as I take on more life-altering challenges. I don’t know the meaning of “give up” and I’m very grateful for that as a pillar in my personality.
As for something more recent, despite him tearing down the foundation of our relationship as who I am now, that exhausting conversation eight months ago opened my eyes to how much I had unconsciously disregarded my blackness and history. As a black woman, I see so much value in my race now than ever before. There is power in not allowing myself to fold under society’s perspective of being a minority. In loving myself more and more each day, my Black heritage is now something I carry with pride. The idea of being a “strong black woman who don’t need no man”, oddly enough, is pretty accurate to me these days. 🙂
Even though I’ve lost what seems like my entire father’s side of the family to “old school” thinking and lack of education of transgender matters, I don’t hate him. I did enough of that as a teenager. As an adult, I accept him and his inability to adapt and respect me just as I have done with my mother. All that matters now is that he can be a father figure to those in his life who value him. I will continue to thank and respect my father for the good he has given me and continue to move forward, regardless of him ironically (and almost hypocritically) distancing himself from the child he worked so hard to be close to all those years.