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So, Where’s Your Dad? … She’s Right There

Trans Dad“So where’s your dad, anyway?” The question was asked by a young child who was playing with my son on the trampoline. I was sitting about 10 feet away to keep an eye on things. The other boy was a couple of years older, and my personal childhood experience taught me that older boys were not always hesitant to exercise power by virtue of age and strength. I may not be able to always protect him from this, but I’m sure as hell not letting anything happen on my watch.

My son pointed to me and told the other boy, “right over there!” The little thug was unable to make the connection between the homely woman sitting on the deck and my son’s dad and soon the matter was dropped. Yes, I do realize this was probably a teachable moment, but I was caught off guard and found that words had left me. If the situation persisted, I would have outed myself, but it died within moments and I had the opportunity to ponder this sufficiently to create a new blog post.

As many of you may know, transitioning genders and being a parent to a young child at the same time can be just a little bit challenging. The hardest part is attempting to create an environment of stability and safety for the little ones to give them the best chance to learn, grow and reach their real potential. This can be difficult considering the crushing need for social conformity in child, tween, and teen culture. “But everyone has the new iPod Dingleberry, so I HAVE to have one! They are only $999.95!” The problem is that you can’t just go and get a new dad by maxing out your credit card.

The fortunate side of this is that old ‘Mama, Papa, and Baby’ expected dynamic has been significantly altered over the past few years. Thank goodness for that anyway. Even mainstream TV is now reflecting “The New Normal” (why, just why could that show not have been better?), and there is no longer an assumption that someone has differently gendered parents. Ten years ago, those little family stickers people now put on their cars to let strangers know how many people they can expect to take out at one time with a good ‘Dukes of Hazard’ maneuver, would have been preset parents with optional kids and pets. Now you can get them individually and mix and match males and females to create the set you want. The best version I saw depicted a child without a head. “What a peaceful household that must be.” I thought.

At the same time, “The New Normal” in no way means even slightly common. While gay couple families often know many others of their kind, to their straight friends, they are labeled distinctively. “Knuckles and Barney will be there, you know, our gay friends, so I’m sure they will bring a fabulous appetizer.” When you go across the tracks to Trans Town, chances are you are the only one straight and cis people know, including friends of friends, and one or two degrees of separation beyond that. As of right now, and arguably into the foreseeable future, our status as “normal” is really more like “acknowledged outlier” that is sporadically considered acceptable. The vast majority of American families can still buy the old timey rear window stickers with thoughtless abandon, head or no head.

To bring this around full circle, in the near future I’m faced with attending a ‘Donuts for Dads’ thingie at my son’s school next month. At ‘Muffins for Moms’, it was explained (I think with the idea that the information would be trickled back to me) that in spite of the very clear naming convention, these events were for any beloved caregiver of the child. Even so, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the only one there in a skirt. This doesn’t bother me because experience tells me that the dads are more afraid of me than I am of them. Really, it’s about my son and his comfort.

Sufficed to say, we are working this because the issue isn’t going to go away on its own. Believe me, if I thought this was possible, I would employ my usual tactic of doing nothing and hoping the universe manages to tidy up the mess once it is realized that I’m not getting off my fat ass anytime soon. At present, my son’s feeling is that he is excited to have me come, but is nervous that the other kids are going to think he has two moms, which I’m fairly certain is already the case. Is it too much to ask that some lesbian couples move into the school district? This isn’t Mississippi you know.

We will navigate our way though this and the next 150 instances. At the end of the day though, I’m sure he wants to be like the rest of the kids around him. In this, he simply won’t be, but then again, no one else fits the norm in every category either. The best I can do is to help him find comfort in his existence by demonstrating pride and resilience in the truth of our existence, no matter how off center from the never trodden path of absolute normalcy. As we sit there with all the kids and their dads, at least there will be donuts, and we will focus on those and not the hole.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

12 responses »

  1. I never saw any episodes of “The New Normal” because I no longer have TV service by cable or satellite and rarely sit down to watch any of the Netflix offerings I get, largely because I am having too much fun being a woman and hanging out with the girls which I have wanted to do since as long as I remember. I heard that the show has been cancelled and one of the many trans-folks with whom I regularly connect online was quite happy about it because, as much as the show was breaking new ground about the very complicated subject of gender and the families who have to adjust to this growing phenomena, it still seemed to stereotype trans-folk in the worst way, in order to find the lowest common denominator for which TV has been known to do from time immemorial, to get good ratings. It’s hard for me to really appreciate what you and other transparents are having to go through in order to be “transparent” as possibly as they are able with their kids about the changes they are going through while having to protect them from teasing and bullying they may receive from their peers, because my son is grown and actually dated a girl who has since started living as a transman and knows other transfolk so that my transition has been the furthest thing from his mind since I came out and my wife of over thirty years has passed on to new adventures on a higher plane of existence, to coin a phrase that has become a popular Newage euphemism for “kickin’ the bucket” or “buying the farm.”
    Keep up the good work, Michelle, and I bless you for having to go through things about which I will never have to even consider.. Deanna Joy

    • Thanks Deanna! May your new adventures continue well, and that you continue to share. 🙂 I think all of us who write flesh out the entire trans experience for everyone and thank you for that!

  2. Goodness, yes, we are navigating this sort of thing also, except that everyone is older in our family.

    I will *know* that I am VERY secure in my womanhood when I stand to be acknowledged in our church on Father’s Day…

    …It is happening. *Somehow* I am husband/father AND a woman. To them, I seem to be a “man who is also a woman.” My spouse and son still refer to me in the masculine even though now it looks really foolish (I often “pass” better than my cis-female spouse)…

    …I am seeing signs of change though as they see how others regard me: we have all begun to realize my vulnerability as a woman, and my son (who is larger and stronger, by far now) has begun to be very protective of my safety, and my spouse has become concerned about my habit of walking alone at night…and In fact, I am *MUCH* more careful than I used to be. So, things are getting very interesting.

    Actually, my church family has been very good to all of us about this – it’s very refreshing!

    • Age or not, it still takes getting used to, doesn’t it? 🙂 Bravo for taking ownership of your fatherhood in church and not letting it impact your womanhood! Ah, the vulnerability… I’m getting a little understanding of this as well to be honest. I’m a little more careful of where I park these days and where I’m willing to be alone. That takes some getting used to as well. Thank you so much for commenting!

  3. I think you all will love this. When my son first introduced me to his 5 yr old step-son, the adorable child cocked his head, screwed up his brow and mouth then said,”You’re a girl”. I smiled and said, “Yep.” He still looked confused so I said,”Girls can be Daddies”. He cocked his little head back and forth while he thought for a moment then said,”Okay” and went back to playing with his truck. No biggie, Right.

  4. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m trying to figure out how to handle this situation as well. Good luck to us and our children.

    • Best of luck to all of us, I totally agree. I often tell the mother of my child that two roads diverged in the woods, but before we got to them, we started hacking our way into the underbrush. Someday I hope this won’t even be a thing, but for now we have to be pioneers. Thanks so much for commenting!

  5. Bra VO. Well said. I was never and will never be in your situation, but I certainly am capable of empathizing. All my best to you as things journey on. You’re right about where your son will go, too. I sure didn’t dress in mom’s things at four years old because someone told me to, and I’m not gay because someone said that all crossdressers HAVE to be gay. I am who I am and, oh Lord, now I sound like Popeye, but damn it, that’s ALL that I am. AND I LOVE IT.

    • Thanks Deanna! Hey, we each hoe our own row, but we do it side by side in the same field. 🙂 LOL – I started at 4 as well pulling my moms cast off pantyhose out of her trash. There is something to be said for being able to put them on without causing new runs before graduating kindergarten, right? Thanks so much for commenting!


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