Daughter + Dad: Coming out as transgender

This post was originally published on March 31, 2022 on the Snyk blog, Daughter + Dad: Coming Out As Transgender

My daughter came out to my wife and me as a transgender individual nearly five years ago. It was a shocking revelation, as we’d always thought about her future in terms of male things, like being a father. But that was not the road she needed to travel. Our job as her parents is to help her live the best life possible, even when it wasn’t what we expected. 

I’ll refer to my daughter simply as ‘A’ for the rest of this article. She’s sitting next to me, helping to make sense of what we’ve been through. Putting this into words is helping me understand what she experienced and gives her more context about my experiences. More than anything, she wants people to understand that being trans is not a choice, it’s a realization that enables you to make sense of many things in hindsight.

When did you know you were transgender?

A: There was no singular incident or experience that revealed to me that I am trans. It was more of an evolution that allowed me to make sense of other decisions and trends in my life. I never liked traditionally masculine things, like sports. I never felt the aggression some children display. But I wasn’t into things that are feminine or ‘girly’ either, so there wasn’t a defining “girl’s toys” childhood experience that made me realize things didn’t fit. I mostly just played video games or read, neither of which we saw as heavily gendered. 

Martin: We’re a family of geeks. We like computers, board games, role playing and tons of other geeky things. We don’t place a lot of importance on what most people consider traditionally masculine or feminine roles. We also never considered our child might not like the gender she was assigned at birth. 

A: There was nothing wrong with the life I was living, but there was a growing feeling of discomfort I felt being male. There was just a feeling slowly building in the background. It took me many years to understand what that tension was and to admit to myself that it wasn’t just a phase I’d outgrow. I spent many sleepless nights thinking about being trans, took every test on the internet I could find about being trans, but finally realized it’s who I am. By the way, all those tests suck; if you’re taking one of these tests, you probably already know the answer you want.

Being trans wasn’t a choice as my father thinks of it. It was an inevitability that existed outside of any choice I could make. I was trans, my only choice was to acknowledge it or continue to fight it my whole life.

Coming out

A: Once I decided to come out to my parents, it was nerve wracking. The experience wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be. I’d been thinking about being trans and revealing it to them for years. I’d hoped they would celebrate the decision with me. My parents didn’t do that.

They asked me questions like, “Are you sure? Is this just a phase? Can you put this decision off until after college?” They didn’t reject me, cast me out, or make me experience any of the worst case scenarios others have had to deal with, but they also didn’t immediately accept who I am, and it hurt.

Martin: We were scared, there’s no other way to put it. Our child had just told us they wanted (or needed) to change their gender, and that they were no longer going to follow major parts of the life plan we expected from them. We were confused. 

We could have handled the situation better, but we did the best we could based on our own life choices. Both my wife and I are comfortable with traditional gender roles and learning our child was going to eschew those roles in favor of something that is guaranteed to make their life more difficult was a hard adjustment to make. As were a thousand other factors, not the least of which was a new name and pronoun.

A: I would have kept the name you gave me if it had been gender-neutral!

How do you feel now?

A: One of the biggest aides to my mental health was finding a group of people who were also trans or LGBTQ+ to hang out with at college. Surrounding myself with people who are friends, who don’t have the implied judgment of my parents, who have had similar experiences was a big relief as I explored my new life. I didn’t have to perform for them like I felt I needed to for the rest of the world. 

I was honestly a little resentful of my parents for not immediately accepting my coming out. My parents have worked hard at using the right pronoun and name, which helps a lot. At first my nerves were open and raw when people used the wrong gender or name. As time goes by and I’m more comfortable in my own body, I’m growing less sensitive to those mistakes — and, thankfully, they happen less and less often.

Martin: I dislike being constantly corrected, and for the first year after her revelation, I had to be corrected in my use of name and pronoun almost every day. I didn’t have the time to adjust to the thought of having a daughter that she’d had, and resented having to adjust everything I’d framed my mental image of my child around. It was HARD!

But I had to learn, had to adjust, had to make room for her to be who she is. I have a life of my own, I can’t force her to be the person I thought she should be. This is her life, to make the best of, to make mistakes in, and to learn from. I can’t take this away from her. So I changed my thoughts, my words, my actions. Eventually.

Lessons learned

A: I understand why my parents were scared; it’s a scary, scary world for trans people. That’s not their fault or mine, it’s just the way it is. I don’t like it that way, and believe we have a responsibility to change it. The political and legal machinations we see every day are aimed at making it harder to be trans. Internationally, there are significant efforts to curtail the rights of transgender individuals. Wherever there are efforts that impact the rights of trans individuals, to make it harder to come out, or to make being trans illegal, we need to take action and defend trans and LGBTQ+ rights as a whole. I want the world to be better than it is, not simply accept that some things cannot be changed.

Martin: Parenting is hard! Even under the best of circumstances, raising a child is difficult and has never been done perfectly in the history of humanity. And yet, somehow we continue, generation after generation.

Having my worldview upended over the course of a 30 minute conversation was painful. Both my wife and I have made mistakes in dealing with the new reality of having a trans child. We’ve done our best, but sometimes that’s not enough. I hope other parents in the same circumstances understand that it’s okay to falter, to have doubts about your child’s evolution, to wish for a return to the path you had always envisioned for our child. But you also have to provide support, realize it’s their life, and our job as parents is to be there for them through a very stressful experience.

Our understanding of what we thought the future would bring was turned upside-down. The best thing I can do is reassure my daughter I’ll always love them, no matter what gender they are. We’re slowly finding a new baseline for our relationship.

Both: Thank you for reading this to the end. It was more emotionally difficult and draining than either of us imagined it would be. We also learned a lot writing it and hope you did too. This article barely scratches the surface of what it means to be trans or have a trans child. We intentionally kept to the surface levels of the experience, it’s a still evolving story we may add more detail to in the future.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Network Security Blog authored by [email protected] (Martin McKeay). Read the original post at: