When Sharon Shattuck was a kid, her dad told her that she identified as a woman and that she was going to change her name to Trisha. Now, Sharon has decided to explore her father’s experience, along with the experience of LGBT families across America by making a documentary. She’s currently working on raising money for her film through Kickstarter (just one day left!).
I recently had some back and forth with Sharon about what is was like to grow up with an LGBT dad in a time and place that wasn’t necessarily always the most queer-friendly. As a future LGBT parent myself, I found Sharon’s perspective to be both useful and educational.
GINA: Because I think it would be very useful for future LGBT parents to hear from a “kid” perspective, looking back on your experience with your dad, is there anything you wish either of you had done differently? Any questions you wished you had asked?
SHARON: I think the one thing that really sticks with me from my childhood is that I felt very alone–I felt like no one else’s family was like mine, so I just sequestered that part of my life and didn’t talk about it with my friends or acquaintances. Trish (my dad) became the elephant in the room — everyone in town knew of her, but no one wanted to ask questions or to understand our family dynamic. It was very Midwestern and stoic, but there was also an undercurrent of fierce suspicion and fear from some people in the community.
I guess I wish I had talked about it more, and been more open from the start, open to answering questions and diffusing the fear that some (but not all) people exhibited. It would have been an opportunity to educate people who might not otherwise know any LGBT people. I also wish that I could have met other kids from LGBT families, but I think that when I was younger, that Midwestern tendency to not talk about things also ran pretty strong in me, so it might not have really changed things much.
I also wish that there was some sort of template for us during dad’s transition. I think that it was as confusing for my dad as it was for the rest of the family — much more confusing, I think, than not having kids, or transitioning prior to having kids. We never really nailed down which pronouns to use, or what to call dad, besides “dad” — because I feel like “mom” is off-limits, since I have a mom. And dealing with all that in a very small, conservative town only compounded the stress, because we were getting negative feedback from certain people in the community.
G: Speaking of that, let’s talk a little about your mom. How was the experience for her?
S: Well, dad told mom about being transgender before they got married, although I’m not sure they knew the term “transgender” back then. Luckily, my mom decided she was ok with that part of dad’s identity… back then, it wasn’t something that dad wanted to express in public, and so they’ve definitely had to evolve together over the years to make the marriage work once Trish realized that she wanted to identify as a woman. My mom considers herself straight, in that she’s attracted to men, so I think that being with Trish posed some challenges. Trish never had “sexual reassignment surgery” (SRS) though. I think that eventually my mom and dad came to a compromise and learned to love one another for the people that they are. There is an element of gender compromise there for my dad, too — over the years, Trish has oscillated from being more feminine to being almost gender neutral, and I think partly that was due to her desire to stay with mom.
G: That must have been tough for both Trish and your mom. How has your extended family reacted to your dad’s transition? Has everyone been supportive?
S: I don’t think dad’s gender identity was necessarily a surprise to anyone in my extended family. Trish grew up in the 60s, and was a long-haired hippie, so there’s always been an “alternative” element there. I think it was somewhat difficult for my dad’s brother and sister, because they grew up with “Michael,” but I was recently in Chicago with my extended family and it was really heartening to hear my aunts and uncles refer to dad as “Trish,” and to hear my cousins just use “Trish” automatically. My grandparents, dad’s parents, also were fairly supportive, after an initial adjustment period. Really, I think ours is one of the more happy stories of a trans person finding acceptance within the family; there are unfortunately a lot of transgender people who feel they have to hide that side of themselves from their family indefinitely, or who are completely ostracized. I’m so glad that didn’t happen to dad.
G: What were some of the biggest positives of having a trans dad? How about the negatives?
S: I think the biggest positives of growing up with a trans parent are probably the same as the positives of growing up with any LGBT parent. I grew up painfully aware of how it feels to be different and so I was uncomfortable talking about people behind their backs, and tried not to judge people for being different. I think it also helped me to understand the unique struggles and discrimination that LGBT people sometimes face, so I’ve been an advocate and ally for LGBT rights for many years now. Also, growing up with a parent as unique, creative and unabashedly “weird” personality-wise as Trish made me realize that it’s okay to be different. Trish always says to “follow your bliss,” and I try to do that with every decision I make.
On the negative side, I think it’s just tough to feel drastically different because of something that’s out of your control. I felt embarrassed of dad when I was in elementary and middle school, because kids would ask me questions about my family that I didn’t know how to answer. I worried about offering my friends a ride home from school, because I wasn’t sure what Trish would be wearing when she picked us up. Trish was very uncompromising with her femininity when my sister and I were in elementary and middle school, and that caused some serious tension in our family, because that was also a point in our lives when the most important thing seemed to be fitting in with our peers. I did wish for a “normal” dad back then.
G: Because this has come up a lot in comments about your piece and because there is a wide variation in terms of knowledge about the trans community, I’m wondering if you can talk a little about your dad’s use of gender pronouns. You refer to her as “Dad,” and sometimes “him,” and “he.” Does she go by both male and female pronouns?
S: Sure. I’m learning that calling a transgender parent “dad” is far more contentious in the trans community than I realized! My sister and I grew up using “dad,” and Trish never requested any other term. When I say “dad” I almost automatically say “he,” because, well, my brain is hardwired that way, but I’m trying to change that by using “Trish,” which reminds me to say “she.” In a recent interview, I posed this pronoun confusion to my dad, and asked what pronouns people should use when addressing her. Trish said, “whatever they’re most comfortable with.” But I think that she appreciates it when we use feminine pronouns, because it’s an issue of respect.
What I want to make clear, though, is that this is how MY family chose to be, but it’s not how every transgender family is. That’s part of the reason I want to meet and interview lots of other LGBT families, as well as experts, journalists and researchers, so that I can incorporate their stories and viewpoints into the film, too.
To learn more about Sharon’s film, Project Dad, check out the official site–or watch a section of it on The New York Times.
this was really interesting thank you
really interesting! it’s great that we’re in a time when we can hear directly from the grown-up children of openly LGBT parents and their experiences rather than speculation about how the kids will be impacted, etc.
Sharon, I hope you are able to keep working on your documentary!
This is really interesting! I’m happy to hear that her parents stayed together and that Trish’s family is overall very supportive. It’s important to hear about the happy endings just as much as the cautionary tales.
I really recommend anyone with a trans parent (most particularly, people who are old enough to be aware a parent is transitioning) to go to: http://www.colage.org/resources/kot/ This guide was initially put together by Monica Canfield-Lenfest, who was in a very similar situation to Sharon with the feedback of other people with trans parents. They also have a forum for kids of trans.
Yes, every family is different, but as a woman who is trans, a single parent and has been involved with a trans parent’s support group for the last 5 years, the misgendering is kind of painful to hear. What I’ve seen too often are trans parents who are made to feel so guilty about being themselves and what they’re often accused of putting their family through that they allow themselves to be misgendered. I’m not saying Sharon’s doing that out of any spite or disrespect (and maybe her parent is more genderqueer than binary these days) but ‘dad=he’ has a lot of ciscentric thinking inherent in that. In our case, my daughter has always called me by my first name and, whatever teen snark or parent/kid drama we’ve been through together, she’s never misgendered me and I have a huge appreciation for that.
this was a really awesome interview. most of the stuff i read about lgbt parents is either from the perspective of the parents (which i love) or from the perspective of people who are worried about the children (which i don’t) and so it’s cool to hear the kid of a trans parent talk about what it’s like for her.
Wow. So problematic. You could at least address the pronoun issue at the beginning of the article instead of at the very end after sounding like you’re both misgendering the trans-woman in question the entire time.
Also, on a site like Autostraddle that is generally trans-friendly, I immediately assumed that a “transgender dad”, as so prominently displayed in the title of the article on the main page, would be referring to a transgender male. Did “transgender parent” not occur to to you as something to use at least in the damn title so you could seem at least a bit considerate?
Don’t even get me started on the whole problem of cis people talking about trans people with an undeserved sense of authority.
I’m glad things are good for her, her parents, and the rest of the family, but as a trans-woman I found this to be fucking insensitive and pretty half-assed from an LGBT journalism perspective.
This woman has no business being any sort of voice for transgender rights if she’s so ignorant of the trans community and the issues it faces that she was genuinely surprised to learn that calling a transgender woman “dad” was something many people would find offensive. I have no idea why this didn’t red flag you guys into at least putting in a disclaimer about her limited knowledge base and the tendency of people outside a group to assume a homogeneous narrative for everyone inside that group.
There’s a LOT of unchecked cis privilege here.
um this article is really hurtful and problematic
a trans man who thought i was going to be reading about myself when I saw “transgender dad”
(ps seriously? that poor transgender mother.)
Kayla, I just wanted to mention, as someone who’s heard a lot of trans people who are parents talk about the issue of what they’re called that there’s a very big range of feelings about this. I’ve known trans women who continued to want to be called ‘dad’ (or, at the very least, were resigned to the reality they weren’t going to be called ‘mom’ and seemed to value continuity). I’ve known a number of trans men who gave birth to children and later transitioned who are okay continuing to be called ‘mom’ at least in the privacy of their home. Just as people’s gender identities are different preferences about this issue are as well. For myself, I’ve never been vaguely comfortable being called dad or any form of it, but I don’t automatically assume other trans people will feel the same way. Now the issue of pronouns in this article and by the filmmaker, that’s another story… :(
Reread my comment.
I never said all trans-women have the same narrative or preferences. Actually, I said the exact opposite.
There is a certain irony in you making assumptions about my thoughts and then making a comment which primarily seems to lecture about the importance of not making assumptions.
My point, which you missed, is the importance of making it clear at the goddamn beginning of the article that the language used reflects how this specific trans-woman supposedly feels comfortable being addressed and that it is not representative of the community as a whole.
My younger sibling is genderfluid and prefers “they” and “it” as pronouns but is ok with “her/she.” If this article were about me discussing my genderfluid “little sister” (which she is actually fine with me calling her) I would damn sure specify right away what THEIR preferences are rather than just going with what’s easiest for me, and I would also make sure to point out that not all genderfluid or non-binary people have the same pronoun preferences.
This is especially important when using language that would likely be very offensive if used on others (such as “he” or “Dad” for a significant number of transgender women). I would never talk about a person using “it” without explaining that it is absolutely not ok to call someone “it” unless they say it’s ok, and I damn sure wouldn’t bury the disclaimer at the very end where it’s likely to be missed. That just demonstrates a lack of understanding of how important the issue of gendered language is.
At least they changed the title of the article. Yay for the cis people throwing us a bone.
similarly, you just said your gender fluid sibling prefers “it.” Then you put a disclaimer at the end about how “it” is generally uncool but works for you. At the very end. Where it is likely to be missed. Jussayin. We all do it. Usually by mistake.
Sharon is bringing a new, oft-unheard perspective to the table, and I think we can digest some of what she offers without projecting our own insecurities onto Trish’s experience. Just as we can say Sharon does not / cannot speak for Trish, how can any one person trans or otherwise be entitled to interpret Trish’s opinion of her child’s pronoun use? As it has been presented to us, this is the reality of Trish’s experience, and we should respect the honest reporting of that even if it’s not in line with our gender needs.
We don’t have the right to censor their experience because it makes us uncomfortable.
I do agree fully that the writer could expose the pronoun issues in a more eloquent way that would minimize the impact of their contrarian pronoun usage.
Maybe the use of punctuation here could really clarify? Posing an honest question, do you think that “Dad” in quotes and capitalized might make it more clear that Trish and her family identify with this term, but more as a name than a gendered parenting identity?
With all the respect,
a cis lesbian who wants to understand all the POVs
Cait – I completely agree with you about Sharon’s experience being wholly her own (but I disagree that people calling out something she said equals ‘censorship’ or that trans people are speaking from their ‘insecurities’ –which is, umm, condescending).
But I think you’re contradicting yourself when you say “this is the reality of Trish’s experience”… no, it’s the represented reality as filtered through a non-trans person (even if it’s from a loving family member of the trans person). Profound love and even acceptance (whatever that entails) don’t necessarily mean automatic understanding of the issues involved and true empathy. An example… I heard a very sympathetic ally (but straight) woman I knew say her twin sister (who identified as bi) was a lesbian. She can have that opinion of her sister, but I found it kind of lacking in nuance and I don’t think she was necessarily equipped to write a statement like that without first person understanding of her sister’s sexual orientation. Similarly, Sharon is very equipped to communicate her own experience, assumptions and emotions but I have trepidation when her film then starts to be about trans people (as her video in the NY Times largely was).
My hope for Sharon’s film is that it really and truly focuses on herself and her own process with this (as a cis woman/daughter) and stays away from “my dad said this is okay” or “my dad says it’s fine for their kids to call a trans woman by any pronoun they’re comfortable with” or even “let me tell you about my dad’s transition.” Learn from this thread. All trans people have heard many cis-created documentaries/tv shows and dramatized films which claim sensitivity and were created with an ernest attempt to ‘explain’ us which often end up inadvertently pissing trans people off and hiding behind ‘ally’ to deflect any of the offensive stuff they’ve said.
these are all really valid criticisms and i have to say i agree with all of them, with the exception of the “dad” situation —
i wasn’t involved in the editing/publishing of this post at all, so i saw it on the website just like you, and I admit that I, too, was surprised to open this (already-published) article to read it and see that “dad” referred to a female. but i do believe strongly that “mom” and “dad” are not inherently gendered terms, especially within the queer community. If my girlfriend and I have kids, they will call her Dad. I know lots of lesbian parents who go by “Dad.” If Trish wants to go by “dad,” I felt like it would be more problematic to re-label her without her consent than it would be to let a non-traditional interpretation of “Dad” appear.
So i refrained from editing the post to switch “dad” to “mom,” but i did go in and change the pronouns from “he” to “she,” but apparently missed one in the last question, which i fixed last night. (i guess in the new york times, the author used “he” a lot, which confused me). It didn’t feel like my place to adjust her experience.
i think the lapse in cisgender self-consciousness you point out — that there’s no acknowledgment that the trans woman is not speaking for herself, but being spoken for by her daughter — is key here, particularly due to this extensive history of trans* people being spoken for by cisgender people, usually exclusively so. one would assume the daughter is as close to the source as we can get and therefore automatically valid, but you’re right, it’s still not the source. gina’s point that —
Profound love and even acceptance (whatever that entails) don’t necessarily mean automatic understanding of the issues involved and true empathy
— hits the nail on the head. there is a lot of unchecked cissexism here, i’m sorry. we can and should do better to be more effective trans allies and to maintain an environment that feels inclusive to trans* folks.
((Omigod, Marni would make an amazing dad…. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh that’s just so adorable I couldn’t resist ^_______________^ ))
*cue supportive fangirl-flailing*
Hey, you don’t need to make excuses for this. You weren’t involved in it. But could you ask Gina why she thought this was a good idea to post? Maybe talk to her about backing off from trans issues until she knows what she’s doing.
“This woman has no business being any sort of voice for transgender rights if she’s so ignorant of the trans community and the issues it faces”
This woman is the daughter of a trans person. She probably knows a hell of a lot about it.
And a lot of LGBT people I know get really goddamn sick of having to be a ‘voice’ or ‘spokesperson’ every time they open their goddamn mouth.
Yeah. This article was pretty creepy to read. Also, she says she won’t call Trish her mom because she already has one – I was totally not expecting to read something like that (apparently she thinks a marriage/family has to be between a man and woman or father and mother?) on a website that is mostly by and for lesbians.
I mean, however Trish wants her kids to talk to or about her is good. But that’s in private – not published – conversations. If this person is trying to represent trans people or kids of trans parents, she needs to get her shit together.
uh plenty of transpeople continue to go by dad and don’t get all that bent out of shape by improper pronouns; if that seems incongruous to cis ppl then tough. Trish does have the right to be referred to in the “correct” way, it just sounds like what is “correct” to her doesn’t fit into this new hyper-militant box that current queer laptop “theorists” and “allies” have put around transpeople. And considering her and her daughter have had conversations about how the use of Dad leads to “he” pronouns just on a conditioning level, it seems like that have pretty open communication surrounding how Trish is doing and what she wants.
Oh my god save your “check your cis privilege” knee-jerk rhetoric for tumblr, you cretin.
For a site that is generally trans-friendly and trans-inclusive, there’s a lot going on in this particular article that is incredibly problematic. Obviously, a person has the right to be addressed by whichever pronouns, names, terms of endearment, etc. feel more comfortable to them. But as journalists/media that claims to represent the T in LGBT in a sensitive and accurate manner, you have a responsibility to show all of your readers, including people who might not be part of or even literate about LGBT issues, how to discuss issues and real people with a consistent standard of dignity and respect that they deserve. If there is an issue or a person that you write about that does not necessarily reflect a common narrative, you have a responsibility to tell that to your readers in the form of a disclaimer. Otherwise, you run the risk of articles like this being interpreted as a reflection of an entire community. This is especially problematic when the person being interviewed isn’t part of the community that’s being discussed.
Trish has the right to be referred to by correct names and pronouns in whatever configuration that might be. But we’re not hearing from her. We’re hearing from what is, at best, an unreliable and admittedly relatively uneducated source. Trish is being spoken for here, and in ways that might influence someone equally uneducated that interchanging male and female pronouns, or calling your transgender parent “Dad” when she identifies as female, is OK for everyone. Part of your job as journalists is to educate others. Is this really what you want a reader who is unfamiliar with trans issues to walk away with?
The person being interviewed does indeed have a unique perspective, being the child of a transgender parent. And I do think that perspective is valuable. But she is not part of the trans community, and as a cis person, has no right to speak for them. If she wants to be an ally, she needs to educate herself. Maybe ask her transgender parent how she would like HER story to be told. The comments above made by trans-people who were hurt (and rightfully so) by the implications of this article NEED to be listened to. They just read about two cis-women discussing the trials and tribulations of being around a trans-woman. No discussion of how that trans-woman herself might feel, no attempt at empathy. Yet again, another trans-woman’s voice is silenced by cis people who claim to be allies, yet use consistently problematic language. That shows that they haven’t taken the time to use the language that the trans community uses to talk about the issues they face. Again, this is completely irresponsible if you claim to be a trans-inclusive space.
I found the article very interesting and from one of many perspectives we don’t often hear from.
I found this article to be, while well intentioned, misleading and cis-sexist. The title is problematic because it is mis-genders the transgender parent depicted in the story, erasing her female identity. While I understand that the writer chooses to call her transgendered parent “dad” I am frustrated by her assertion that mis-pronouning her female identified parent “he” has to do with something that is “hard wired” in her brain in connection to the title “dad.” Gender is a social construction and pronouns are no hard wired into anyone’s brain! I am seriously disappointed in your ability, autostraddle, to sensitively and effectively write about the transgender community.
I understand what you mean re: conflicting pronouns; and yet I think that if this particular family works well this way, kudos to them.
I find it irritating that the authentic lived experience of this particular trans-woman is being dismissed because it fails to align with trans-politics.
I read this and found the whole thing uncomfortable and even dehumanising at times – many of the comments above encapsulate why perfectly.
From the point of view of a documentary filmmaker, and in light of the comments above, I find it really difficult that Sharon Shattuck is going to make a film about this which presents itself as in some way universal. By her own admission (on the Kickstarter site especially, as well as here) she isn’t involved in the LGBT community, and doesn’t seem to have had much contact with other LGBT families or even individuals. But she is going to make a film involving “other children of LGBT families, expectant LGBT parents, family law experts, and politicians from both sides of the fence”. It seems to me that this project is something of a labour of love that will enable her to work through her upbringing and perhaps her confusion surrounding it (reading between the lines). I think a lot of people use the creative arts in this way, and that’s fantastic. But when you go beyond your own experience and start representing others, you carry a lot of responsibility. As the filmmaker everyone’s experiences and thoughts in “Project Dad” will be filtered through her and will ultimately be seen from her point of view. From this interview I cannot see how she is equipped to take on this responsibility, and the thought of her shaping these interviews to produce a film that “is national in scope, and centered on hope and redemption” makes me fear the finished product.
People have already talked about yet another cis filter of trans experience and the pronouns issue, but I just wanted to add a comment about this paragraph:
“Trish was very uncompromising with her femininity when my sister and I were in elementary and middle school, and that caused some serious tension in our family, because that was also a point in our lives when the most important thing seemed to be fitting in with our peers.”
Her wording suggests that the problem was Trish’s ‘uncompromising’ femininity, when in fact the real problem is transphobia in general. I hope she’s able to reflect on those experiences with the acknowledgment that ultimately transphobia is what made her feel different, not the fact that Trish is trans.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend whose father began using a wheelchair when she was an adolescent. She pointed out that when she was 12, her family suddenly stopped being able to go on as many outings in places that weren’t wheelchair accessible, so she resented her dad. Then when she matured she realized that actually, the problem wasn’t her father using the wheelchair, it was ableism and inaccessibility.
A great article showing what Transgender really means for many Americans. Seriously I’m not trying to be disrespectful but for older transgender people it meant they were somewheres between a type 3 transvestite and a type four transsexual and didn’t want surgery for one reason or another. Okayness with the use of birth pronouns leans them towards being a type 3 transvestite. Some people are going to go omigod she used the word transvestite but its the truth.Sharons dad is a true transgender and there is nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with being a true transsexual either.In the case of the true transsexual it should be considered okay to not want to be considered Transgender or part of the LGBT and people shouldn’t get their knickers in a twist over it.
People are going “omigod” (and then hitting their heads on their desks or the palms of their hands) because you are holding up a bigoted, debunked classification system as though it somehow referenced reality in any way.
Wow, Lisa, are you going to charge Trisha for that valuable diagnosis or bestow it upon her as a donation? Let me just go out on a limb, you’re what you would call a ‘true transsexual’ (sic).
For someone who wasn’t even ‘trying to be disrespectful’ you’ve marvelously succeeded.
I found this site while searching for information to help my three children, boys 10,12,14 to deal with their father’s transition. Vikki’s transition has been a very difficult time and the boys are not coping well. I am shocked at the responses of those who are upset about pronouns or titles when what we really need to talk about and what’s important is how the children of transgendered woman cope with the loss of a father and deal with the insecurities of feeling abandoned and betrayed by someone they trusted to be who they said they were. Pronoun usage seems very trivial to me in the context of what those left in the wake of the person transitioning have to deal with. I am doing my best to guide our children through this difficult time but when a father leaves with no notice one day and wants to return as someone else 6 weeks later there are more important things to consider. By the way my children still call Vikki Dad, don’t care if you don’t like it! I would love to correspond with the Sharon.
That’s so interesting and wonderful! And the issue of using ‘dad’ has so many new connotations. My mom jokes that she’s my mother AND my father because when my parents were married my dad was deployed more often than not (military) and after the divorce she had primary custody. I think as there are more single parents of both sexes and all kinds of genders, the definitions of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ are gradually being widened.
I don’t mean to offend anyone by this post, I just wanted to share my story as mine is different to most of what I have read out there. In a lot of these stories people have happy endings, parents staying together, and everything seeming more normal and accepted.
I am now 25 years old and I have grown up with a transgender father since I was 14. So this article is good in a sense, but the difference between mine and Sharon’s life is huge. I talk about my father, who underwent reconstructive surgery to fully become a female, still using male terms, because I still see him as a male, and will do so forever.
I read through this and have had similar feelings. Especially the feeling alone in the world. My parents divorced when I was about 10 years old, and I lived with my mother, although I did see my dad every weekend. But I did start to notice things were becoming different, Then when I was about 14 my dad came to tell me and my older brother (16) that he was going through a transition to become transgender. At the time I had a younger sister (11) and younger brother (9) who were not told until a later stage. So I was left at 14 years old with a huge secret and no one to talk to about any of it, nor understand what was going on. Its not a conversation that anyone that age can really have. I couldn’t talk to my older brother, or mother, or anyone.
It was about then I started to distance myself from not only my father, but also the rest of my family. I would spend a lot of time at friends places, in and out of my house, playing lots of sports and doing anything I could to keep my mind off of everything.
I never stopped keeping in touch with my father. I would see him but each time I went it became harder and harder. So what began as weekly visits became rare occasions. I managed to play soccer on the weekends and got into representative soccer so I played on both Saturdays and Sundays, so I could avoid going to see him. It was just the hardest thing to cope with as a child, 14 years old and no one to talk to and feeling so alone.
I finished university and went to the other side of world. I tell myself that it is because I wanted to travel, but I know deep down that I am still running away. I can form a relationship with a girl, but doubt I can ever explain this situation to her. Its just something that I can not accept. Let alone the surprise that has recently been sprung upon me by the rest of my family.
This year my mother came out as a lesbian, my younger brother gay, and my older brother bisexual. So it seems even more has been added to my already interesting life. Nothing much seems to surprise me anymore. I think how that these changes in my families life may have been affected by having a transgender father. I don’t say I blame him, rather just think would things have been any different if he was not transgender. I also think about going home, then I think how I can’t.
I have left all my friends back home to start a new life. Something that I feel that I can cope with. With little connection to what was, I think that it has given me a chance to begin to come to grips with the path that my family follows. Being left at 14 to try and come to grips with something like this is hard. Everyone says that you should ‘talk to someone’ but I know as a 14 year old there is no chance whatsoever of speaking to someone about something like this. You don’t want to speak to your parents, friends, family, anyone. You just want to forget and believe that everything will be ok, and it will all disappear somehow. But it doesn’t so here I am running away from everything, and its hard to think, this is the happiest I have been in a long time.
Everyone deals with different situations in different ways. And this is how I came to deal with it. I know people will say ‘running away doesn’t solve anything’, but to those people, I say that you are wrong. Running away is the best thing I have done. To put everything aside and live the most normal life I can. I have had no negative thoughts about what I have done. And as I said, I am happier than ever.
I still keep in touch with my family, I will email them every so often. But that is about it. The less I keep in touch the more I forget about what is going on with the rest of my family, and I can focus on what I need to do, and how I feel.
This is just another perspective of the life of someone who has a transgender parent. It may not have such a happy ending as other things out there. But it still needs to be heard, because we cant go around thinking that we live in a fairytale world.
Your story is eerily similar to mine. My biological father (regardless of the life this individual lives now, humans spawn from egg + sperm, and he provided the sperm for me and my sister, so he is our *father*. Don’t really care who it offends, but that is what it is on a biological level). If my father wasn’t okay with being called “dad,” that individual should have thought of that before he took “living the life of a straight guy” to the level of having kids.
Me and my sister were teenagers when he transitioned. Instead of talking about it, like Trish apparently did, though, my dad just kind of did it. And it tore our family apart. Eventually, he left to go live his life.
I’m now an adult in my twenties and I have a good relationship with my mom and sister. I don’t talk to my father anymore — not really because of the transgender thing but because I can’t really deal with talking to a narcissistic 62-year-old who’s alcohol-addled brain makes it kind of like talking to a child. Our personalities couldn’t be more different. Without going into vast and terrible (and probably boring) detail, he is weak — I am strong. I’ve become the person who I wanted to be despite all of my father’s attempts to influence me otherwise.
I’m not, however, out to any of my family (I’m a lesbian), and I don’t know if I ever can be because there will be that inevitable association with my father, who I’ve tried very hard to disconnect and distance myself from. Sometimes I think that because of who my father is, I’ll have to close off that part of myself forever. It’s not as bad as it sounds, I’ve done a good job so far. Pretending to be straight isn’t hard, being alone is.
Looking back, I was one of those kids who people probably pegged as a future lesbian from the time I was in kindergarten. So I don’t think that anything about me would have been different if stuff with my father had gone down differently. I’m okay with every aspect of who I am; it’s just a matter of how open I can be about it (me being lesbian). And to most people that I am out to, it’s just as lesbian — not as the kid of a transwoman.
But yeah, there seems to be an rush to defend the transwomen in the comments posted here from everyone’s “evil bigotry/insensitivity,” without much consideration to how it affects the lives of people around them. Because it doesn’t always end up being puppies and flowers and rainbows — those are just the stories that you read about on sites like this because that’s what people want to read about. No one wants to say it out loud, but part of the “LGBT parents” issue hinges on their kids being straight (because, y’know, heteronormativity and stuff), so people really don’t want to hear about the queer parent who’s kid ended up being queer too.
I know there are plenty of STRAIGHT kids of LGBT parents who are super into it, but it’s so different for me. Maybe it wouldn’t be if I was straight, but I’m not. Also, parents — regardless of who they are or the circumstances under which they have kids — make the choice to have kids. I didn’t choose to be born.
OMG! Really, what a bunch of carrying on over the “feelings” of someone being called “dad” vs. whatever works for the person who has had to come to accept a parent who changed their gender expression.
I cried reading this article… I have 2 sons who’s father is Trans and our story is not a happy one!! My boys father blew us out of the water when he met us at a fast food resteraunt one day dressed as a woman an announced that he was Transgendered my boys were 6 and 8 at the time. My sons and I were shocked and the boys were devistated needless to say they couldn’t look at him the whole way through lunch, my younger boy is autistic and all he could do was rock and stare at his football!!!! Things didn’t go any better in the months to come either… My ex declared to the boys that their father was dead and that they needed to accept the woman he was becoming!! He insisted that they call him “Maddy or Paddy” but never were they to call him dad again!!! He dressed in short shorts and low cut shirts when he would visit the boys and would tell them he was happier than he had ever been in his life now that he was a woman!!! Yrs have gone by since the boys have seen or talked to their father and they are now very angry teenagers..they feel betrayed and unimportant to their father and are confused about what it means to be “a man” I know that like you said in your article they feel very alone..hell so do I!!! I’m just wondering how your mom helped you through through your families experience?
I Can’t imagine how you kids cope…everyone tells my sons to be tolerant and that everyone has the right to be happy and my boys should be more accepting, but they have never been on the families side of the fence!! How do you cope? My son has been asked by more therapists I he was trans than I can count!!! I have a lesbian mother, I myself am bisexual however I am in a heterosexual relationship. But the anger that my children and myself feel is very isolating becaus like you said people want it to be all puppies n rainbows!! And too it’s something that we keep closely guarded as a secret, when ppl hear that my ex-husband and sons father is trans they kinda go OH..like we’re contagious or something or even worse they think it’s all good because my kids are more tolerant of difference!! That couldn’t be any farther from the truth!! How did your mom help you through all of this? My boys are getting older and becoming teenagers and are VERY angry..so how do I hop them through this path chosen for us?!!!
@ Sprout — is there another male role model in the family — maybe an uncle or grandfather or something — that your sons can spend some time with? That might help, I dunno.
No_one, yes fortunately my father is a huge part of our life, we lived with him up until 5 yrs ago and I have the boys enrolled and active in Boy Scouts which they enjoy tremendously and look up to our scout leader and many of our older boys who are great young men!! I have both boys in therapy through the school and my younger boy who has Aspergers enrolled in an equestrian therapy program for special needs children. I’m doing all I can to provide them with a stable, well rounded home that they can thrive in.. I just wish I could take away the pain and anger that has been caused by their fathers choices and actions!!! I don’t know what to do to help them in that area!! The you get boy won’t even talk about it and when he does it brief and to the point and them it’s “I’m not going to discuss this anymore mom, I’ve said what I have to say..period the end!!” He is quite the precocious little man :-)!! The older boy is very angry and is acting out at home and school, he fights with his brother, he constantly argues with me which usually ends with him storming off and slamming g his door and yelling how much he hates me (after a few min he calms down and cries and tells me he’s sorry he doesn’t hate me) he gets in fights at school.. At the same time because of his size and his a ring out he’s bullied at school too ( my boys are the size of 6&7 yr olds…they take growth hormone injections daily!!) my older boy tells me he is angry with his father but since he’s not around he doesn’t know who to take it out on and he doesn’t me to take it out on everybody else..he feels abandoned by his father and feels worthless!! I make sure my boys know they are the 2 most important ppl in the world as far as I’m concerned and that to me they are worth more than all the money, things and ppl in the world to me and that to me they always come 1st!! That’s all fine and good but for a 13yr old boy what their father thinks of them is very important!!! I just feel alone and like I can’t FIX this!! As people who went through similar situations to ours what can I do as a parent to help them? What did your parents do to help you through your famines situation?!!
I will first begin by apologizing for any offense taken. I am extremely new to the LBGT community and have been trying to learn more in order to begin to understand my father. I am unsure of what is proper pronoun usage (I will definitely ask “him” tomorrow what “he” prefers after reading these posts!) but will, for the sake of this post, refer to my father as “Dad”, “he” and “him” as I’ve had 28 years of doing so and am claiming naivety!
My father very recently told me that he is in the process of transitioning. I’ve known since my teens that he enjoyed dressing as a woman but I guess I never thought that he may actually want to BE a woman. In my teens I too was very angry with my father. I blamed him for not being a “normal dad”. In retrospect that was very selfish of me.
I found this article because I wanted to hear other stories of people who had grown up with transgendered parents. I also wanted to know how others were dealing with reconstructing their own views of their transparent’s identity. I found the article interesting and honestly felt comforted knowing someone had similar feelings as I did. At 28 I am just beginning to want to understand what my dad has been living like, and the emotions and feelings that he must deal with, having to hide his lifestyle for so long. Unfortunately our family has not been quite as accepting as the authors. My parents are no longer together, but I still have a very close relationship with my dad. My brother (who is 25) found out more recently about my father and is still very angry. This new image of my dad does not match with the memories of the father he grew up with and he’s finding this very hard to deal with.
Having read through all these posts, I think it’s important to hear all sides, and be tolerant of the naivety that will inherently be present as children of transgendered parents try to begin to understand them. I feel that there is value to stories like these but am also thankful for the all of the responses I’ve read as I’ve learned a lot in this one forum!
As a trannsexual and a parent, I’m a little disturbed by some of the comments on here, bashing this family, and especially this daughter who is obviously trying to figure some things out still (“I’m learning that calling a transgender parent “dad” is far more contentious in the trans community than I realized!…In a recent interview, I posed this pronoun confusion to my dad, and asked what pronouns people should use when addressing her.”) As far as I’m concerned compromise is what family and parenting is all about. “Mom” and “Dad” are terms of endearment, and it’s a hypocritical for anyone to say that, for example, “penises and vaginas don’t dictate gender,” and then imbue a familial term with an inherent gender. My kids continue to call me “mom” whenever they want, because that’s what they’ve called me most of their lives and, sure, because they already have a dad. If I were to have a “new set” of kids–post-transition–they’d likely call me Dad, but I would never ask my current kids to change over because that’s our relationship, and we’ve given that term its own definition between us. There are connotations they have with the term “dad” that I wouldn’t want to be associated with, for the same reasons. When you’re a parent you adjust, you don’t always get your way, you do a hell of a lot of playing by ear, and you often put your kids’ feelings above your own; these don’t seem like outlandish concepts to me.
Like I’ve always taught my kids: remember that when looking in on other people’s relationships you’re never going to know their full truth, so you should usually just leave it up to them to decide what works best. I know plenty of parents who would answer just like Trish, “whatever they’re most comfortable with,” when asked what their children should call them. And like so many of our parents, siblings, partners, and friends have had to learn, because they love us: sometimes the relationships in our lives are more important to us than than the pronouns.
Resurrecting an old thread here, I know. But I googled “anger at transgender parent” and this thread came up. My 67 year-old father came out 6 months ago to family members as a transgender person. My mother has known for years apparently, and it appears she was ok with it as long as he was discreet. However, now my father has announced his intention to live openly as “Meaghan”. His timing couldn’t have been crappier. My mother has been nursing my grandmother through ovarian cancer and Grandma passed away three weeks ago. My father announced that Meaghan would be going to the funeral. My mother almost completely lost it, so he backed down. I put on a good face, but underneath I’m seething with anger.
This is just the latest example of my father’s selfishness and insensitivity. It’s always all about him. His rages and violent abuse of my mother were the dominant features of my childhood. My younger brothers and I learned very early to walk on eggshells around him. To this day, he still gets loud and aggressive in order to intimidate and bully people into letting him have his way. Now he says he wants to live as a woman. How does that reconcile with the alpha-male bullish*t that he’s still pulling??? I’d like to be all “puppies & rainbows” and accepting but that’s not going to happen until he takes responsibility for the pain and the trauma inflicted on me and my siblings growing up in a domestic war zone. There’s more than one elephant in our family living room.
Transgender people tend to be very unhappy living as their birth gender, and some express this dysphoria as rage. Not excusing your father for being abusive, but it’s quite possible she will be a lot nicer as Meaghan, and that her behavior was a reaction to gender dysphoria. Coming out as transgender isn’t your father being selfish and insensitive, it’s her finally taking ownership of a chronic problem she has had forever and not handled properly. Think of it like an alcoholic making life changes and setting boundaries to help them quit drinking.
But whatever the reason for your father’s abuse, you need to care for your own needs. Have you gotten counseling for yourself? Counseling and space are the best ways to deal with trauma.
this is really interesting as a trans myself and are concerned how my daugthers are and will coupe with my transition,may I point out to the negative ones there is very little info for teenagers of a transparent.for help