And Her Mother Too.
A little over a year ago during the holidays of 2019 I came out to my parents as a transgender woman. It was well received by my father. Although, he did point blank ask if I was on hormones, and what I was going to do about my hair. My mother on the other hand seemed in a daze.
I originally wanted to come out at Thanksgiving when we were gathered at one of my brother’s and wife’s house. My parents were there, of course, and so was my other brother and his daughter. My mother was looking rather decrepit in body (that didn’t surprise me), and at the dinner table she seemed confused a lot of the time (this did surprise me). Seeing this I decided it wasn’t the best of times to reveal to her that I was a transgender woman. The brother whose house we were at drove my parents home, and that is when I decided to reveal my feminine self to those that remained. I ran into no trouble coming out to them. My brother even reminisced how my parents would have named me Stephanie if I was born a girl (he did not use was assigned female at birth as is more accurate). My other brother was told when he got back, but after we had left. I called him the next day to hear his response, which was “if that’s what you want.”*
So, I needed to do a bit of a rethink on when to tell my parents. Obviously, I could not count on my mom understanding any of this. I finally, made arrangements to come just before Christmas. I took the subway. There apartment was right next to a stop. As I was not out fulltime, I wore a unisex looking style of jeans (they were still woman’s) and a plain blouse. My hair was covered by a ski cap, which I took off once I was there (possibly a prompt for my father’s later question about my hair).
We had brunch after which we sat in living room. It was there that I revealed I was a transgender woman. From my father’s comments about hormones he must have had some information about transgender persons and medical transitioning. But, my mom remained silent and asked no questions. Was she even cognizant of my news? After giving a brief history of my gender identity journey, the rest of the visit remained pleasant.
That has actually been the last time I have seen them in person, not even a zoom chat. However, I talk with my father regularly. At least several times or more a month. I have only spoken to my mom twice on back to back days. The first time she thought that I was my girlfriend, Bette (in a way this was affirming). The following day she called back to talk with me as she thought it wasn’t me the day before. The conversation didn’t go too far, which was my expectation given her mental state. However, she did ask one question. “How does Bette feel about this?” I responded by telling her, “she was fine with it and has been supportive.” Those are practically the last words I spoke to her, besides “bye bye.”
So, how is it being my father’s daughter? In most ways it is no different than when he knew me as his son. The biggest change is in me sharing my transitioning progress with him. As I often kept him up to date in my previous endeavors, this is not so different either. I communicate in the same way as I had; my language that I use remains the same.† I continue to ask after my mom every time I call. That is the way I start off my calls, asking “how are you?” and “how is mom?”
How does my father talk to me now? Again, there is not much of a difference. It is difficult to discern his feelings if at all. He has always had a stoic outward demeanor, whether or not he is that way on the inside I am not sure, but my hunch is that he is. A stoic stance can be a useful way of confronting the bad things in life, but I suppose the good things would no longer seem as happy of occasions. Anyway, that is how he presents himself.
Because of his stoic responses it is hard for me to gauge my father’s emotions towards me and my transitioning. There has never been an “I am glad,” or “I am happy for you” upon sharing good news. The first milestone I reported to him was starting cross hormone treatment (commonly hrt). There was no hint of whether he was please or not by this news. And it is the same with all my other milestones that I have reported to him. I will deal with my own responses to his stoic persona later in the post.
He has never called me Stephie. Matter of fact the last two times he called me by my name he used my birthname. This could be because he had never had to use my new name all my long life. In the back of my head I entertained the thought that this was done on purpose to show his displeasure toward my gender identity as a woman. However, I finally, after letting a good deal of phone calls go by, confronted him on this. Confronted maybe to strong of a term, but if he responded negatively (fear of this is why I hesitated bringing it up) a confrontation it would be. He never did say okay to my request for him to use Stephie instead of my birthname. But, since than he has not used my birthname, although he has not use Stephie directly to me. What did occur is he had place an obituary for my oldest brother in a local paper. I asked, “what name he used?” He responded with “Stephie, that is your name now, right.” I was definitely happy about that outcome. The funny thing is he misspelled it. He used Steffie. I did not care about that. It was affirming that he honored my name in this instance. However, he has yet to call me Stephie directly.
His response above, of course, came after my legal name change came through last November. I did figure he had to be okay with my choice to legally change my name because last summer I asked if he could pay court fees and publication costs. As stoic as ever he ask, “how much?” I told him and he asked, “who do I write the checks out to?” I told him, and I was soon to receive the checks in the mail.
At the same time I asked for the money to make my legal name change I asked if he could pay for electrolysis of my genitals as prep for vaginoplasty surgery. A discussion followed on what the costs would be. I gave a range of $1200 to $1500 based on my conversation with an experience electrolysist in this kind of procedure. Again he said that he would, but that he would set a limit of $2000 dollars total. The money is coming from some money he had put away to pay for other kinds of expenses.
So, how do I deal with his behavior on an emotional basis? I get an overwhelming sense that he supports me and my transition. Why else would he be willing to funnel money for another purpose to some of my transition needs? He has also never question if I was sure about these things. Even my girlfriend ask that repeatedly about the surgery. I couldn’t think of why he would do it otherwise than he does in fact support me. I gain a certain amount of feeling accepted by him in this. It gives me that affirming like feeling, which is a good thing. But, then his stoic stance throws me for a loop. Why can’t he just say, “hey, that’s good, I am happy for you.” This makes it my turn to be accepting of the fact that what I desire may never come about. I do feel a certain loss by never having this kind of response. Can I lose something I never had? Anyway it is my turn to be stoic. But, my stoicism (I do have it sometimes) does not offer complete protection (does it for anyone?). And, my desire for an emotional response from my father never seems to wane—I pine away for it like a jilted lover (okay that’s an exaggeration).
So, his affirming actions gives me the feeling of acceptance, yet his non-emotional presentation gives me feelings of frustration. Why can’t he just say something emotionally affirming? I also feel that I have lost something, so maybe some feelings of grief are present. Can’t I just be a daughter wanting her father’s expressions of love?
So, here I am. Torn between a supportive father by his actions, and a non-supportive father by his emotional responses. Will this situation ever be resolved? I think about asking him point blank about what his feelings towards me are as his daughter. Stay tune, if I ever do broach the topic with him. For now I will know in my heart that he loves me as he always has, no matter what my successes or failures.
As for my mother and the fact of what seems to be non-recognition it brings on feelings of sadness. Before I was born I believe that they wanted me to be a girl (again language of those times), hence the Stephanie story my brother mentioned. Would she have been happy to know that she did in fact have a girl? The news is just 60+ years late. My hunch is that she just might have, which may have started out in anger. A typical response of hers upon hearing upsetting news. I do feel she would have come around with the possibility that she would have welcomed the news straight away. “Oh, mom, I am here and I am your daughter” if she ever becomes lucid again. But, for now it does sadden me, as I mentioned above, when I think about.
* I do not consider that a good reply in most cases. However for my bother, not the most talkative person, it was affirming enough. People don’t always recognize that being a transgender person is not a choice, so wanting it is not really accurate. What can be described as a want is the choice to transition. I know personally a number of transgender women who are actively choosing not to transition. With most if life circumstances would be different they might choose to, but some are happy enough staying in the closet because of family or job they actual enjoy. That aside, the fact is that some use it as a slur, and most others use it because they don’t realize it is not a choice and don’t know what else to say. This is similar to when people tell you are brave.
† I have read that females tend to use more qualifiers than male speakers or writers. I have always done this. One change that maybe noticeable is my use of diminutives, but I don’t really use them when talking to my father.