Coming Out as Dad, Part 1: Birthday Party

Coming out to other parents was one of the last things I thought about when planning my daughter’s birthday party. There was so much else to take care of – the invitations, the decorations, the food, the ice and coolers for the food… It wasn’t till maybe the night before the party that I thought about “What am I going to tell the other parents about myself?”

It probably wouldn’t have been an issue at all if I’d had the sort of party where parents drop off their kids and reappear two hours later to pick them up, just as they’re reaching the zenith of their sugar highs. I could have just introduced myself by name (my preferred name is easily misinterpreted as feminine in the U.S.) or as Iz’s parental figure, waved by, and left them blissfully unaware they just talked to a transgender parent.

But no, I had to plan a party at a massive local playground, where I hoped all the parents would stay to enjoy the festivities (ie. help supervise their children). And they did. And rather than let them be mystified by the mix of terms used for me (female pronouns from my recalcitrant parents; male pronouns from my kid, girlfriend, brother, friends, and my kid’s aunt and other grandpa; and the lingering “Mommy” from my kid), or have them misgender me based on my appearance, I decided to take the bull by the horns and come out. “Mom transitioning to Dad” was the phrase I decided to use.

I didn’t let on to anyone else, but I worried about how the other parents would respond. This being a liberal area, and not having had any problems coming out at work or with volunteer organizations in the area, I hoped for the best, but still. What if this was the time someone got upset? What if they made a fuss or left the party? If they refused to have anything to do with me and my kid, or badmouthed me to other parents?

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t masquerade as Mom. Not with almost four months worth of testosterone pumping in my veins, not with my already rather deep voice and already rather prominent muscles. Not now that I was out to almost everybody in my life and planned to present myself as Iz’s dad when school starts again in the fall. Not if I wanted to feel anything other than miserable during the party.

And so, when that first parent walked up to me on the playground, I shook her hand and introduced myself by name, then said, “I’m Iz’s parent. I was Mom; now I’m transitioning to Dad.” She didn’t comment on that but introduced herself, and then we launched right into talking about the kids and the party. One down, five more to go.

In the end, I came out to maybe three out of five of the parents that didn’t already know (a couple of them were buddies of mine who already knew about my gender). Sometimes there was so much going on that I only had time to say my name and not give my coming out spiel. One parent actually asked me, “So you’re… her mom?” and I replied, “Funny you should ask–” and said my thing. In another case, in an effort to save time, I introduced myself as “Mom slash Dad,” and the other parent said with a sympathetic chuckle, “Ah, you mean you’re very busy.” “Well, and also I’m transitioning…” I explained.

Honestly, I don’t know how many of the parents even got it. They were possibly feeling near as frazzled as I was, what with the kids running around the huge playground, and the overwhelming heat (heat index of 105, yay). The fact that no one asked me any questions about my transition hints that either everyone was being extremely polite that day, or that they were too distracted, or they actually didn’t get what I said at all.

Even if they didn’t, though, I’m glad I did it. It felt worlds better to know that I had tried. I wasn’t hiding; I was being myself, even if everyone was too busy to actually notice. I did not get misgendered at all, aside from Iz calling me Mommy. And I one-upped my parents out of calling me by the wrong name by introducing myself by my preferred name.

The party passed in such a blur – setting up decorations, greeting people, getting kids to play games, sending people to fetch pizza and then the ice cream cake, trying to get goody bags to kids as families began to wilt from the heat and leave – that I didn’t really think about these things till afterward. Even that evening after the party, all I could think was, thank the gods it went off so well. People showed up in spite of the heat; there was enough food and drink and goody bags; the kids had fun; Iz was beaming.

It wasn’t till today, two days later, that I started to reflect on my coming out, and realized how much of a non-issue my identity had been – not just my intentional coming out, but the way I dressed and acted, the sound of my voice, my obvious masculine expression.

I also realized that I had stumbled on a parent label that fit, at least for now. On another of my blogs, I’ve written about how my gender identity is in flux. It makes sense that my parental identity would be in flux, too – that I might not yet be sure that I’m Dad – but I see myself on a journey of “Mom transitioning to Dad,” and that’s what I feel comfortable telling people.

As for how Iz sees me and calls me, she has already referred to me as her dad on several occasions – it’s just that when she needs me, the word that pops out of her mouth is still “Mommy!” I’ve started to nudge a little at changing this habit, especially in public — but I think it’s going to be a work in progress for some time.

And it’s not as though it won’t be obvious that I’m trans for some time to come. I am going to be coming out as “transitioning” (I’ve already started using that in my standard coming out spiel in general – “I’m transitioning female to male”) for however long it takes me to be generally perceived as male – if that ever happens. I’m lucky to live, work, and have my kid attend school in an area where people don’t seem to have a problem with this.

Because really, there are more important things going on, such as needing to get candles lit and “Happy Birthday” sung before the ice cream cake melts in the 105 degree heat.

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A Dad By Any Other Name

…would still smell just as sweaty after karate class.

What’s in a name? In a way, not that much. Whatever I’m called, it doesn’t change the fact that I hug my kid before she gets on the school bus each morning, that I read her bedtime stories while she snuggles up to me, that I take her to the playground and the library, I bandage her boo-boos and make sure she brushes her teeth and eats her vegetables, I go watch her dance recital and I go with her to “Daddy and Me” karate class the day before Fathers’ Day.

Wait, what?

Yes, I went to Daddy and Me class with my daughter.

And at least once during class, she called me “Mommy.”

Names mattered a whole lot at that moment.

I had ended up there kind of by surprise, or accident. When “Mommy and Me” classes happened back in May, I thought regretfully that I probably wouldn’t be able to attend the dads’ version this year. I’d be too obviously trans, or more likely, be perceived as a butch woman. I wouldn’t fit in. I’d get weird looks and embarrassing questions. It would have to wait, I thought, till next year, when I’m much more likely to be perceived as male.

And then when the date of the Daddy and Me classes was announced, I realized it was the same day as a wedding we were to attend, and I’d have to work that day as well, so we wouldn’t be able to make it anyway. I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved.

But as it turned out, the end of the week arrived and Iz had only gone to class once (she is supposed to go twice a week). So my mom and I arranged that I would take Iz to class, and my mom would pick her up so that I could go straight to work from there.

And as we were going out the door, I remembered that it was day of the Daddy and Me classes.

So knowing full well what Iz would say, I asked her if she wanted me to join her for class. After all, I started her in karate so that we could bond, and that was just what this class was for.

Her eyes lit up.

Anyway, if I could play it off as my kid’s idea, that gave me an excuse. “I know, i don’t look like most people’s idea of a daddy yet, but my kid really wanted me to take class with her, so what could I do?” *shrug, smile, keep doing what I’m doing*

As it turned out, no one said anything, not even when Iz called me mommy. Well, one of the other dads did say, “Looks like you’re experienced at this,” when I did some super fast blocking during one drill. But nothing about gender. Nothing implying  I shouldn’t be there.

I started out class a nervous wreck. And I was relieved when it was over – as much for getting through class in somewhat restrictive pants as for not getting any flak for being in the “wrong place.” But I also felt accomplished. I had made it clear – to that small group of parents and students in the dojo that morning, anyway – that I was dad, that I was male. Even though some people still look at me and think I’m Iz’s mom. Even though Iz still calls me “Mom” a lot of the time.

When it’s just between her and me, it really doesn’t matter a bit what she calls me. I am myself; I am not the label. How I treat her doesn’t change, other than that I’m embracing my masculine style of parenting more now, but that’s a result of accepting myself and my identity, and not of the label itself. I don’t even receive the right label that often when it comes to parenting, and in fact haven’t even settled on one yet. I just do my thing.

But parenting is a very gendered sport, and nothing makes this clearer than the Hallmark holidays we have for binary gendered parents. Mothers’ Day is only for female parental figures, and Fathers’ Day is one for male ones. For transgender parents, it’s a territory fraught with the mines of potential questioning and rejection or even derision or harassment, and the anxiety and dysphoria that can bring on. And for parents who identify outside the binary, neither holiday may feel right, as I brought up last month.

Ideas of who can raise children have expanded remarkably in recent years, as the awesome book Families, Families, Families! goes to show. It isn’t until page 16 of this picture book that the example “Some kids have a mom and a dad,” is given, after two dads, just mom, grandparents, and so on. But even so, the labels stay the same. Moms. Dads. You’re one or the other. There’s no allowance for being in between, whether it’s because you’re in transit from one or the other, or camping out there indefinitely.

I’m not saying we should deny mothers and fathers and refuse those names. But some flexibility would be nice. I haven’t yet figured out whether “Dad” is a name that fits, and I can’t seem to get Iz to call me anything other than “Mommy” for very long. (Yesterday she called me “Fa-fa” – short for “Father” – for a little while, but then switched back to Mommy later.) I know that some trans people make up their own parental titles (and I’ve tried that), and some feel fine sticking with the title of their previous gender (but I don’t think I like that, at least not in public, at least not at this time).

I was lucky, though. In spite of my own uncertainty, my non-cis-male appearance, and my daughter’s flagrant, public misgendering, I was able to take that karate class with my kid without any negative response, and on Fathers’ Day itself, my amazing girlfriend took me out to brunch, and I got Fathers’ Day wishes from my kid’s aunt and supportive friends. I got to have my day, even if I was among those doubting whether it really was mine.

And now, for 364 more days, I’ll continue doing my parenting thing regardless of what I’m called, sweating through summer days at the playground and Saturday morning karate classes, reading bedtime stories and bandaging boo-boos. Maybe next June it’ll be a little clearer – to me, to Iz, to the world – whether or not I’m “Dad.” For now, though, I’m just going to be me, cause as far as Iz is concerned, that’s perfect.

Unhappy Mother’s Day; and how about All Parents’ Day instead

I had a very unhappy Mother’s Day.

I first freaked out about it about two weeks ahead of time, when the martial arts school where my kid and I take classes posted something about “bring your mom to class” the day before Mother’s Day. Oh right. That holiday. When no doubt some people are going to see me as mom, and wish me happy mother’s day or try to get me to join in activities like that – which is not only misgendering me, but reminding me of the traumatic things that happened almost seven years ago to bring my kid into this world, the very thought of which causes me nauseating waves of anxiety. That’s coming up. Yippee.

I made a post on facebook letting my friends know of my wishes regarding this holiday:

I’m just gonna put this out there, having seen something on …’s FB page that triggered it: Please DO NOT wish me a happy mother’s day two weekends from now. I know I acted as …’s mother for years, and there are probably some trans guys who appreciate having been mothers, but I am not one of them. I have never identified with that label or role and to have people associate me with it makes my stomach turn. So, just don’t. Save your congratulations for father’s day.

The responses were supportive, and one of my friends suggested coming up with my own holiday to celebrate parenthood. While I personally find it just as hurtful that to think I couldn’t or shouldn’t celebrate Father’s Day just because I’m trans, as that people might congratulate me on Mother’s Day because I used to live as a woman, I did see a need for the holiday. For those parents who don’t identify within the gender binary, who don’t see themselves as either mothers or fathers – they should have a day to celebrate as well. All Parents’ Day. It would fall halfway between Mother’s and Father’s Day. Around the time of Maryland Deathfest Memorial Day weekend.

Before that, though, Mother’s Day happened.

Not long after the Facebook post, my kid mentioned Mother’s Day, and I took the opportunity to remind her that I’m not a girl and therefore not a mother. I thought she got it. She calls me by male pronouns 100% of the time now, though I’ve given up on not being called mom.

The week before Mother’s Day, I spoke to my mom about it. When Mother’s Day came up, I said, “By the way, I don’t want any attention on Mother’s Day.”

She laughed and said, “I wasn’t planning on giving you any. You lost a holiday!”

I didn’t say anything about Father’s Day. There’d be time enough to work on that. I was just relieved she got it about Mother’s Day.

I didn’t even try with my dad. He’s rejected my gender entirely; how could I expect him to understand that I don’t want to celebrate Mother’s Day?

Funny enough though, out of those three, he was actually the only one who didn’t wound me on The Day.

I woke up on Mother’s Day to a card on my dresser. Why is there a card there?!?! I don’t get a card today. My stomach went hollow. I asked my girlfriend to open it. Of course I knew what it was; I could have just thrown it away without looking, but I had to know for sure. Who had done this to me.

It was a card with a picture of Olaf from Frozen and something about warm hugs, and my kid had scrawled something on the inside.

My kid. The only person who lives me with me who actually genders me correctly, and she had done this to me. And of course, she couldn’t have bought that card by herself, so my mom had been complicit in it too.

Gone were any hopes of blithely going through the day without most of my family calling attention to my “motherhood.” Of brushing off any remarks from my father or from strangers with a smile and a “Thanks, but no thanks. My holiday is next month.” Of letting the awkward burn in their faces and not mine, cause I know who I am, and they’re the ones making asses of themselves by making assumptions. No, now I couldn’t face any of them. I just wanted to stay in bed all day, away from everyone.

Two things changed that helped me get through the day. My girlfriend stayed with me till the afternoon. She was my shield. Had anyone in my family said anything else, I could have bitten back or made my awkward joke, because I knew at least one person knew me for who I really was. I wasn’t all alone. And then my brother arrived, and that made two people in the house who got it.

As it turned out, my father was the one who said nothing about Mother’s Day. And when I went shopping, none of the clerks did, either, even when I had my kid with me. Well trained, I bet. Making assumptions is rude and can hurt your business. Finally, at the very end of the night, as we were about to leave the restaurant where we had dinner, the waitress wished us a happy mother’s day, while looking right at me. I smiled and said nothing, and my mom said, “Thanks, and same you to. I mean, maybe…” Thanks, mom, for taking the awkwardness on yourself and away from the trans parent at the table. No, really. Thanks, mom, and I love you.

Then we went home and had cake, and the night wound down on a pleasant note. Another plus, there was not a word about Mother’s Day on my facebook wall. I guess my friends all got the memo. That was a relief.

The day started out rough, but ended up better than I expected. And better yet, it will never happen again. By this time next year, no one will mistake me for someone’s mother, and if anyone tries, I can and will laugh in their face.

Now, to start planning for Maryland Deathfest All Parents’ Day…

If You Were Born as a Boy

Progress!

drawing of the author as a little boy

This morning, not only did my kid get up early, get dressed, make her bed and pack her lunch without being told, and didn’t complain while I brushed her hair, BUT she also made this paper airplane (by herself – awesome paper airplane engineer) with a drawing of me and her. In her own words: “I drew how you would have looked when you were little, if you were born as a boy.”

❤ ❤ ❤

My kid is so awesome and creative.

Back to School Night, and Being Outed as Mom

Second and last of the back-dated posts. This was originally written on Sept. 18, 2014, which I think was the day after Back to School Night. Again, it doesn’t really reflect how I see myself or how Iz relates to me now. After I had a Serious Talk with her a couple weeks ago, she sort of got that I’m a boy and would prefer to be called Mr. Mom (although she still calls me Mommy all the time out of habit. Whatever, that one’s gonna take a while to change). But recently she’s been calling me a girl again, almost like she’s teasing me. So maybe we need to have another Serious Talk.

Anyway, this post is more about how I might be viewed by Iz’s teacher and school personnel, and I’m definitely still my kid’s mom to them. Will that change by this fall? I’m not sure; it will be interesting to see.


(Sept. 18, 2014)

So last night was Back to School Night, and my first time meeting Iz’s teacher.

I had wondered how to present myself to her teacher. After the Open House where Iz and my mom met the teacher, I sent the teacher an email as requested to sign up for her mailing list, and I described myself as Iz’s “parent” and signed with just the initial of my first name, so that gender was not too obvious. Unless, you know, my display name showed my full name, or the teacher was able to guess that the first part of my email address is *gasp* my first name. So my attempts at obfuscation were more of an act of confusion and self-delusion.

Back to School Night, meanwhile, came just about a week after I came out as transmasculine on Facebook, announcing a new name and asking my friends to use male pronouns for me. So how should I present myself to the teacher, I wondered?

In the end, I went with my legal name and “mom” for a few reasons. For one thing, my legal name is on all the paperwork, and will be until I get it legally changed. It would just be confusing to try to use another name. Also, it would be arbitrary and risky to come out to school personnel.

Most importantly, though, is that “mom” is what Iz calls me and knows me as. It’s the word she’d use to talk about me to the teacher. And it turned out that she has talked to the teacher about me quite a lot. “She really loves you. She talks about you all the time,” the teacher said. I was surprised and touched, really deeply touched, because Iz and I don’t have a great relationship. She really loves me?

On Iz’s desk in the classroom, meanwhile, I found a drawing of me and her, holding hands and wearing dresses of pink, purple and cerulean blue.

drawing of me and my kid in pretty dresses

Those are my favorite colors, but I was surprisingly stung that Iz hasn’t picked up Mommy doesn’t wear dresses.

Of course, my daughter lives in a fantasyland of princesses and fairies (some fabulous, but some just ordinary) and so I suppose this was her fantasy of me and her. I guess she hasn’t gotten yet that in fairyland, Mommy would be a prince, not a princess.

I suppose she has no way of knowing, since I haven’t gathered up the nerve to come out to her yet. My parents probably suspect something is up with the chest binding and the male clothes, but Iz wouldn’t understand that. To her I’m still the same Mommy as always, just in different clothes.

I should probably explain it to her, but part of me is nervous, and then another part doesn’t want to risk her outing me to my dad, and so I’ll probably just end up waiting until she hears one of my friends call me “he” or my male name, and asks about it. I don’t see it being too difficult to explain, since we’re very familiar with a few trans people, whom I explained with, “X was born as a girl, but later realized he’s a boy” or vice versa. Iz just blithely accepted the concept, and in fact occasionally tells me that one of her baby dolls is trans, or posits that a character on one of her kids shows might be trans.

But to my explanation of myself, I’ll add: “But I’m still Mommy. That’s not going to change.” Because that’s who she needs me to be right now. Perhaps when she’s a little older, she’ll realize how incongruous it is to imagine me in a dress, or to shout “Mom!” across the room at someone who’s presenting as male. But for now, I have to live with being outed as Mom.

Manly Mom

This post was originally written on Sept. 2, 2014, although I think the events described actually took place on Labor Day (the 2nd was a Tuesday). Besides some editing for style and typos, I haven’t changed anything. This post doesn’t reflect how I think of myself and my relationship to my daughter now, but it does explain where this blog came from, and maybe kind of has a point.


Today, my kid broke a board and had her first tiny moment of pedaling a two-wheeled bike on her own.

my kid on her bike

And today, I realized it’s time to embrace being a manly mom.

A few days ago, I was playing with my daughter, Iz (for short). I was supposed to babysit two baby dolls. Even though I raised this little girl from birth to her current age of six years, I still feel awkward holding a baby doll and can’t really think what to do with it. As a kid, I did play with dolls, but for the whole span of my childhood, I can recall exactly one time when the toys in question were babies – and those weren’t even dolls, they were stuffed animals. Most of the time, the dolls and stuffed animals were school aged kids who had awesome adventures fighting off gangs of bullies and sticking it to the mean teachers at their boarding school. So, Iz had to give me constant instructions on what to do with the babies. Time to feed them. Time to change them. They’re crying because they’re jealous of the new baby. And so on.

I realized that I’m the same awkward “manly mom” with these toy babies as I am with Iz. I love her, and I feel proud when she does well and feel pain when she’s sad. But I’m not motherly. I don’t exude warmth and comfort. I think I come off as aloof and distant. Having suffered through post-partum depression when she was young has something to do with it, but I think my gender has as well. I’m not female, so I’m not cut out to be a mom. Years of trying have shown I just don’t have it in me.

So perhaps it’s time to try being Mr. Mom instead. A dash of home cooking and bedtime stories, and also of outdoor romps and epic stuffed animal battles.

And that brings us to today.

Early this year, I signed both Iz and myself up for karate classes, at a branch of the same dojo where I trained as a teenager, and which happens to be run by the same master instructor who taught me at that dojo. I hoped it’d be a way for us to bond, something we were struggling with after some alienating experiences.

Iz has taken to karate amazingly. She has some of the best kicking technique in her class – better even than some of the older, higher ranking little kids. She took part in a demonstration today for the school’s Labor Day open house, and my little yellow belt blew away the little blue belt and brown belt that were in the group with her. Not only that, but she broke a board with a jump ax kick, on the first try. Not an easy kick. Especially not when you’re the first kid in the group to go. Yeah, the instructor was bending the board pretty hard. But it still takes some force to smash your foot through it, and some guts to run and jump and take that risk in front of a crowd of people, and my little yellow belt sailed through it with flying colors. I was so damn proud of her.

After an awesome karate class and demonstration, we went out for Peruvian chicken and then returned home for some playtime outside. We started out drawing My Little Ponies on the driveway in sidewalk chalk (yeah, I admit, I’m a bit of a Bronie..friendship is manly, ok?). Then Iz wanted to ride her bike. I hadn’t seen her on it in quite a long time. At some point, my dad took the training wheels off and helped her ride it a little, but she hadn’t learned to ride on her own yet. I held onto the handlebars while she pedaled up and down the driveway a couple times, swaying heavily. Not sure that this was helping her any, I let go and told her to kick herself along with her feet. She wasn’t too happy about that – it is after all a good bit harder than just pedaling along while someone else holds the bike up. But eventually she tried it. And then she tried getting her feet up onto the pedals. And then all of a sudden she had her feet on the pedals and was pedaling and balancing – just for a second or two, but she did it. I clapped and cheered.

And started to cry.

It figures. It’s lucky I didn’t cry at the karate school, cause I really do cry at the drop of a hat. For all my outward manliness, feminine emotionality still roils beneath. (Don’t tell me I’m being sexist – emotionality really is heavily tied to estrogen and testosterone levels.) But you know what, screw it. What with PPD having destroyed my feelings when Iz was small, it’s nice to feel a bond so strong that I cry with pride when my little girl rides her bike all on her own for the first time. It’s nice to know I have feelings. It’s nice to know I can bond with my girl my way – bikes and not baby dolls, karate and not kitchens. It’s nice to know I have a connection with my kid that brings tears of joy to my eyes.

Bathroom Blues (and Intro)

I’ve been meaning to make this blog for a while now, so the post that explains where it came from is now several months old. So I decided to start with something more recent that reflects how my life, and my kid’s, actually are now, and then go back and post the two other things I wrote in September. Suffice to say that, not finding a lot of stories of transgendered and transitioning parents of school-age children, I decided to share mine, and that’s where this blog came from. Here’s the first story.


I love places with family bathrooms.

Neutral bathrooms are even better of course, but rather rare where I live.

unisex bathroom symbol

With one exception, I don’t use the women’s room at all anymore. Since early December, when I came out at the office, I’ve been using the men’s room everywhere that there are gendered restrooms. I really can’t stomach going in the women’s room, even in a unisex restroom that’s (unfairly) labelled women. It would feel like misrepresenting myself, like lying or hiding, like going back in the closet. It also unnerved the heck out of me when I had to do it at the office before I was out, because with the masculine way I present myself, I was more afraid of being called out in the women’s room than I am now in the men’s.

And yet, there’s still one occasion when I’ll go in the women’s room (and tap my foot and glance around nervously while also paradoxically trying to appear as manly as possible). And that’s when I’m out and about with my six-year-old daughter, and there are only gendered bathrooms in sight.

My daughter doesn’t want to use public bathrooms by herself yet, so I have to go with her into the bathroom. I’ve seen women bring their young male children into women’s bathrooms, and I feel like the reverse does happen in men’s bathrooms, though maybe not as often. But I don’t pass super well to begin with, and not at all with my daughter. Even before she calls me Mommy in public, I get gendered as female when I have her with me. I don’t know if it’s the way I interact with her, or that people hear my voice (which gives me away), or just the fact that I have a kid with me at all. Anyway, especially since she still calls me Mommy out of habit, but also because of the difficulty of passing in general, taking her into the men’s room would be too much. It’s something we can work on once I start T and begin looking and sounding more obviously male, if she even needs me with her in the restroom at that point. Until then, I just have to hope for family restrooms.