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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