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.


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.