A Father-Daughter Relationship
I broke down when I was eleven.
I had been at school all day thinking about the ride home, it was a pretty big distraction. I had attention problems as a kid and I still do but they were worse when I was younger and are somewhat more manageable now. Because of this I was easily and often distracted from anything I was doing besides reading, reading did the opposite for my attention troubles and made it so I could not put my focus on anything else. But that day at school I was having trouble making it through even a paragraph before it sprung back into my mind. I was transgender, I had learned that word pretty recently before that day.
I had never had the language before then but I had spent a few early hours of the morning while I was supposed to be sleeping, researching instead on my little netbook laptop and the light of my glow in the dark air freshener. Researching why, despite everyone telling me all my life that I was a boy and this being supposedly true at the time, I still felt like that wasn’t quite right and I was in fact a girl. Nobody ever suggested the possibility to me because it wasn’t really something they thought about or particularly wanted to be possible especially then. So I was left to ponder to myself why I never thought particularly hard about which girls I liked, but instead which girls I was jealous of. I thought about why I wanted to look like those girls and not like myself and that maybe not everyone in class was thinking these things because somebody would have said something by now. So I found my language and I prepared myself to say something, because nobody else would do it for me.
I had it all planned out that day, I would tell my dad when he picked me up from my after school program that I often got left at for a few hours too long by him but never by my mom, something else that I wondered about. This would always be visibly annoying the college kids that were meant to have been looking after me. I would get in that beat up jeep wrangler that I had so many fond memories in and I would tell him, and he wouldn’t be particularly upset but he might not know how to handle it and that was okay because I could tell him what I had learned and he would get it and be fine and express the same unconditional love for me that he always had. I had read about this stuff you know. So there it was, I was going to come out for the first time (of the two attempts, I would learn later).
I spent the day wording everything out to myself, I never wrote it down or anything but it was all in my head and I knew exactly what to say so when I eventually saw that jeep roll up for me to hop in you would think I had the anxiety under control. Absolutely not, I was incredibly silent for a good fifteen minutes of our drive save the occasional affirmation when asked how I was or how my day went. Eventually though I had found some of the courage when we started getting close to our neighborhood, because my plan involved specifically telling him in the car even though I’m not really sure why. I always felt safer in cars. So I started the conversation.
“Dad I think I have to tell you something. I am not a boy, I’m girl and I’m transgender. I learned a lot about it and I know I am and I wanted to talk to you about it”
It all poured out pretty quick, I had the words ready but I didn’t think to get the timing down or pause for comment, how unprepared.
“No, you’re not.”
That was one I hadn’t prepared myself for, outright denial, full stop. So no surprise that all that stress I had been saving up turned into tears now.
“Yes I am, I know I am and you can’t tell me I’m not.”
“You’re my son and that isn’t going to change, I love you and we can see about having you talk to someone for this but you’re not a girl. Sorry buddy.”
He had raised his voice a bit at this point and that turned the tears into a full on cry, I raised my voice a bit too then and we were getting close to home.
“You don’t love me if you can’t be okay with this, I know I am”
It turned into yelling then
“You don’t make the rules bud, end of conversation. You can be gay or whatever you want later when you’re an adult but we’re not talking about this right now.”
That was the one that cut deep, and felt like venom. How could someone who loved me say something so heart shattering? Later? I knew who I was now. I couldn’t shake this off like nothing. And he was not allowed to decide who I was for me. So I latched on to his example and went to a different option.
“You don’t have to think I’m a girl, but I am gay.” I shouted back
“You’re not anything right now, you are a kid. You don’t get to decide who you’re going to be kissing on and fucking right now. Drop it. I’m done.”
He spit those words out while he opened the garage door and I broke down into full sobs, I saw our dog, Jack, bolting outside as the garage door opened as my dad had apparently forgotten he was in there.
I leapt out of the car as we pulled in and started screaming at the dog who had ran into the street and was now standing stock-still in front of a car that had stopped just short of hitting him. I screamed out all my frustrations at the dog as I told him to come back to the house, called him a motherfucker and told him to get his stupid ass back inside. Words I’d learned from school and my dad. The dog did not understand me but he understood that I wanted him to come back and he did. I dropped to the ground crying while I held my idiot dog, a mixture of sobs wracking my body while I felt a bizarre mixture of incredible grief and betrayal from my short lived coming out to my dad, and happiness that I didn’t have to watch my dog die immediately after the fact. My dad went inside and slammed the door behind him, effectively ignoring the scene as well as our poorly ended conversation.
He didn’t talk to me about it again that night aside from making an excuse as to why I wasn’t allowed to be mad. I didn’t bring it up again, it no longer felt safe to do so. So I bottled it away, I mentioned it to a few friends once or twice and dealt with some strange feelings through middle school and then a majority of high school. I didn’t get to be who I was for those formative few years and I didn’t get to trust my dad with anything I considered personal anymore. It was a pretty abrupt crack in a relationship with someone I considered myself close to.
I eventually did come out of course, and my second attempt was easier because I was an adult then and no one was allowed to stop me from getting the treatment I wanted and informed consent being the heaven send that it is, streamlined that process.
My dad has since improved on his ability to accept this about me and come around on repairing some of our relationship. I think it’s hard to have a trans kid, especially in the early 2010’s when I first decided who I was. But I think it’s a lot harder to be a trans person at such a young age, with no support system to fall on.
For as much as my dad has come around now though, I sure wish it had happened sooner. And I see the way that things are for trans kids now, still hard definitely but easier now. And I hope to continue seeing things improve for younger people in that way and maybe someday even be a big influence in that happening. For now though I’m still figuring out who I am from all that lost time and so far, I’m in love with who I turned out to be.