July 28, 2014

Having Daddy Issues

I’ve taken the step recently of doing something I said I would never do: I’ve started asking my kids to stop calling me ‘Dad’.

I didn’t want to do it. When I first told them about my being transgender in December, I vowed at the time that they could call me ‘Dad’ for as long as they wanted. But in recent months it’s become almost unbearable to me for them to keep doing it.

Here’s the thing: I like to think that I am making at least some progress on the ‘passing’ front. I do get ‘ma’am’ occasionally, though whether it’s because someone perceived me as female or someone was just being polite in regards to my gender presentation I never can tell for sure. But it’s progress, nonetheless.

That progress gets undermined when I’m in public with my kids. My kids don’t just occasionally say ‘Dad.’ They say it all the time, often loud and with feeling. “Dad! Dad! Look at this new LEGO set!” “Dad! Can we buy ice cream? Please, Dad!” “Dad, make him stop touching me!” Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!

People are always looking for cues to gender someone, and three kids calling me ‘Dad’ gives people permission to view me as male. It makes me horribly uncomfortable and, lately, has led to me leaving stores because of the anxiety and dysphoria that it causes me.  I have even left public places early, much to my children’s displeasure, because the anxiety has gotten so bad. I literally look for excuses to not go out with the kids right now because I don’t want to deal with it.

So I’m forcing the issue. I don’t want to do it, and I feel horrible for doing it, but I just can’t function as a parent anymore if it continues.

My oldest is trying his best. He’s starting to be aware, and I’m getting a lot of “Dad — I mean, Mom” from him. My youngest is 3 1/2 years old and doesn’t really understand what’s going on; I’m just hoping that she picks up on it when the other kids do it consistently. And my middle child …

Oh, the middle child. Dawn is my firecracker, my spitfire, my willful one. She has not only pushed back against the idea of calling me ‘Mom,’ she has actively said she will never do it, and then she’ll proceed to chant “Dad! Dad! Dad!” deliberately. My ex and I both have talked to her, tried to reason with her, but she’s stubborn. In recent days she seems to have softened her stance a bit, especially since I won’t respond to her requests if she prefaces them with ‘Dad,’ but I know she’s got a long way to go before she accepts it.

I was always afraid of hurting my kids with my transition, and I don’t want this to be that moment. I only hope we make it through without any lasting emotional scars.

No Comments

  • Have you thought about letting them call you Ali instead, especially the younger or resistant one? As a softer, less confusing transition to them? It may be a compromise everyone could live with.

    • It has been part of the discussion. My main aversion to it is that it feels so … I don’t know, lacking. Like we would be hiding the fact that I’m their parent from the world. I don’t want people to think they’re not my kids. Does that make sense?

  • Instead of forcing the “mom” issue, you could ask her to call you “Ali” in public or something she chooses that she is comfortable using instead of “dad.” If the main issue is that your daughter’s use of “dad” undermines your passing in public, then compromise by letting her call you anything else that isn’t masculine. Let her feel like she has some control. Baby steps.

    • Ha! Got two comments that both said the exact same thing. 🙂

      Yes, that has been part of the discussion, but I don’t like the way it feels like we’d be hiding our relationship in public. If I’m not Dad or Mom but Ali, then maybe I’m just a babysitter or a friend. If that makes sense. I’m not sure it’s logical, but it’s a real emotion.

      • I do understand that anything but “mom” is not ideal; however, this is a short-term compromise to accomplish two immediate goals: 1. ease the sting of breaking your promise to Dawn by allowing her to choose an alternative to “dad” and 2. allow yourself to enjoy being in public with your children without the anxiety associated with “dad.” Again, I said baby steps. Work on “mom” later; focus on dropping “dad” for now. One thing at a time. Besides, who gives a crap what people think? If you were worried about what others thought, you never would have started this process to begin with. Your child’s opinion of you should matter more than a complete stranger in public, and saying to Dawn, “I have to break my promise but I’m going to let you choose a new name” may help prevent the resentment and emotional scarring you are concerned about.

        • ” Besides, who gives a crap what people think? If you were worried about what others thought, you never would have started this process to begin with. ”

          I know. It’s weird, right? In a lot of ways I don’t care what people think; but paradoxically having others perceive me the right way is practically my number one priority. I can’t justify it rationally, but neither can I deny it.

  • But from her point of view, you are not “mom”, she already has a person assigned to that name, you are her daddy. And giving that last little bit(the label dad) up is going to be hard for her(them).
    If you don’t want Ali, come up with another name, like grandparents do, a mom nickname(Mimi, ?,something). Yes, it is non traditional, but this is a non traditional situation. just trying to look at it from her perspective.

    • We have discussed alternate names. Mimi seemed like a good one, but that’s already the nickname of someone else in the family. I agree with you that this is hard for her, and I don’t like forcing it; but one way or another it has to happen, with ‘mom’ or ‘Ali or something else,

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