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.