Father Knows Best — Transitions

My oldest son Francis used to be my oldest daughter Frances. Francis is 25 and lives and works in Chicago so being the parent of a trans kid is somewhat removed for me at this point but it still presents unique challenges and opportunities for learning.

One of the challenges is who do you tell and when? Even though by this point many people know Francis is now a man, not everyone does. I find that some people I have an easy time telling but some people who I have a fleeting relationship with will refer to Francis as a “she” and I find myself not correcting them. It’s really hit and miss for me and as I’ve kept this quiet on the WGOM for nearly 3 years myself, consider this Father Knows Best posting my “coming out” as a Trans Dad.

Of course having a trans kid brings other concerns as a parent. Let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable with trans people; discrimination and even violence is not uncommon. I bring it up to dates in case they are uncomfortable with it. It is a parent’s worst fear that bad things could happen to their child because of who that kid is and basically are powerless to do anything about it. Luckily nothing like this has happened to Francis (that I know of).

It is, however, pretty amazing how accepting people are. For people under 30, it’s not even an issue. My youngest refers to Francis as his brother like it’s been rolling off his tongue forever and the nieces and nephews didn’t even bat an eye. Others that I have told have been more fascinated with the process than questioning the intent. Which has been nice for me.

One thing that I have learned these past 3 years is that sexuality is definitely not M or F but is in fact on a continuum. Francis is the same person he’s always been with the same personality, sense of humor, needs and desires. In fact he exhibits some characteristics that I would consider “feminine.” But having said that, I don’t question at all his identifying as a male.

So we are all in a good place. Francis is a very happy, young person, striking out on his own in Chicago. He has a good job, been in a relationship for over 5 years, and has matured greatly these past few years, like many kids in their mid-20s do. The three of us are going backcountry hiking at Glacier National Park this coming July and I’m really looking forward to it.

Do I have any Father Knows Best advice? Probably not, each of us will have to experience the world our kids bring to us as they grow up. All I can say is your kids are their own person and it’s quite fascinating to watch them grow and experience the world on their own terms. It’s quite a ride, just make sure you have something to hold on to.

22 thoughts on “Father Knows Best — Transitions”

  1. The kids these days...are gonna be alright.

    One of my son's good friends from h.s. is in the midst of a similar transition, albeit with a somewhat starker name change. Another, his best buddy in elementary school and close friend all the way through high school, came out as gay several years ago. To the best of my knowledge, neither my son nor anyone in his circle was in the least bit phased. I, as an old fart, find myself occasionally struggling to understand and adapt. We have so much to learn.

    1. A (long) while back, I had a guy who worked for me who came in for Halloween dressed as a woman. Not a big deal, our Cali crew was about 100% in some kind of crazy garb.

      A week later, he came in my office, referred to his new duds, and asked if he could start wearing that every Friday.

      I said I would have to check with HR.

      I called HR (Dude in Texas). He said, I have no idea. I'll get back to you.

      End result: The guy could do the dressing deal, but had to use the uni-sex restroom on Floor 1.

      He did for a while. Years later he asked me if this would impact his ability to move into management. I said no.

  2. Here's a question for you Free (and, obviously, this might get a bit heavy, so feel free to not answer/take in a different direction, etc.):

    If I'm reading the timing correctly, you were around for your son's transition, but your wife was not, even for the start of it? I would imagine that would have been an added challenge? Having a parent with whom the relationship is, in some way, more fixed? I guess I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking... just finding myself feeling like it must have been a challenge, and being somewhat curious about that emotional journey, and how y'all handled it?

    1. This is a very good question and I left the "finding out" part out of this post. Basically I was the last to know, which kind of pissed me off as literally the neighbors, Elaine's good friends, other family, etc knew before me. But that's a different topic.

      The single parenting thing is another topic I've thought about. It's hard and I wish sometimes I had someone else to confer with who was just as invested as I am. Friends and relatives are nice and well intentioned, but it's nothing like the other parent. Even divorced parents, unless the relationship is completely toxic, get together to confer about their kids, their decisions, concerns, etc. (and celebrate their successes). It's probably one of the hardest parts of widowhood.

  3. With all the different aspects of parenting that have come up among our small group of Citizens, it really goes to show how truly more common they really are than what you'd think. Over the years, I've had three different trans co-workers (that I know of), including one who fought in Vietnam and another whose wedding I attended.

  4. A cousin-in-law's child (13 years old) told her parents a few months ago that she identifies as female. The parents told her they would continue to treat her as a male until she turns eighteen, and then she can move out and do whatever she wants. We're pretty detached (I've only met the child two or three times*), so we're not butting in at all, but yikes.

    *This child and her brother are not vaccinated, so they didn't join the rest of the extended family for a reunion last fall because of concerns raised by several of us who had infants who hadn't been able to complete their vaccinations yet.

    1. I hope she has access to a good therapist. As much as I noted that I can't fathom what it would be like to go through that, I also can't imagine being such an asshole that I wouldn't support either of my kids if they told me that.

      1. And access to a support structure somewhere, whether that be school, friends, other relatives, etc. That sounds like a pretty horrible environment for any teenager, let alone dealing with coming out and expressing herself as she wishes.

    2. The whole "teenager who identifies with a different gender" issue is fraught with controversy. My thoughts are that one can be supportive of their child and what they are going through (especially as it relates to pronouns) but wait on any hormone therapy or surgical procedures until they are adults and finished with puberty/adolescence. Others think differently

      1. I think I'm with you (obvious caveats for having never been through it with my child, and maybe I'd feel different in such a situation). Those years are tough, and doing anything permanent seems potentially worrisome. Though obviously distinct from the trans identity, I have a sister who, for a time as a teenager, identified as a lesbian. She now identifies as straight, and, based on conversations I've had with her, seems to largely chalk that earlier period of her life up to teenage confusion more than anything else. I don't know that her experience is typical, but I find it personally informative when regarding teenager's identities and their permanence.

      2. I admittedly know very little about the issue (especially when it comes to juveniles), and I completely understand the parents not immediately scheduling reassignment surgery for the 13 yo, but their complete unwillingness to even engage in dialogue with their child has to be the worst way to handle things.

  5. Its great to hear that your son is happy and doing well. I can't even fathom how difficult it would be to live in a body that just doesn't feel right, especially with the fear of what telling anyone might bring about. Its very nice to hear he's got a very supportive family.

    (I don't know of anyone in my extended family who's gone through this so I have zero experience to draw from here.)

    1. I have an extended family member, in rural Nebraska of all places, in somewhat similar circumstances. I have never me this one, but my parents have relayed some stories (e.g., "he can't decide whether he is a boy or a girl") that at least signals to me that they are not equipped to understand or sympathize. Thanks for sharing, free.

      I cannot imagine how difficult gender dysphoria is, nor how much more difficult it would be without love and acceptance by your family.

      Today, I am remembering recent tragedies of suicide in the news. Love 'em while you and they are here.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, as it brought back to mind my first experience with a trans person more than 20 years ago. I'm going to use the masculine pronoun for him throughout for the sake of simplicity and hope nobody finds it untoward. When I first started producing the morning news at the TV station, I had a videotape editor who had been assigned to the overnight shift more or less to keep him out of sight and out of mind for the rest of the employees. He had created quite a stir as a photographer on the day shift when he started arriving to work in women's clothing, and later when he demanded to use the women's restroom. Management wasn't having any any of it, and while they didn't fire him for fear of a lawsuit, they set out to make his job so miserable he would quit. The overnight shift was part of that. Now, overnights at a TV station can get pretty lonely, so whenever there was a lull in the work I'd walk back to the edit booth for a little small talk. After a couple of months of working together, he opened up and told me his story. At one point I asked him straight up why he didn't just quit. Despite how miserable management and some of the employees there had made his work environment, he stuck to it because he needed the money, he said. He needed the money not for a gender reassignment, but because he was divorced and the father of a young boy, seven or eight years old at the time if I recall correctly, and his only child. He needed a steady income for child support, mostly, but also for legal fees. When I asked him if he was going to physically become a woman, he said no, it wasn't something he felt he could do for quite some time. His reason for not proceeding has always made him something of a hero in my mind. His wife, you see, had legal custody of their son, and had told him frankly and sincerely that if he ever went through with the transition, she would make sure that he never saw his son again. Not ever. And so he chose to live his life more or less in limbo, struggling with a body and identity that felt completely foreign to him. Before we met, I really didn't think much about trans people and their struggles. But ever since, I've had a real person that I knew and liked to inform my opinions about the transgender community. I admired his courage, and I respected his decision, because it was all about the love he had for his son, and his willingness to sacrifice something so fundamental in order to continue having a relationship with his boy.

    1. Thank you Twayn. That's sad and disgusting what happened to them/still is happening to them. Study after study shows that for trans people, so much of the pain caused by gender dysphoria is based around how others treat them. I work with a guy who suffered from significant depression and his parents disowned him; interestingly enough, his grandparents accepted him and once he finished his transition from female to male, within a couple months he no longer met the criteria for major depression. Seeing the transformation in his mood over the past couple years has been amazing and inspiring.

      As far as pronouns go, the main expectation is that you use the pronoun that person would like used. Sometimes it's he, sometimes it's she, sometimes it's they. Usually, it's the gender they identify as, whether they make the transition or not. I am grateful that the company I work for has now added a question on all intakes asking people what gender they identify as. We've had some sideways looks from cisgender people who've never been asked their entire life that question, but for the most part it's gone pretty well. We had someone the other day answer "non-binary" so we're going to use them/they.

      Another thing people should know is that for the most part, using the word "transgender" instead of "transgendered" is most appropriate. Many people find adding the "ed" at the end makes it sound like an affliction or disease. Nobody above made that mistake but I've made it before.

      1. Yes to all of that. I now work in the social services/non-profit/government world and it is pretty common when "going around the room to introduce yourself" you also mention your preferred pronouns.

        It still interesting being a dad and using the correct pronoun, muscle memory and all. If I relay a story from F's youth do I use she? Mostly I do but I'm pretty good about using he for current day anecdotes.

  7. I don't really have a great deal to add here, but I just wanted to say that I really liked this whole thread. Thanks for putting kicking it off, Free.

    1. Thanks Nibs and thanks to everyone. It's not exactly easy putting this stuff out there but I knew posting on the WGOM would generate a cogent, civil, and thought-provoking discussion. It's sad that there is so little of that in our social media worlds.

  8. I second your thoughts nibbish. There is just so much common sense on this site from everyone on topics like this.

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