I no longer celebrate Father’s Day with my father. Not because my father is dead. No, my biological father is still very much alive. But my biological father is now a woman.
In case you need further clarification: the person who contributed the sperm that created the person that is me is now living as a woman. As in, the penis is gone; a vagina has been created; and this person wears makeup and girl clothes.Kathryn Leehane.
Did I blow your mind? I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish we lived in a world in which we fully embraced all people regardless of our own individual norms or experiences. A world in which personal expression and transformation were greeted without pause, reservation, or judgment.
At the same time, I recognize that this situation is a lot to absorb if you’ve never personally experienced it. It can take some time to make the mental leap. Much like my father took years to discover her true self, I needed time to get to where I am in my full acceptance of her transition.
I first found out about my father’s gender identity in my mid-20s. My new husband and I went to my parent’s house to celebrate the holidays. Early in the day, my father told me, “I’d like to talk to you both privately at some point today.”
My heart cringed. Was his prostate cancer back? Was he going back into treatment? “Of course,” I gently replied.
A few hours later, my husband and I joined my father in another room. He sat us down and got right to the point.
“There’s a woman inside of me. And I cross-dress sometimes to let her out.”
My jaw dropped. I was expecting news of cancer. I was expecting talk of chemo or radiation. This, THIS, I was not expecting. Too stunned to respond, I sat in silence with my mouth agape.
My husband came to my rescue by saying, “Richard, we love you no matter who you are.”
“WHAT HE SAID! WHAT HE SAID! WHAT HE SAID!” my head screamed. Only my mouth sheepishly replied, “Do you have any pictures?”
My father chuckled and happily obliged because he knew, even with my foot in my mouth, what I was telling him. That I was okay. And he was okay.
I guess I mean she was okay. Her name is now Josephine. And, honestly, we really are doing okay. But it was not without some conflict in my heart and my head.
Because while I immediately accepted Josephine for her new identity, I also had to deal with my own feelings of loss. I worked with a therapist to examine those emotions and to understand that grief and acceptance can exist in the same space. So while I mourned the loss of my father—the loss of the grandfather to my kids and all of the other aspects of a Father-Daughter relationship that I thought we would have—I was still able to embrace her transition. And to welcome a new beginning.
Josephine, ever the engineer, described the transition in terms of computer hardware and software. While the hardware (the outside) was being changed, the software (the inside) was still the same. That’s actually a very good analogy. And one that I hope more people can relate to—so we can all come to a greater acceptance of our transgender friends and family.