The Daughter of a Trans Woman
My sweet daughter has suffered for my choice to transition. I would love to believe she hasn’t, but that simply isn’t true. A woman’s father is a very important role. One I may have underestimated. That is not to say that my role as the father is less important to my son, but I believe the relationship is different. My son seemed to really need that role model when he was younger. I was there for that. He formed an idea of who he was and around the age of 21 that was fairly well established. His path and goals were set. I became less important in his life. In many ways, he had already surpassed me. He was already bigger and stronger than I have ever been. More confident too. When my son graduated from college, I was already to some degree, “put out to pasture.”
But not so for my daughter. She was 18 when I transitioned. Her most formative relationships were still in front of her and I still existed as her role model. Her outward expression of the pain of my loss were much clearer. She mourned openly for me as if I died. In some ways, I had for her. I tried to tell her that I was still here. That I hadn’t “gone” anywhere. But in fact, I had. Like a ghost, the man she had known her entire life just evaporated before her eyes. I had both Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) and voice surgery simultaneously. I went into surgery looking and speaking one way and returned doing both differently. While my trick was incredibly effective in convincing others that I was now someone else, it had the same impact on my daughter.
Perhaps I imagined that I didn’t matter that much to her. Her mother left me for a very wealthy man 15 years earlier. I struggled from that point on to matter to my children. I attempted to understand what it meant to be their father. Their stepfather had an enormous estate with a pool and every material distraction a child might want. I had a one-bedroom condominium where my children shared a bunk bed next to my twin. I couldn’t take them on expensive trips to exotic places like their new father could. We went car camping. I tried very hard to matter. I showered my children with attention on the weekends when I had them, but would return them to the grand estate on Monday. My ego suffered. Especially because my children’s mother had made no secret of “why” she left me. I was a “cross-dresser.” At least that was her limited understanding at the time. I never knew which other parents at my children’s school knew. I struggled to keep my self-esteem intact and hold my head up when I dropped my children off at school or playdates.
I endured for years with the shared custody and went through a few failed relationships with women along the way. No matter what I did I couldn’t seem to create the family environment that I hoped for. By the time my children were in their early teens, they wanted to spend their weekends with school friends. Staying at my place was a burden. There was nothing in my now slightly larger condominium to do. Of course, they wanted to hang out with their affluent friends at their stepfather’s estate. Who wouldn’t? My time with them became less and less. Out of necessity, I began to form a life without them too.
At first, I turned to athletics. Swimming. I had been a good competitive swimmer as a child and as an adult, I excelled. I hoped this would provide enough of a distraction in my downtime to fill the hole in my life that my children had occupied. It worked for a while, but it didn’t last. My children were growing up and away from me. By the time they were 14 and 17, I felt like a footnote in their lives. I was there for every event. Every game, every performance, every graduation. But my gifts were smaller and I couldn’t afford the cost of buying everyone dinner afterward like their stepfather. I questioned why I was even there.
So when my daughter turned 18 and my son was 21, I didn’t think they would even notice or care. They had a fabulous Stepfather and their lives and future were secure. What did it matter now to anyone if I transitioned? But I misjudged. My daughter isn’t just anyone. She is my daughter. My flesh and blood. I didn’t realize that although I wasn’t wealthy and couldn’t provide all the things her stepfather could, I was still her Dad. Her only Dad. She had looked up to me in ways I didn’t understand and held me in a place of esteem I somehow missed.
We have a new relationship now, but it's not quite the same. Her father is gone and Genivieve is a new parent. She loves me and I certainly love her, but I can never bring that father back that she lost. She may not realize how much he struggled to matter and remain in her life. She may not understand that he was on a slow downward trajectory towards an unhappy end. There really was no option. He wouldn’t have existed either way. It’s a devil’s bargain, but I hope that she is more thankful for the parent she does have versus the parent she lost.