Contributed by Mike.
I am the father of an 11-year-old affirmed female. We have been on this journey since she was 2 ½. In the beginning I was so fearful. I also felt anxious, alone, ashamed, and very emotional. How were we going to keep our daughter safe? What would her future be like? How would we navigate life, school, family, friends, and society?
Our child, who was born in a male body, was strongly expressing female tendencies and interests by around 2 ½ years of age. My wife and I were open about the feminine play, dress up, love of princesses, and pretending to have long hair. We figured it was just a phase. Two years later, we knew it wasn’t a phase. We knew there was something else going on. Eventually our search for knowledge and information lead us to the Gender Odyssey Family conference. It was such a relief to be able to meet other parents experiencing similar things with their kids. It was great to have some guidance on how to navigate schools, family, and friends. As a father, I especially appreciated the Dad’s Group during the conference. It provided a chance for me to explore my feelings from my perspective as a dad.
As a father of my transgender daughter, there is very little room or acceptance on the “guy” side of the equation. The world at this particular time has little tolerance for a boy displaying feminine qualities. I know this because I am a man, and I know what men accept and what they don’t. Things are changing, but very slowly.
One particular area in my life that created anxiety for me was work. I was a carpenter for a general contracting firm. The guys who work for the company are typical in the sense that they are rugged, mouthy at times, and do not tolerate deviations from the “normal” way of acting like a man. So, how would I ever be able to explain to them that I now have a daughter, and not a son? What would I say to them? What if they asked me in a group setting? I lost a lot of sleep feeling anxious and scared.
Well, I never did have to explain anything to my fellow workers. In the years following I have had several one-on-one conversations with some of my coworkers, but not with everyone. And the conversations I had were very positive and actually surprised me with how well they went. I no longer worry about this situation being brought up. I feel very confident about the path we are on with our daughter and how we are handling everything, so I don’t sweat telling people when I have to. We are very selective about whom we discuss this private information with, so it is not like we are talking to lots of people.
I had no idea what to expect from my first conference. I was scared to even go. But my wife and I did if out of necessity. We love our child. We felt we needed to support her no matter what. We just needed to know how best to support her. The Gender Odyssey Family Conference was the right place to go.
At the conference I was able to actually talk to other people, and specifically for me, to other men—fathers who were in the same place I was. The neat thing was also seeing fathers who were much further along than I was in their journey, and how calm and confident they seemed. Here I was with all this fear and apprehension about my transgender daughter, and some of these other dads were so collected and together. It was helpful to see that other people and their kids have “survived” this challenge.
Not only was it a gift to be able to talk to other dads, but the conference speakers were thoughtful, kind, understanding, and full of information about a wide variety of subjects. We were able to attend the workshops that we needed most. I do have to say, as much as I loved the Gender Odyssey Family conference, it was very overwhelming. By overwhelming I mean there was so much information, and so much emotion, I was exhausted at the end of each day. The conference also gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of acceptance and a sense of hope. I felt a connection to the other families in attendance. I didn’t feel so alone. And I walked away feeling empowered.
Today, because of the support I have had, because of the Gender Odyssey Family conference, I am so much more confident, and not ashamed to talk about my transgender child to others when it is right.
Do yourself a favor and see what the Gender Odyssey Conference can do for you and your family. If you bring your child, they can be around other children or teens who are just like them. Make the conference what you want it to be. Get a program and map out what seminar topics you would like to hear. Be ready to write things down, be open-minded about what to expect. Do it for your feelings. Do it for your family. You will be glad you did.
Interested dads can attend one or more of several “dads only” workshops at the Gender Odyssey Family conference. The response has been so positive over the years that in Seattle we now have an ongoing support group just for fathers.