I was in the process of a divorce from their abusive father when my wife and I reconnected. They were eight, six and eighteen months old. My wife and I were high school sweet hearts back in the eighties. I was happy to have “him” back in my life for what I thought would be a wonderful and supportive friendship. I had no inkling that all the feelings of love and devotion would resurface ten years later. When “he” met my girls he was enchanted with them and they with “him.” They so desperately wanted the attention of their father, but they found it in MJ. It was as if we were all meant to be a family.
Friends and family thought MJ must have fallen and hit his head. Dating a girl and her three kids is just totally insane. Thankfully he never took unsolicited advice from anyone. It wasn’t long before the girls had him wrapped around their little fingers. I was madly in love and so were my girls. I had no idea what in the world I had done to become so lucky. Five years later we would get married. There was not a dry eye at our ceremony as everyone watched MJ put a wedding band on each of the girls fingers and profess his unending love for them. For so many years all they wanted was a Daddy who would love them unconditionally. On that beautiful day in July they got their wish and so did I. Picture the perfect parent, smart, loving, patient, generous, and totally devoted. That was MJ.
“WHEN MJ CONFIDED IN ME THAT HE WAS TRANSGENDER, I HAD NO IDEA HOW WE WERE GOING TO BREAK THE NEWS TO THE GIRLS.”
When MJ confided in me that he was transgender, I had no idea how we were going to break the news to the girls. I scoured the internet for any advice, help or words of wisdom. I thought to myself, “there has to be a how to memorandum somewhere, written by a super smart psychotherapist.” Or, perhaps a book written by a Mom like me who had to have the same conversation with her children. I found nothing, no such documents exist. This must be how Neil Armstrong felt looking out at the moon from his spacecraft. Alone and scared in uncharted territory. I was never a believer of keeping my kids in the dark about things that would effect their lives. So we made the decision to tell them on a weekend when I knew my oldest would be home for a visit.
We told the girls we had news that we wanted to share with them. We all gathered around the dinning room table, plus one. My girls oldest friend was in town for a visit. She really is our fourth child, so we had no qualms about having this conversation with her present. Before I could get any words out, my youngest, who was thirteen at the time, said “please tell me your not pregnant.” My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. No, I said, I’m not pregnant, but Daddy has discovered that he is transgender. Thankfully there was no need to explain what it meant to be transgender. Each of our girls have transgender friends. I was the only person in the house that did not have any previous experience with the transgender community. The first question from them was, “are you guys getting a divorce?” We reassured them that we discussed that thoroughly and that our love and commitment to one another is greater than anything else.
Here we are, two years into transition, with open, honest lines of communication, and lots of love and understanding, my family is thriving. After telling our three children and several nephews, these are some of the things that worked for us.
Use age appropriate language. There is no need to tell an eight year old about gender Dysphoria whereas a teenager can grasp and understand what that is.
Answer any and all questions they might have as honestly as you can.
Discuss with your children the physical changes that will occur with time due to hormone therapy.
Don’t teach them shame. Remember kids are empathetic when it comes to their parents. If you are ashamed of your newly discovered path in life, they will be too.
Use this to teach your kids that families come in all shapes and sizes. Find examples on the internet, support forums, or get involved with your local LGBT center.
Keep the lines of communication open always. Check in with them about how they are feeling through transition from time to time. Remember they are going through a transition of their own.
Offer therapy. Perhaps the gender therapist that you and or your partner sees weekly will sit down with your children and help to explain being transgender in depth.
Try and find a support group for kids of transgender parents. Easier said then done, but it will do them a world of good to talk to other kids who are going through the same thing.
Don’t put a time limit on transition. Every child processes things at their own pace. The journey is different for all of us.
If you were their father for twelve years, you can’t expect them to wake up tomorrow and call you Mom. As a matter of fact they may never feel comfortable calling you the opposite name. Be ok with that, together as a family you can come up with a new name for Mom or Dad. In my house my wife is Didi (*pronounced dee-dee*). We kind of swapped out the vowels.**
Most importantly, be respectful and kind to one another. Remember, love is the glue that holds families together.