I’m Proudly Transparent. (*Dad-joke intended)
It can be scary raising a transgender child as I have no experience raising one—but my most important duty as Dad is to make sure my children are happy, healthy and are able to become their best selves.
I’m one of the lucky fathers who gets to be doubly proud celebrating Father’s Day during Pride Month. I’m the adoring father of three daughters who are happy, healthy and constantly being smothered by their dad’s love.
Last year, when I posted something to Facebook about my middle child beginning to be her authentic self, a close dad friend asked me, “I know you posted all of the positive social stuff, but like, how do you really feel?” It was an honest question from another father who would not be as comfortable with his only son becoming his daughter. I’m very comfortable with Spencer being Maia. My most important duty as Dad is to make sure my children are happy, healthy and are able to become their best selves.
It can be scary raising a transgender child as I have no experience raising one—but, I also have no experience raising a son. To be honest, I have comically little experience or training to be any kind of parent. And the experience I have from my oldest daughter doesn’t always translate to my other children who have such different personalities. Like with most parenting situations, I just try to do my best to be a good example, teach them discipline and humility, show them love and empathy and be a guide in discovering who they really are.
When I look back at photos of Maia before she told us who she is, it now seems so obvious there was a little girl in there. It’s not just the two year old boy who wore a pink tutu for his birthday party. Or the toddler wearing a mermaid bikini around the house. It was the very shy boy who was more confident when getting to act like or be more typically a girl. It’s not about the color or what stereotypically is for girls. She actually likes wearing all black these days (she gets that from her dad.) We never put a piece of clothing, color, or activity over a gender wall. Maia could always do what she wanted and wear what she wanted—she wants to be a girl because that’s who she is, not so she can get something.
She made a friend at school and recently went to their house for a playdate. My wife and I realized we should probably tell the parents Maia was born a boy, in case she goes potty with a door open or something and they realize this girl is standing up to pee. We just didn’t want to surprise them and or create a conversation in their home they weren’t ready to have with their child. I agonized over the right words to send the parents and finally sent a text message—they quickly replied,“Yup, all good. Maia told our son several months ago.” Maia is proud of who she is. She sees being transgender not as making her less of a girl, but a unique girl. She’ll often add into context of her being a girl that she’s a transgender girl. A fear I have is how long she can hold on to that pride. I worry that bullies or society will make her associate that word with pain instead of pride.
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with something as massive as a gender or sexual orientation that is different from what society deems normal. I do remember that it was hard figuring out who I wanted to be. I don’t need to make it harder for my daughter or any child to figure out who their best self is. My job as Dad and as CEO of Brave Care is to help every kid reach their potential.
As I’ve been more vocal about having a young transgender daughter, I’ve connected with more fathers experiencing the same journey. (There’s a double meaning dad-joke in here about being transparent.) So I have the honor of being my transgender daughter’s father and am incredibly proud of the girl she is and the woman she will become. I will continue to advocate for and support all kids in the LGBTQIA+ family. Dad’s proud of all of you.
Here are a few of the things I’ve found for Maia that may be helpful to other parents:
Julian is a Mermaid. A book about a boy who wants to dress up.
Rubies: Swimsuits for trans girls. As a family that spends a lot of time swimming, we wanted to have a swimsuit for Maia that would make her feel like any of the other girls, but also take into account the extra parts she has. A father and daughter worked together to make something perfectly for this.
OHSU Transgender Health Program. For parents with older transgender kids, we’re fortunate to have a great program nearby.
Gender Cool Project. A great youth run project sharing positivity for transgender and non-binary kids.