This is my account of living with a transgender parent, obviously it will be very different for each child and parent as no childhood is the same. I hope that this will at least help some people understand a bit more what it is like for a child growing up with this. I personally will never fully understand what it is like to be transgender as I believe you have to be going through it yourself to be able to understand it. I do however believe that people should be who they are and not hide it, as this not only makes life difficult for themselves but it also makes life for their families and people they are living with more difficult, which can push their relationships to the edge.
From what I remember the first recollections of my dad being transgender was when I was relatively young. I was only about 8 and he would occasionally wear women's clothes when we were sat in the living room. I never questioned it because I didn’t understand it properly - I had just assumed that this was a normal thing although i myself didn’t feel any need to copy him or do anything like that myself.
In my early to mid teens I had realised that my father’s cross dressing was not normal and was only the surface of what he was going through. My dad was wearing women's clothes more frequently now to the point where it was almost every day. I felt uneasy at home at this time because of things such as my dad being quite a substantial alcoholic and him arguing with my mum a lot. By this time i had also witnessed the aftermath of 3 suicide attempts by my father. All of this would then filter down onto us children, which was difficult for us to handle as we couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. My mum did talk to me a lot about it but both my parents made sure we were old enough to understand it before they told us the full extent of it.
When I was about 15 or so one of the main things I found difficult (even though it doesn’t seem that important) was that I would always go to my friends' houses but they would never come over to mine. I could always go over to theirs out of the blue or whenever we decided, but for them to come to my house it had to almost be planned so that I could be sure that my dad would be in male clothes. I could never have friends over spontaneously and to be honest I didn’t really want any of my friends to come over, I always felt uneasy and embarrassed when they were. This even stopped me having girl friends just because of my home situation. I felt that I couldn’t do what my other friends were doing because this situation was like a chain holding me back and not allowing me the freedom my friends had. Although it was maybe misplaced I then started to hold a lot of resentment against my dad for this idea that I could not have a normal childhood. It was childish, I know, but I was still a child so at the time it felt completely relevant.
In my mid to late teens my dad and I didn’t get on at all. I found him hard to live with and he found me hard to live with. This was now the final couple of years before he fully came out and decided he would pursue who he wanted to be. This period was the most difficult for me as I felt there was a lot of resentment on the part of both of us, as I was now becoming an adult male and I feel he maybe couldn’t deal with this. I started to keep myself to myself and spend most of my time in my room away from the madness downstairs. I also took every opportunity to go out with my friends to get away from staying at home. I felt it was very uplifting for me to get away from the claustrophobia back home. This obviously made life for both my parents harder as they felt I was using the house as a hotel - which I was, to an extent, as by then it felt to me more like a war zone than a home.
When I left to go to University things at home were at their worst, but I was glad to get away from home to some form of normal reality. It wasn’t until then that I did a bit of growing up and realised his situation or even considered it. All this resentment that I had built up started to dissipate over the time I spent away from home.
Things got a lot better when my dad came out and decided to fully follow who he wanted to be. Even though I had known most of this for a long time I still found it a shock for a little while, but nothing compared to how bad it would have been if he had kept me oblivious of the situation in the previous years. I noticed a lot of change in him when he came out, he seemed a lot easier with himself and he even stopped drinking completely.
The best thing I noticed when he came out was that we started to get on a lot more and started to build up our relationship together as parent and son. I know I still refer to him as a male and my father but that is something I still haven’t got use to and I probably will always call him my father. I do however respect him as the woman he is and has always been. The thing I respect the most is the fact that he held back his need to become who he wants to be until we kids were all old enough to understand it and deal with it fully. I now understand that holding that back was one of the most difficult things he could have ever done.
Although my childhood was far from normal I feel that both my parents have done as well as they possibly could through the good and bad. They had tried to be very open with what my dad was going through but at the same time ensured that we were old enough to understand what was going on before they told us what was happening with our father. Nowadays we can sit and joke openly about anything and we have all accepted who our father is. From being told stuff at quite an early age we understand more of what is going on, which has helped us a lot.
My advice to any parents going through this would be to speak openly about what you are going through to your children, but only when you think they are old enough to understand it. Remember that an unstable home life and unstable relationships filter down onto children, which could eventually lead them into unstable relationships themselves.
My advice to children going through this with a parent is to try and be as understanding as possible, remember what your parent is going through is extremely difficult for them to handle. It has nothing to do with you - it is just who your parent is. Try to be as understanding as possible and not let it affect your relationship with your parent.
Account by the 21-year-old son of a M to F Transsexual
© Gifted to Transpartners 2008