“Do you still celebrate Father’s day?” my roommate asked, matter of factly, while we sat on the back porch listening to music and drinking PBRs.
I shrugged it off.
“I still have a father, so yeah.” I told her while laughing off the question, trying to convince myself it was a silly thing for her to ask. I just wanted to go back to talking about who was sleeping with who. In fact, comedy was always a deflection device for me. I don’t want to talk about myself, because then I would have to address the existence of my thoughts, problems, and flaws. Self reflection is painfully necessary thing for me. Her question was a response to the news that my father was born a human male but has transitioned, over the past few years, into a female. She would tell you that her soul has been female the whole time. So in lieu of posting something on father’s day tomorrow, I have decided to write this passage about what it is like to have a transgender father. I am not trying to tell you how to feel, this is just telling a small part of my unique father-son relationship.
Let me begin by telling you my confusing religious beliefs. I am a christian, I think. At the very least I believe, and try and follow, in failure, the two core commandments of Jesus Christ; love thy God with all our heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22). I also believe that all of mankind sins, but I am not quite sure of the rest. I think I believe in the gospel message, but I have my doubts. I have seen christianity bring many people closer to God and bring them peace and purpose. I have also seen the other side of the coin. I have seen the “church” dissuade people from being who they are. After all, Male AND female he created them.
It’s funny how God makes you think about your actions sometimes. I remember the night my father told me about who she was. My family, sans my oldest sister, was sitting around a table eating dinner. I was a couple weeks into my junior year of high school at my new school. I was just trying to meet new people and fit in. We were having the normal smalltalk around the dinner table when someone asked me if there was any clubs I would join. Forever wanting to be the comedian, I went on a sarcastic tangent about the lgbt club, and what does that “t” even stand for? I soon learned. After dinner, my father called me outside to talk; I thought I was in trouble. And thats when she told me about who she was. All I could do was hug her, and realize how ignorant I sounded at dinner. At my old high school, “gay” was what we said instead of “stupid” or “weird.” We were blinded by an ignorance and sheltering of something we had no idea about.
Upon reflection, I thought I had two choices; choose to support my father, or choose to support my God. At my old school I was told what a christian man was, and my father seemed to fit that persona; compassionate, family supporting, and godlike. My father also fit the traditional stereotypes of manhood; tall, strong, and competitive. My father was my football coach after all. So needless to say, I was shocked about the news when I was told.
The next two years after that dinner were rough. I just did not know what to do. My father still presented herself as a man when we were out at school events, but at other places it was hard. The first person I told was my oldest friend, on a cold winter day my senior year of high school. We had been throwing the football, and my soul was weighing me down, I needed to get something out. So I told him. He gave me a hug and was very supportive. In fact, almost everyone I have told has responded this way. Just recently a new friend of mine told me about how he recently learned his father crossdressed before his parents divorced. We shared a drink over some common problems (crossdressing and being transgender are not one and the same). Still I have not told that many people, although many people know.
The hardest part of having a trans father is the looks you get. I recall at one eagles game seeing the kid sitting next to us taking snapchats of my father. I have never been so angry, I was just too scared to act. I pretended like it did not bother me.
If words and strange glances can hurt me so much, imagine how people who are actually struggling with gender identity feel. I love my father, but I cannot understand her, and she lived fifty years without knowing someone that could. Her favorite thing to say is “we are all children of God,” which always is followed by a groan from my siblings and I. But it is true. Whether you believe transitioning is a sin or not, you should still love with all your heart. Be careful what you say, you never know who you are around. Above all else, happy father’s day Julie Chovanes. You are as God made you; beautifully and wonderfully made. You were the greatest father I could have asked for.