In 2021, I started to come out as transgender to people in my life.
I eventually came out to my daughter, who accepted me immediately.
She still calls me Dad, but we're closer than ever.
Anyone with children can tell you that navigating a relationship with a burgeoning teenager can be tricky — even under the best circumstances.
When I began my transition in 2020, one of my biggest concerns was how my daughter, Mia, would feel about the news and our lives going forward. I wondered whether she would understand why I was transitioning, what being transgender meant, and how it would affect her having both a biological mom — my ex-wife Priscilla — and a trans mom.
I came out to a few people before broaching the subject with my daughter
Prior to coming out publicly in 2021, I began my transition in private. Before starting the official transition with the introduction of hormones in October 2020, I had been wearing nail polish and dressing more femininely. I recognized that, eventually, Mia would notice the change in my appearance.
I wanted the coming-out process to be thoughtful and personalized. Before beginning hormone therapy, I sat down and wrote a letter to my parents explaining how I felt and what I was going to do to live authentically as myself. I sent the letter and nervously awaited a response.
The day that response came, I was filled with so much love and relief. My father said he would "love me forever," and my mother, in her own motherly fashion, texted a much-longer response but shared the same sentiment. They wanted to know how they could support me and wanted me to know I was loved.
Basking in the glow of such a positive response from my parents, I sat on my porch. Our neighborhood had formed a culture of porch visits, good conversation, and a few drinks, and that day was no exception.
My neighbors stopped by. I was flying so high on my parents' love and acceptance that I decided to come out to my neighbors, too, and their response was just as loving and supportive.
Feeling buoyed by acceptance, I knew there was no better time to come out to Mia
That evening, I went to Mia's room and sat on her bed. I wanted the conversation to be something she could understand at her tender age. She was 8.
I asked her, "You know how I've been painting my nails lately?" She nodded, and I explained that I would be changing my gender.
To drive the point home, I referenced one of Mia's favorite video games, "Gacha Life." In the game, players can create their own characters, and there's a feature called "gender bend," where they can see their characters as the opposite gender.
"Dad is going through his own 'gender bend,'" I said. I followed this up by assuring her that she needn't worry — I wouldn't go outside dressed as a woman.
"Why?" Mia asked.
"Well, because I'm afraid people will make fun of me," I said honestly.
Mia responded in the best way possible. She threw her arms around me and said, "Dad, I would never make fun of you."
Even though Mia's initial response was one of love and acceptance, she had some questions. She'd had some private conversations with my wife at the time, Priscilla, wondering whether I would "go away" once I became a woman. She wanted to know whether I would find a husband, how she would fit within this new family framework, and whether she could keep calling me Dad.
I gave Mia options, and being called Dad didn't bother me in the slightest. It made my daughter comfortable and helped give her emotional stability during an uncertain time. She still calls me Dad.
Our bond has strengthened since I came out
Since I told Mia about my transition, our bond has only strengthened. We had a phenomenal daddy-daughter relationship before, and I believe that since I've tapped into my more nurturing side, our relationship has gotten even better.
Since my transition, I feel that I've become more empathetic. I try to understand her issues with friends or classmates, and we talk about those things openly and honestly. I feel as if I've struck a balance between the paternal and the maternal that works well for us.
In the time between my first dose of hormones and today, Mia has become one of my biggest supporters. As she's grown older, she's come to understand what transgender means and become comfortable with saying she has a trans mom and a mom — just like other kids have a mom and a dad.
She recently told me: "It's OK to have a family that isn't normal. Just because it isn't normal doesn't mean you can't have a great relationship with your parents."
I realize how fortunate I am that Mia, my parents, my ex-wife, and many of our friends have been so loving and supportive throughout my transition. It has made living my most authentic life easier, filling me with happiness and a grateful heart.
Gabbi Tuft is an online personal-fitness and nutrition coach. She has coached over 1,500 clients to success over the past 13 years. She specializes in helping women break cyclical behavioral patterns for long-lasting, sustainable weight loss and physique changes. For more information, visit www.coachgabbi.com.
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