The Day My Daughter Told Me She Was Not My Daughter
She told me she was not my daughter. I told her she always would be. She was angry and I was crushed. I held it together until after the conversation ended but then I crashed.
When my daughter first announced to me that she was trans, it wasn’t a description of an exploration underway but a declaration of a decision already made. She hoped, she said, that she’d never have to talk about it with us, but her personal appearance had been changing over the last months to the extent that it caused me to wonder what was going on. And so one day I asked.
I gently brought it up on a drive and I could see it caused her some anxiety, so we left it for another day. Waiting for that day was not easy. Even as I write about this, one year after it happened, I feel more anxiety than I would like.
We weren’t sure what she was preparing to reveal but assumed it had something to do with her sexuality. She wasn’t just reticent to share about this, she’d been reluctant to engage at all over the last months. Of course, COVID had made us all that way more than we’d previously been. But for those who already struggled with mental health, as our daughter did pre-COVID, COVID was the perfect catalyst for deeper distress.
The time for the conversation came a few days later at home. We sat in my basement office and I prompted her to speak. This conversation needed to happen at some point, how about now? So she told me… and I was not prepared. I scrambled to explain my understanding of gender, cultural stereotypes, etc.
I used a whiteboard to draw two circles far apart - one I labelled male and the other female. These two circles represented how we often see gender, especially in our theologically conservative Christian circles. We make the distinctions too hard sometimes, I told her, as if men and women are more different than we are similar.
I then drew two circles that had some overlap, explaining that, yes, there are two genders, but that there is a lot in common between the two—that’s the overlap. By not too distant societal standards, some women are very feminine and some men are very masculine - and that’s fine. Other women are interested in pursuits traditionally considered to be masculine, and vice-versa. This is also fine—I was now looking at the overlap between the two gender circles.
Now, I am not a hyper-masculine man by conservative cultural standards. I do like sports and a few cars, but I also like art and music and other intellectual pursuits. I own no guns, I drive a small car, I love photography… you get the picture. I’m close to the overlap, but no one (I don’t think) wonders if I am a woman.
Life in the Overlap
I tried my best to describe her as near the overlap as well, but in truth, I couldn’t make the case. There had never been anything remotely masculine about her. As a child and pre-teen she was feminine in every way: no male toys or pretending to be a boy, no expressions of gender confusion or desires to play what are considered masculine sports, etc. Makeup was common, along with feminine jewelry and attire.
Nothing pointed in the current direction… until this, this declaration that she is now male, and wants to be referred to as such.
But it is so obviously and painfully all pretend. In the moments when she is not self-consciously offering a portrayal of this newly imagined identity, she is the normal, expressive young woman who loves cats and babies and books. When we mention this, she realizes she has dropped out of character and the façade comes back. Sometimes it is obvious that she is trying hard to mimic a stereotypical boy her age: talking loud, burping loud, etc.
Back to “The Talk”
Anyway, back to the talk… It was tense and it hurt. She told me she was not my daughter. I told her she always would be. She was angry and I was crushed. I held it together until after the conversation ended but then I crashed.
I sat on our front porch in shock and messaged two of my closest friends: “Please pray for me and keep this between us for now. I won’t be telling many people. I’m crushed. I just experienced my worst nightmare. ***** believes she’s trans and told me I’ve been making her hate herself for years because I don’t agree that being trans is an option.”
More to come…