By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
It was ten years ago this month that I began the public part of my gender transition in earnest, when I started living and working as the woman I am today.
I would like to be able to say that I did not face any bumps on that road. Hardest for me, in those early days of my transition, was losing my father.
When I came out to my dad, I saw him cry for the first time in my life. He was brokenhearted, and I wasn’t far behind that. He made it clear that he didn’t want to see me again — possibly forever.
The day before I began my transition in earnest, my father gave me a hug, and told me that he loved me. For several years, that was the last we spoke to each other.
For many like me, our families have the hardest time with our transgender status. I’ve even known more than one transperson tossed out in the street, and some who have had to take out restraining orders against their kin just to provide a semblance of safety.
I suppose there are plenty of reasons for that. When our parents end up with a child of their own, they do hope to make a better life for that child. I know that was what my parents had hoped for in my life, and I know that me growing up to become a woman was not something they had considered.
For many, how one’s child “turns out” is viewed as a sign of how good the parents are – and even though there’s plenty of evidence that transgenderism is somthing that forms well before birth, many parents still want to view their child being transgendered as somehow being “their fault.” As if blame needs to be laid.
Indeed, fostering our family relationships can be trying at best during a gender transition. In some families, a deep-seated religious conviction can stand completely in the way: the belief that a family member is “going to Hell” for simply being oneself can be a hard thing to overcome.
For those of us that are transgender, we often end up losing those we hold dear, and can often end up feeling isolated, alone, and rejected by those we thought would love us unconditionally. I know from my own experiences how painful this can be.
So why tell you such a story of pain and difficulty?
The holidays are looming, and this time usually dedicated to family gatherings can be one that simply compounds the isolation that can be faced by being transgendered.
So I implore upon everyone reading this who has transgender friends: reach out this holiday season, and make them part of your chosen family. It could be the best gift you could give, especially for those of us who do not have a birth family to rely on.
For those who are transgender, and find yourselves having to deal with the very things I mention above, know that you are not alone, and there there truly are people out there who may well care for you – some of which you may not yet have met.
I offer my own story, to show that there is always hope. Even after you are sure your family will never speak with you again – time and fate can step in.
It was seven years after I transitioned that my father talked to me again — when a cousin of mine was in the hospital. That cousin passed away, and this led to my father and I both being at the funeral together.
It was a difficult moment – but we both began to talk for the first time in years. It was the beginning of healing between us, and allowed my father to see that I could be transgendered and still be his child.
Two months ago, my father, for the first time ever, called me his daughter. This was a milestone, and one that I had long decided would simply never come to pass.
He took yet another step just a week ago, nearly ten years to the day he hugged me and said goodbye.
He told me he was proud of me.