I no longer celebrate Father’s Day with my dad. Not because he isn’t in my life. But because my father is now a woman.
I first learned about my dad’s gender identity 19 years ago. He pulled my husband and me aside and said, “There’s a woman inside of me, and I cross-dress to let her out.”
After assuring him that we loved him no matter what, I sheepishly asked, “Do you have any pictures?”
My father happily obliged because he knew exactly what I was saying. That I was okay. That he was okay… I guess I mean that she was okay. Her name is now Esmarelda, and we really are doing fine. But it was not without some initial conflict in my heart.
While I immediately accepted her identity, I had to deal with my own feelings of loss. I worked with a counselor to understand that grief and acceptance can exist in the same space. So while I mourned the loss of my father – the loss of my kids’ grandfather – I was still able to embrace her new beginning.
Ever the engineer, Esmarelda compared her transition to a hardware redesign. While the hardware, or the outside, had changed, the software, the inside, was still the same. I like that analogy because it focuses on the important parts of the individual; the character and the soul.
Perhaps my hardest adjustment, however, was letting go of the word “father.” Esmarelda didn’t want to be called that or “dad” or “mother.” She wanted to be called by her name. While I understood, it was still a difficult transition to make.
But just because I can’t call her “father” or “mother” doesn’t mean I don’t have a parent. I do-a transgender parent. Whatever I call her, she is a kind and loving person. No matter her “hardware,” she will always be an important part of my life. That’s something worth celebrating, not on any specific holiday, but every day of the year.
With a Perspective, I’m Kathryn Leehane.
Kathryn Leehane is an author and storyteller. She lives in the South Bay.