Almost nine years ago I became a father for the first time and my biggest fears were alleviated when my daughter was born healthy. I took up the challenge of fatherhood with gusto, teaching her the value of being a good person. I remember my first tough discussion with her when she was four years old, as news broke of a young Pakistani girl who was shot just because she wanted to go to school. Fear of change to their culture drove men to unjustly shoot a young girl. Luckily, she survived and continues to advocate for educational freedom.
At the age of seven, my daughter became more insistent on wearing boy clothing, as she didn’t like girl’s “pink” colors. By her eighth birthday, she became consistent, so we dressed her as a boy, head to toe, and cut her hair short. Six months later, she became he, both privately and publicly. After a confidence-building summer, he went back to the same school where everyone knew him previously as her. We attacked this situation with a plan of action and support from the school. But it was ultimately up to my son to speak up with his voice about his new identity and new name. In the first weeks of school, he was persistent about correcting his peers that didn’t know or forgot or didn’t understand and he came home happy most days with tales of his bravery. We thought we made the right choice of not hiding our son’s past.
But recently, he has become fearful of using his voice. He made a new friend who just started at their school and he fears that they will become a bully if they discover his secret. I’ve met this kid and I don’t think they are mean-spirited, but my son is irrationally afraid. He has become afraid to correct kids who use the wrong pronoun and now bursts out crying when someone says his old name. He chooses to flee instead of confront because of fear that this one new friend will find out that he used to be a girl.
I don’t know how this will eventually be resolved, as it’s too fresh of a problem for us. My advice to my son is to stop being fearful of what could happen; that it’s really not a secret; that his new friend will eventually find out; that he should not fear his old name. He has lost his voice and now it’s my job to help him find it again.
I told him that being transgender is who he has always been. That he’s the same goofy kid I’ve always known and loved. As far as I’m concerned, the only difference between now and last year is how I refer to him. He eventually stopped crying when hearing his old name and will even say it again. Hopefully, he will find his voice again soon.
Published with permission from a father of a trans child in our advocacy network.