When I first found out I was going to be a parent, I was elated. I thought I was doing the thing that all men are born to do. However, after the initial excitement, fear set in.
You see, I’ve always felt that I was a female. My throwing myself into a male life was my way of hiding from this pain. I also realised that if I were going to be a good parent, I would have to bury those feelings even further.
After holding my daughter for the first time, negative feelings started to sink in. In sharing this I hope you will understand a little of what it is like for someone who is transgender; living a lie – and how it feels when you hold your child for the first time.
I was envious of the fact that she was going to grow up to be everything I wanted to be. Her being assigned female at birth (AFAB) , whereas I was assigned male at birth (AMAB) – meant that I saw her as someone who was going to get the chance to grow up expressing femininity in a way I’d been unable to.
I have considered the possibility of her having issues with her gender identity in the future her being AFAB and it's a topic we do speak of occasionally. Currently she feels that she's a girl, and has never displayed and signs of gender dysphoria.
We do talk around the issue of LGBTQI and gender identity from time to time. I’m so immensely proud of the fact that she’s so understanding about heteronormative ideals of gender and sexuality. The main thing I have always emphasised to her is the importance of being true to herself.
My little girl has always been a Daddy’s girl and despite me being a transgender lesbian, that hasn’t changed.
As she has grown up, our relationship has always been close. Like me, she’s an empath; she has always been quick to pick up on people’s emotions.
It was about 14-18 months after the breakdown of my marriage that our daughter turned around to my ex and said, “Mummy - Daddy has moved out, but he’s still not happy”.
After I made the decision to change and start living authentically, you could ask if it has affected our relationship as a dad and daughter? Sure, it has - we’re closer, if anything, because of it.
My ex was, and still is, very supportive of us maintaining contact. I know that I’m blessed, as many transgender parents don’t have exes as supportive as I do.
The first time I introduced her to Debbie, I did it in a way that I thought she would be able to accept. She helped me to choose the outfit I was going to wear – I even showed her the wig that I wore at that time.
We Skyped, as it was the easiest thing to do - and as soon as I came on camera, she broke down. After 30 minutes of talking with the camera off, she came back onto the camera and realised that it was still me.
The first time she met Debbie in the flesh, it was facilitated by professionals who support families with transgender people. I can honestly say I have never been so nervous in my life.
She opened the door and ran across the room, jumping into my lap, calling me Daddy. We were both laughing and crying. In that moment, she proved that she would accept me for who I was.
As time has progressed, we’ve spent more time together; we’ve found ourselves in more social situations.
She always calls me Dad. It never bothers me. I always will be her dad because of who I was, and I’m fine with that. (I do insist she calls me D or Debbie when we use the toilets together. Could you imagine her calling me Dad in the female toilets? I shudder to think of the kind of reaction we would receive.)
Since then, she has been to Bournemouth and seen me in my new life - she has met my new friends, and she sees how happy I am now.
I recall a very speficic moment that happened about 18 months ago. She said she loved Debbie more than the old me. I told her that was lovely, and she didn’t have to say that. I asked her why – she said, “I do, because you’re happier now”,
This showed me - more than anything - that acceptance is child’s play.
If there’s one thing that I hope I have given her in all of this? It’s that the most important thing you can be is be yourself.