One sunny day last autumn, I sat my oldest daughter, age 6, down for an important conversation. She had just started first grade and it was time to tell her the news that had so dominated my life over the previous few months. I wasn’t sure how to begin and I stammered a bit. “You see … well … OK so you know how there are boys and girls? Well sometimes there can be a mistake and someone who everyone thought was a boy is actually a girl, or the other way around.”
She looked at me curiously before telling me that she was definitely a girl who is really a girl. I smiled at her quick thinking and said, “That’s great sweetie, but I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about me. It turns out I’m actually a girl.” The conversation was over quickly, and we played an impromptu game of dress up together. But for my kids, the biggest challenge hasn't been my gender transition at all.
But for my kids, the biggest challenge hasn’t been my gender transition at all.
My ex had made perfectly clear in all previous discussions that if I decided to transition, our marriage would be over. She had hardline rules against me wearing any women’s clothes in the house, even if I bought them myself and no one else was around. Eventually my gender dysphoria became too much and I had no other choice but to transition. Our marriage disintegrated instantly.
Scenarios like mine where someone transitions and their straight spouse leaves them are fairly common, although not universal. Sometimes couples can make it work in the end, and sometimes I wish my ex and I had tried harder to work through it all. My biggest regret of my transition is my kids.
My biggest regret of my transition is my kids.
When I first moved out, I found a roomy apartment just a few towns away. The closeness meant that my ex and I could split custody, so I’d have the kids three nights per week and had no problem getting them to the bus stop for school. It was an adjustment not seeing them everyday and it was especially painful because my youngest was only five months old when I moved out. I missed so much of her everyday life and there would always be something new that she’d learn in the time that we were apart.
But my relationship with my kids took a serious turn a few months ago.
I knew it would occur at some point, but I didn’t expect to happen so quickly. My ex-wife met a guy. A great guy. I’m extremely pleased to see her so happy with someone else. He’s kind, loving, smart. The man I never could be. But he lives over an hour away in another state. My ex and my kids moved in with him at the beginning of the summer.
Gone are the days of split custody and rides across town lines to the bus stop. The distance is too great for that. In its place are increased child support payments and longing. I’m happy to pay whatever is needed for my kids, but that money won’t replace my time.
I’m happy to pay whatever is needed for my kids, but that money won’t replace my time.
It’s easy for people to look at the current state of my arrangement and find ways to blame me for what has happened, and that’s fair. Transitioning has changed my life, though. Where once I barely had the capacity to make it through a day, now I’m full of life. Where once my evenings were spent fighting off suicidal thoughts while vegging on the couch, I now have the energy to actually play with my kids. The gender dysphoria has been replaced with euphoria, but the costs for doing so were incredibly high.
Back when I was in therapy, one simple question from my therapist that helped me decide to transition. I knew the consequences of pursuing it; I knew my marriage would be over and I’d probably lose my kids even before I started. At first I thought I could delay transitioning perhaps until my kids were older, maybe in college. The thought of trying to pull that off was actually scarier than transitioning.
One day my therapist looked at me after yet another discussion about my kids and asked, “Would your kids be better off with an alive trans mom or a dead dad?” She was right to ask as I had attempted suicide a few months earlier. It’s easy to demonize parents who transition as selfish for putting themselves above their kids when deciding to transition, but it’s easy to forget that there are often devastating consequences to delaying transition.
It’s easy to forget that there are often devastating consequences to delaying transition.
My kids and I have a closer personal relationship than ever, despite the time apart and it’s precisely because I’m able to show them my true self. They are my everything. It hurts that I only get to see them every other weekend now. I’ve decorated my house with a bunch of pictures of them but pictures don’t replace actual time spent.
In the end, I think my kids will be better off with parents who weren't afraid to be themselves. Sure we miss each other terribly when we’re apart but the time we do spend together is full of memory making.
If there’s any one thing I want my kids to learn from me, it’s that it’s okay to radically love themselves.
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