Six months after coming out to my then-girlfriend and one month after beginning hormone replacement therapy, I knew that I'd reached a point where I needed to come out to my parents. Never particularly great with words, I set out to write them an email, deciding to send first to my dad before following up with my mom.
"I know that the two of you have always told me that I could tell you anything, and you'd love me just the same," I began my note. "And so I feel like there's something I need to tell you."
I went on to detail my history of dysphoria, and worked to provide a connection to the overwhelming depression and despair my parents were forced to watch me endure through my teenage years.
"I understand that this may be hard for you two, as well, but this was something I needed to tell you as I love you both very much," I wrote. "I guess, just rather than having two sons and a daughter, you can think of it was having two daughters and a son. Getting used to a new me may be a challenge, but I want to give you all the time in the world you need to come to terms with this... I honestly, truly hope that you two can still love me through this, as your love and support means so very, very much to me. I don't want you to hurt, but instead, I hope that together we can celebrate the fact that I won't be so anguished anymore."
I closed the letter with a few quick links to trans-related resources, and I waited.
Within the hour, there was an e-mail from my dad in my inbox.
"As I have said from day one, I love you with all of my heart and there has never been a day where I haven’t been proud of you," he wrote. "There have been so many times throughout my life that I’ve kicked myself and second guessed myself for having been too tough on you and made you too competitive and for that I truly ask your forgiveness."
"Needless to say, I will sit down with mom tonight and I expect that she will feel the same as me when I say, we live to see you be happy, truly happy. Certainly we can talk whenever you wish to talk and I can tell you, from my end, I will be very supportive and I hope Mom will as well."
He then closed his note with affirmation of his own love and support for me, writing, "Thank you for feeling strong enough to discuss this, and I hope this will take a gigantic burden off of your shoulders. I love you dearly, and I am so happy that you are at peace with yourself for maybe the first time ever."
I remember sitting at my computer sobbing with relief. Never before had anyone said something that set off so much emotion. My parents had my back, and there's nothing as wonderful as that.
Since then, my parents have shown tremendous support. I've watched as my dad defended my own existence to ill-informed friends of his, and in doing so, I've witnessed a man who just months earlier had virtually no experience with trans individuals become a true advocate, spreading educational messages to the world around him, and helping to tear down misconceptions.
Knowing that this is how my mom and dad reacted to the news, my only regret is that I didn't come out sooner. As a teenager, I was afraid that if I told anyone — especially someone I was financially and emotionally dependent on like my parents — about my gender-related issues, that I'd be ostracized. As it turns out, those fears were unfounded.
That Christmas, my parents politely informed my relatives that if they were planning to join in the family get-together, it would be best if they got on board. Under the tree, there sat a number of presents, all tagged, "Parker," and the Christmas stocking reading my former name had been updated for the occasion. In all, it was everything I could have asked for.
Every year on my birthday, I get a card from Mom and Dad, reading, "To our wonderful daughter." These little gestures mean the world to me, because I know they come from a place of unconditional, parental love.
I know that I'm lucky. I know that so many others don't have the luxury of having such loving, understanding parents. I hope that as time goes on, my luck becomes the norm. No one deserves to become an outcast simply for being themselves, but as things stand, that's how life is for so many.
So, for Father's Day, I just wanted to send a message of thanks to my dad, for loving his daughter the same way he loved his son.