Trans Dads Talk About Father's Day

By Mitch Kellaway

Originally published on Advocate.com June 15 2014 7:45 PM ET

Today, countless transgender dads celebrate Father's Day in family shapes both diverse and beautiful. To celebrate, we talked to four trans dads about their families, their plans for today, and the unique challenges and triumphs of being trans dads.

Below, Sam, Simon, Willy, and Jesse offer glimpses of unique paths to fatherhood — including birthing children prior to transition, supporting a partner in giving birth, and being a single, pregnant father — and different ways of seeing oneself as a trans dad, ranging from not really identifying with being a "trans" father to having frank ongoing conversations about transition to being inspired to take action as a feminist father raising his own sons free of gender prejudices.

SAM
My wife and I have five children. I actually had the first two, who are 16 and 14. Both girls. My wife had the second two pregnancies — a boy who is nine and twins — a boy and girl — who are six. We used an anonymous donor.

I don't really use the term "trans dad." I accept that I am trans, and not in any kind of denial about it, but, I just consider myself a Dad — or really a PARENT. That's what I am. The name is just a name — kind of like a pronoun.

Mom = Female Parent and Dad = Male Parent. I am well adjusted in my transition and have not looked back in any way; I have no regrets. I love my wife and children, and although we are a very busy family, I am very fortunate and lucky to have the incredible support of my family and friends.

How will you be celebrating Father’s Day today?
We are going to a nice restaurant for brunch and I think, although I am not supposed to know, they have some secret cards and gifts that some of the younger kids made. My wife seems to have a secret place where she made sure to tell me "not to go in there." So, maybe some ties [laughter]. We used to buy my Dad ties, and that seems to still be a tradition.

Do you have a memorable Father's Day from years past?
My first official Fathers Day was a few years ago, and it was kind of awkward. I still felt a bit strange because for years I celebrated Mother's Day and was so used to the kids calling me "Mom." It took some time for me to get used to being called "Dad." Not because it did not feel "right" or a welcome change, but, socialization plays such a huge part in how the brain just kind of gets used to things being a certain way.

I think I was also a bit self-conscious. Once my own mother made a point of saying to me " this is your first Dad's Day" with a smile, that seemed to make a big difference. I kind of like it, as it makes me feel special. For a long time, my wife and I kind of shared the limelight of Mother's day. It's nice to have my own special day — not just for me, but, my kids really enjoy it!

Are there advantages to being a trans dad?
I don’t necessarily see any advantages. Nothing more than any other parent out there. It's special to be a parent and get to raise a child.

I see myself as a parent, first and foremost. As a team, my wife and I share responsibilities in helping to raise our children. I do hope that I can have a good influence as a father figure in my children's lives. Although, I am really from the mindset that children need love and support, discipline and structure as well, but that it does not matter if I was a female or male... that my impact on my kids is special and unique to the person/individual that I am, not about what gender I am.

I feel confident that my kids are being raised in this way; that gender does not have to be central to who you are. We are shaped and defined in so many other ways that are important and valuable.

Do you face any unique issues as a trans dad?
The only unique issues were the changes I made mid-way, as they all have some kind of memory of me when I used to be a "Mom" or a girl. The younger ones do not remember as much, as they were pretty young, but, the older children do remember. But, you know, it is not a big deal to them.

My kids have made the transition, in some ways, much better than I have. It's been seamless in most ways for them. They are very supportive and there is not a lot of discussion about the past. We try to be a family who stays "present" and looks to the future. Not just with my transition, but with everything.

SIMON
I am a full-time single parent and every aspect of my life is shaped by our little family. I gave birth to both of my kids, ages 3 and 8, after transitioning. I am glad I had the opportunity to carry, birth, and feed my kids. I was trying to explain it to a stranger the other day and I finally just said, "I won the uterus lottery." It's a unique connection to have with my kids and a beautiful part of our family's story.

How will you be celebrating Father’s Day today?
This Father's Day I am renewing my commitment to feminist parenting as part of Rad Dad's #feministfathersday call to action. As a father of boys this is very important to me because I want them to grow up knowing that feminist action is everyone's responsibility, and I want them to have the tools to be allies to non-males and bring an end to patriarchy and misogyny. Also, we're going on a historic train ride!

Are there advantages to being a trans dad?
Being a transgender parent is lovely because in learning about my own most-comfortable gender I gained an appreciation for gender freedom and I intentionally make space for my children to do their own genders. It takes a certain bravery to transition, and a very similar bravery to parent. In both cases it can feel like the world is ready to tell me just how wrong I am doing things.

Being trans, I get a lot of chances to practice disregarding unwelcome judgment and comments. Parents receive a lot of criticism and I'm glad I already had practice doing what I think is right and not giving negative people much thought.

Do you face any unique issues as a trans dad?
I regularly encounter the need for gender-neutral bathrooms. Potty training is hard enough, but having to track down a gender-neutral toilet when a toddler is doing their best to keep it together can be a disaster. Allies can help by taking kids to the bathroom and advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms.

WILLY WILKINSON
I have a son who just turned 8, a 4.5 yr old daughter, and a son who will turn 2 in July. My wife Georgia Kolias gave birth to our three kids. We went through ups and downs — difficulty conceiving, miscarriages — but also experienced miracles. It is an indescribable experience to be near a little person as they gestate, and experience their birth into the world.

How will you be celebrating this Father's Day today?
My kids will probably bring me handmade cards they made with cheerful drawings of us as a family. My daughter’s drawings have lots of big smiles and my son’s portray me with an impressive six-pack, which I find hilarious.

My wife Georgia usually makes incredible breakfasts on Sunday mornings, and this one will probably will be even more elaborate. We’ll probably eat bacon with pancakes or French toast or waffles topped with raspberry compote, fruit, smoothies, good coffee — yum. Then we might lollygag around in the backyard, climbing, sliding, and swinging on the play structure and making sure the plants have water.

That’s a perfect Father’s Day for me, just hanging out relaxing with my family. I remember one Father’s Day when I was covered with just about every bodily fluid — snot, tears, pee, and sweat — hanging out in the backyard on a sunny afternoon. It was perfect.

What have been some highlights of being a trans dad?
I support a family of five in the high-priced Bay Area, and the pressure can be intense. I am constantly working in order to provide for my family. But I feel a certain pride in my role as a hands-on dad and provider.

Honestly, I feel so happy being a trans dad. Being a dad makes me feel at peace with my gender because I get to express my masculinity more fully and be perceived as the person I am. Having kids has been transformative for me in that ultimately I can’t hide from myself. I have to be fully present. I also cannot indulge in my own self-involvement for too long because the focus is usually on ensuring that other people have their needs met.

Being a trans parent in a world that, for the most part, accepts me is phenomenal. Interacting with parents of my kids’ friends who have witnessed my transition, and haven’t had issues with my trans status has been very affirming.

Do you face any unique issues as a trans dad?
Some parents of my kids’ friends don’t know my trans status, and then it’s a question of when or if to disclose. Sometimes it seems very weird not to disclose, and other times it just seems unnecessary. Parenthood throws you into social situations with people you would not necessarily hang out with, except that your kids are friends.

I was a visibly gender nonconforming parent for years before I medically transitioned. There were moments that were challenging — being misgendered, having people freak out about me in front of my kids, using the restroom. Though I have to say that having kids got me into the women’s room more easily. I found that having kids made people be nicer to me. People who might have snarled at me when I was alone, smiled instead when they saw me with kids. I write about these experiences in my forthcoming memoir Born on the Edge of Race and Gender.

JESSE
My wife Hannah and I have two sons, Asher and Zak. They each have different donors, both of whom we have known for many years. We have distant relationships with both donors at this point in our lives. Asher’s donor offered for us to use his sperm if we ever needed it when Hannah and I first started to get serious. She has known him for more than 20 years.

When I was having freak outs about transitioning and parenting, Asher's donor was one of the people who could best understand how I felt. This was especially true when I had significant depression because we needed a donor to begin with!
We have had a distant relationship with Zak’s donor since the early to mid-2000s. We don't see him much but he met our "donor criteria": smart, same basic ancestry as me, somewhat laid back, healthy, married with children of his own.

We have started talking to the kids about their donors. Asher knows who his donor is and why we needed one.
He is friends with his donor's kids and seems pretty well adjusted over all.

How will you be celebrating Father’s Day today?
We normally go to Portland, Maine for Father's Day because it is one of my favorite places to be. Zak normally "helps" bring
me coffee in the morning and sometimes the boys head out with me for a short run.

Do you have a memorable Father's Day from years past?
The one that most sticks out in my mind was immediately after my [chest reconstruction] surgery. Despite being on testosterone for several years, my post-surgery Father's Day was the first time I didn't feel like a pretender at the whole dad thing.

What’s been a highlight of being a trans dad?
As someone who has spent much of my life, both teenage and adult years, in the queer community, I have some wonderful conversations with our kids about creating safe spaces, about queer issues, bodies, and politics that I'm not sure that I would have if I hadn't transitioned.

Our older son has a very good understanding of issues facing trans folks, at least for an 8 year-old, and I've enjoyed some
of the questions that he has posed  even though sometimes the questions can be a little awkward to answer.

Do you face any unique issues as a trans dad?
One of the issues that our family will face at some point is the issue of disclosing my trans status with Asher's friends. He
hasn't felt the need to do that so far but occassionally we try to bring up the issue. Normally he just looks at me like "why would they need to know?," which is a good sign in my mind because it means he just sees me as his dad. That said, at some point it might come up and sometimes those kinds of issues can be challenging.

Contributor: 
Mitch Kellaway