06/19/2011 08:23 am ET Updated 6 days ago

Sexually Ambiguous Dads Celebrate Father's Day

On the surface, Donna Rose is a typical 53-year-old woman.

She enjoys going on dates in her home town of Charleston, S.C., and has a successful business as an IT consultant.

Like other women her age, Rose also has a grown son, 25, with whom she has a great relationship, despite the fact he lives in Austin.

In fact, they are very likely to talk on Sunday when the son calls her up to wish her a happy Father's Day.

That's not a typo: Up until 1996, Rose was known as "David," and lived life as a man. She was married for 15 years and raised a son. For a time after her reassignment surgery, she was a single parent and had to work out the proper terminology with her son.

It wasn't an easy process but Rose insists that, despite being a woman, she will always be a dad.

"My son refers to me in different ways depending on the situation," Rose told AOL Weird News. "If we're with friends of his who don't know the whole story, he might call me his mom, but if they do know, or he's talking with my ex, than he calls me Dad."

As Donna, Rose is more likely to wear dresses and pearls than bow ties, but she takes fathering as seriously as any other Dad.

"I love being my son's father," said Rose, who wrote about the transition in a 2002 book, "Wrapped In Blue: A Journey Of Discovery" (Living Legacy). "I would be seriously bent out of shape if someone came in between us and tried to take that role away from me. I taught him how to shave and play football."

As such, Father's Day is very important to Rose, in part, because of her own relationship with her father.

"My son calls me on Father's Day," she said. "It's a sad irony that I didn't appreciate Father's Day until after my own Dad died."

To some people the idea that becoming a woman could make one a better Dad might see strange, but that's been the case for Rose.

"[Changing sex] helped me to become a more authentic person," Rose said. "Before I did it, I tended to be full of bravado and pretense. My son is fiercely independent and goes after what he wants. I feel partly responsible for that."

Not to say that having a parent change sex doesn't have an impact on the child. But Dr. Michele Angello, a psychologist in Wayne, Penn., whose client base is 90 percent made up of transsexual, transgendered and cross-dressing patients, says the majority of her patients "who self-identify as transgendered or transsexual do take serious consideration for how it will affect the kids," Angello said.

"Some clients who went from male to female might have, when they were male, engaged in hypermasculine behaviors to compensate for what they felt inside," she said. "It can be harder for their kids to handle the transition because those children never did understand their dad because it was all a facade.

"But if a guy was already open to exhibiting behaviors associated as feminine -- such as being sensitive -- it's easier for the children to accept the change."

There are still adjustments when Dad changes sex, and part of that means accepting how the kids are going to react.

"Some of my clients will get Father's Day cards and it stings them, but they understand the love behind it," she said. "Others don't want the cards. It brings back the feelings of when they were living in an incongruent body."

Father's Day can also be an adjustment for cross-dressing men as well.

Many dads who cross-dress worry about the effect the activity could have on their kids, according to Veronica Vera, who runs Miss Vera's Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls, in New York.

"I've dealt with hundreds of Dads over the near-20 years since I founded my school," said Vera, author of "Miss Vera's Crossdress With Success" (Random House). There are times when one of my students will express concern to me that his children might find out. I ask that student if he want his child to grow up, as he did, in an emotional straight-jacket. I tell him to remember that if s/he shares this aspect of his personality with his children, he can impart a lesson in emotional freedom, self-acceptance and unconditional love."

It's a lesson that one of her students, who goes by the name, "Rita Petite," has taken to heart, even though he hasn't confessed his hobby to his kids.

"My son doesn’t directly know about my cross-dressing, as he hasn’t seen me dressed, but he has noticed my long pink nails and my shaved legs" Petite said. "My response to him when he asked? 'Because I like them this way.'"

Petite is divorced and says Father's Day is the same for him as for millions of other dads.

"We get together and we're nice to each other," he said. "We end up having a nice lunch and going someplace interesting. One Father's Day we spent in the woods catching frogs."

But while Petite keeps cross dressing a secret from his son, he does believe it has helped make him a better parent.

"I don't feel awkward about acting like a second mom to my son," he said. "I can cook, clean and keep house better than most women, and I pass this on to my son who is a marvelous cook."

Another cross-dresser, Gina Lance, who is the proud father of two young girls, says his daughters have double the possible gift choices for Father's Day.

For instance, instead of boring old ties or tools, Lance says a gift certificate from Victoria's Secret or pantyhose are perfect gifts.

However, even if it Dad is open about his hobby, Lance, the author of "Get Dressed!: Breaking Out Of The Crossdressing Closet" (Colgate), says he owes it to the kids to be tasteful when they go out to Chili's or the Olive Garden for a Father's Day dinner.

"It's not a good day to wear fishnets," he advised.