A while back I ran across an article by a woman who had a transgender parent and still hasn’t forgiven them for transitioning, decades after their death. She keeps trying to tell the world how having a parent that is transgender is just terrible, and that people should be legally prohibited from transitioning because won’t someone PLEASE think of the children! She also runs a reparative therapy organization promoted by the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group. But, you know, details.
This article came up over dinner, and our 8th grade daughter was mortified. She asked me if she could write about her own experiences with a transgender parent to give people a perspective that isn’t based on the presumption that transgender people are somehow broken, sinful, and in need of fixing. This is what she had to say.
How a can child have a good family life if one of their parents is forced to constantly lie to them while hating themselves for being different? This may seem like an odd situation to be in, but many transgender parents face this problem. My name is Ellie “Honey Badger” Tannehill and I have a transgender parent.
My siblings and I chose the name Maddy when “Dad” was transitioning. Maddy is a combination of Mom and Daddy. We chose this new name for three reasons. The first being it would be confusing having two heads sticking out of doors every time we yell “MOM!” down the hall. Secondly it would feel wrong calling our parent “Dad” as she wore a skirt and makeup. Lastly we chose this name because we found it ironic because “Dad” (pre-transition) was often sad or upset. After her transition she became much nicer though.
People sometimes ask me “Weren’t you confused?” or “Were you surprised?” or the best one of all, “I don’t think I could have gone through that. You poor thing you were so young.” It didn’t really affect me or surprise me. My sister and I would play games where one of us would be the prince and one of us would be the princess so being someone of the opposite gender than the one you were born in wasn’t new territory. My sister and I at the time didn’t fully grasp the situation but we weren’t as affected by it as people think. It just was what it was.
I remember talking to Maddy one night in the car as she drove me home from dance class. She started crying because she felt so awful about lying to us kids for all those years. I just told her that I was thankful that she was finally being honest. Then told her to pay attention to the road because there was traffic, but my point still stands.
My parents brought me to some of their therapy sessions after I started claiming that Maddy was my Aunt when people started asking who this new woman was who was picking me up from dance. However I only used the excuse of her being my Aunt with adults. With people who were my own age I was completely honest. When kids started asking about Maddy volunteering at the after school running club I told them the whole story. To be honest I hated the running club, mostly because I prefer binge watching Netflix and eating pizza rather than running half a mile.
Life now is good, if not your average suburban life. I get decent grades in school and am part of the after school theater club. I have fun with my friends after school sometimes, we typically walk across the road and hang out at Starbucks or the fro-yo place. My life isn’t boring but it’s not worth making a drama series about either.
Maddy’s coming out has helped me become a more open and accepting person. As my parents and I can attest to, I am a Hufflepuff. (For all the people reading this who aren’t avid Harry Potter fans, Hufflepuffs are people who are willing to accept people as they are regardless of how they were born.) Maddy has also given me a more in depth view of the LGBT community from meeting allies and other members of the community (who also happen to be Maddy’s friends). Her friends have always been really nice to me and have always been willing to talk to me like a grown-up, unlike a lot of other adults I know. I’m not saying that everyone who is LGBT is kind, but they have all been willing to treat me the way I want to be treated.
All together I feel that Maddy’s transition was good for the family as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, my parents annoy me to no end, but the ways they irritate me are the usual reasons why you would expect a teenager to be mad at her parents. My reasons for annoyance vary from being forced to clean my room to folding laundry, to insisting I be nice to my sister. Worst of all is how they’re always embarrassing me in front of my friends.
I know one day we will have to answer my younger brother’s questions as to why he has two moms. He was less than a year old when Maddy transitioned. I just hope when he asks these questions it is in a future where being transgender, or having a transgender parent, is no big deal.