They call me “Daddy”

In the
most recent installment
of their video blog “She Got Me
,” lesbian moms Dana and Helen laugh about the
befuddlement many of their straight friends seem to feel over how
their son addresses them.  I mean, the famous
may have two mommies, but she certainly can’t
call them both “Mommy,” right?  That would be way too
confusing for a child . . . wouldn’t it?

Well, probably not.  It turns out our little ones are a lot
smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being.  As Dana
says, “Your kids are going to figure it out.”  And they do, don’t

But what about when one of Heather’s mommies used to be her

When I began my transition at home, my partner and I worried a lot
about what our kids would call me.  Okay, to be perfectly honest,
I was the one who did most of the worrying.  In fact, calling it
“worrying” is a bit of an understatement.  Truth is I practically
obsessed over it.  I even recall a particularly vivid
nightmare in which I was out shopping with my kids and couldn’t get
them to stop calling me “Daddy” in voices vastly disproportionate
to their little bodies.  I kept ducking behind racks of clothing
and trying to explain to them that they couldn’t do that–that
people might find out I had once been a boy and would be mean to
us–but it just didn’t seem to sink in.  It felt strangely like
one of those dreams where you suddenly realize you’re naked in
front of a crowd of people.  I woke up in a cold sweat.

As the time approached for me to transition publicly, we sat down
at our kitchen table with the oldest two, who were eight and five
at the time, to let them know what was ahead.  I would be living
as a girl all the time from that point forward, we told them, and
at the advice of my wonderful counselor, asked if they would like
to pick a new name to call me.  A big part of the transition
strategy my counselor and I developed together was to share control
over things with my family as much as I possibly could, and so I
wanted to offer the kids some say in the matter.  We suggested a
few options and waited for their response.

I’ll confess that, as the question hung in the air between us for a
moment, I was really hoping they’d pick something like “Mama,”
“Maddy” (the fine conflation suggested by Jenny Boylan), or even my first
name.  Kids call parents by their first name in all the really
cool families, right?

My five-year-old daughter responded first.  “I like ‘Daddy.'”

“Yeah, me too,” my son agreed.

“Then ‘Daddy’ it is,” I told them.  Big hugs, sloppy kisses, and
they were running into the back yard to play.

To my credit, I was so determined to respect their feelings that I
didn’t feel all that disappointed.  I’ve never really wanted or
needed to live a “stealth” life, in which nobody around me knew of
my male history.  I had, however, been hoping to be able
to go with my family to the grocery store or McDonalds without
being outed all the time–but my children’s choice opened that
desire up for a little much-needed inspection.  Why was this so
important to me?  What was I afraid of?  What might be lost by
being called “Daddy” in public, and what might be gained?

I wish I could say that it’s been an easy thing for me, that I’ve
never flinched at hearing my kids call to me across a crowded
playground or blushed at the strange looks I occasionally get.  It
hasn’t, and I have.  And together we’ve learned that we have to be
careful sometimes (in the ladies’ room, for instance).  But we’ve
also discovered a few really important things about ourselves and
others through it.  I’ve discovered that I really am
proud to be a transgender woman–proud enough, in fact, to let the
whole world know it.  And I’m proud of my partner and my kids, who
are courageous enough in their love to own me for who I am.  I’ve
also learned that most people aren’t nearly as judgmental as I once
feared they would be.

I’d be the last to imply that our way is the only way or even the
best way for families with a transgender parent.  But it’s working
for us.  And maybe, hopefully, it’s helping to change a few minds
and hearts about transgender people and their families, too.  Call
it “playground activism.”