Why I March: Celebrating Transgender Pride

As we come to the end of Pride Month, Family Equality Council staffer Denise Brogan-Kator reflects on the intersection of Pride Month and Father’s Day, and what they mean to her.

One of my long-time friends, a trans-woman I’ve known for nearly 25 years, recently posted a comment about the loving messages she received from her children this past Fatherʼs Day (or Fathersʼ Day for my many two-dad friends!). My own daughter wrote a simple, but profoundly deep, message into the Fatherʼs Day card she got for me. She said: “Iʼm so lucky to have you as my dad.”

There is a lot of meaning in that simple sentence. I’ve been her dad for over 31 years now. She is an accomplished woman and the mother of two adorable and gifted children. A Ph.D., she is a licensed therapist who provides much needed therapy to transgender clients in the mostly rural Florida county where she practices. To be sure, I feel like I have had a positive influence on her life and, now, on the lives of my grandchildren. But, this isnʼt the way this story necessarily unfolds for trans-parents and their children. So, I am the one who feels lucky.

Denise at Trans PrideIt is a wonderful and sometimes strange coincidence, for me, that Fatherʼs Day falls within Pride month. My daughterʼs comment in my card makes me feel that coincidence more than ever this year. This year marks 25 years since I first came out as transgender. During that time I’ve lived 14 years in Florida and I had never been to a Pride event here. On June 24 I marched in the inaugural Trans-Pride parade in St. Petersburg, FL (located in the same county in which I lived when I came out two and a half decades ago). It is deeply moving to me that my first Florida Pride event is one that celebrates being transgender. I did not always celebrate this.

Twenty-five years ago, before the advent of the Internet, I had no idea that there were other people like me. I had a peripheral understanding that a tennis player had changed sex some years earlier, but that was the limit of my awareness. I had effectively buried my transgender nature as a youth, understanding quite clearly that it was not something that would garner me the love and affection that I needed from my friends and family. Years later, when I could no longer suppress that nature, but still needing that love and affection, I faced a terrible choice. Unable to reconcile my need to live authentically as female with my life as a husband and a father, I worked to keep my transgender nature a secret. That failed spectacularly, as I have previously chronicled. And, during those years of trying first to keep a secret, then to keep my family intact, and later to navigate relationships, fatherhood, jobs and being transgender I never once attended a Pride event. In many ways, I didn’t feel proud. I felt wrong and bore the shame of both my identity and the failure to keep family together.

But now, here I am. Twenty-five years have come and gone. I am now actually proud to be transgender. I am proud that I survived an attempted suicide, I am proud that I’ve again found love (12 years, now, and going strong!), Iʼm proud that I do work around the nation to help create legal and lived equality for families like mine and proud that I have a daughter who considers herself “lucky” to have me be her dad. So on June 24 marched. I marched for myself – in celebration of having survived and having thrived – and I marched for those who, like me 25 years ago, are just coming into awareness of who they are and seek affirmation of their worth. And, I marched for my children, in hopes that I can be deserving of their pride in a transgender father. I am deeply grateful to the organizers of this march that they have provided me with this opportunity.