Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Becoming my Father's Daughter

I guess it is never as simple as just transitioning from male to female (perhaps simple isn't exactly the right word! :)) because transition doesn't happen in isolation and it deeply affects the people around us including those we love the most and also the people closely related to us.  I make the distinction because those people are not always one and the same.  We don't choose our families.  They may or may not have an easy relationship with us or be close.  Sometimes we never know how close they feel or don't feel. My father is a case in point.

I've blogged about my Mom, that was easy.  Me and Mom had a lovely close relationship and a commonality of interests that made loving easy and fights sometimes inevitable.  Mom was understanding, empathic, and intuitive.  I'm pretty sure that she knew much more about me than she thought wise to discuss or ask about.  She was simply very loving, openly emotional and a truly inspiring person, someone for me to look up to and model myself on.

My Father is a much more unemotional and reserved man.  He has never discussed deep emotions, religion, belief, love or attachment with me.  Professionally he was an Engineer and his mind appears to work with precision in the logical analytical problem solving way that you might expect. It's very alien to me, though I admire his abilities.  I suspect that he has so much more to reveal but although I longingly yearned for hugs and emotional responses as a child, I seldom if ever got them from him.  I wonder if part of that came from me being a boy, at least on the outside.  What I wanted was someone to tell me I looked nice when I was going out to a school dance, a reassurance that I could attract someone and be beautiful.  What I got instead was advice about girls or enough money to make sure I got home safely. Being who I was, I could never expect to be Daddy's Princess could I?
My Father on his Wedding Day

When I announced my transition, there was no shock, but at first a refusal to believe what I was saying and to cast around for reasons why I might be mistaken.  It took many tearful conversations with him, of trying to convey how a lifetime of being unhappy had lead me to take the decision to come out before he understood.  I wonder if in some ways he felt that he had failed as a father, done something wrong or not brought me up to be enough of a boy.  As a child and teenager, my Dad tried very hard to get me interested in cars, mechanics, tools and the mysteries of the workshop.  I tried to please and do have him to thank that I at least know how to change a wheel and see to other automotive emergencies.  But I was a reluctant student and I'm sure it didn't go unnoticed. It would have been different no doubt had I been a transgendered girl.

In a way, all that has left me feeling that it is me also that has done 'the letting down', that I haven't been a 'good or adequate son'.  It seemed a shame that we had both been left with the feeling that the other had failed.

Consequently, in the last 7 years since I began my transition I have done my best to get closer to him and have set myself the task of doing my best to learn how to be a good daughter.  It's a challenge that has sometimes made me laugh and sometimes made me cry.  The handbook for transgendered boys about how to be a good daughter doesn't exist. Goodness knows what sexist nonsense it might contain if it did.  Latterly, my father has become less mobile and increasingly ill, that has made me cry because I can do so little to make him better.  What has made me laugh is the way that he reacts to having me around the house, cooking, cleaning and looking after him.  He reacts in much the same way that he did towards my Mom.  I find myself laughing at the idea that  I might be turning into her.  He complains about me organizing his untidiness in much the way he did with her.

My Dad never showed public affection for my Mom though I know he loved her deeply.  I know it hurt her that he would never kiss her in public, place his arm around her or look at her lovingly in the way she wanted in front of others.  He is so shy, I know that he would never be demonstrably affectionate towards me either even though he now accepts me as his daughter.  I am touched however that these days he does at least sometimes comment that my hair looks 'feminine' or seeing me in a dress reminds him of something my Mom used to wear.  I thought that was as good as it would get. I was wrong.

The Christmas before last, he gave me a watch, it was tiny, beautiful and  unexpected.  Of course, he claimed to have chosen it because it never needs winding, or a battery....always the engineer, but then he would wouldn't he?  But I now have something for keeps, something that makes me feel like a princess whenever I wear it even if it's not in his vocabulary to say it.  It's nice to be thought beautiful enough to wear something so dainty.  Since I have been able to hug him, and kiss his cheek once or twice, I so wanted to do that when I was younger but I'm glad that I was able to do it now before it's too late.

Unexpectedly, I've found that transitioning involves far more than I imagined and challenges that even in a lifetime of contemplation came as a surprise.  The biggest one has been becoming my father's daughter.  I'm now making even more of an effort to get to know my father and to get him to talk more about himself and how he relates to me.  It may be a bit late but it's all I've got and I need to make the most of it.  I have to muddle through somehow. It's far from easy. I've been trying desperately to avoid the pitfalls of becoming a stereotypical 'good daughter' because I'm aware now that every father daughter relationship is a unique one especially when is forged from a 'failed' father son relationship.

Seven years after beginning my transition and long after my friends and those around me have come to accept me as a woman, I realize that transition is a continuing journey and there are other challenges yet to come.


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