Having my older children home for the holiday weekend allowed me to sit down with them and reflect on the last few years and living through my wife's transition. My wife and I were high school sweethearts but parted ways when I graduated. I got married and had my kids. Eleven years later when my ex-husband and I were separated and in the process of getting a divorce, I bumped into my wife's mother. I gave her my phone number in the hopes that my wife would call me, and eventually she did. We reconnected almost instantly, and several months later I introduced her to my girls. They were one and a half, seven, and almost ten. My wife fell in love with my girls, and we began to form a family unit. It was easy because my ex did not make himself available to the girls.
A year and a half into our relationship my ex husband passed away. One year after that my wife and I bought a house, and the year after that with the girls by my side, we got married. Our girls are now seventeen, twenty three, and almost twenty six. My wife has been their stepparent for almost twelve years and as a family we have made many memories together. We have laughed, cried, and everything in between, all with love and respect for one another. I often wonder if transition is different for biological children of transgender parent compared to step children of a transgender parent. I may never know. However, these are the answers to a few questions I had asked of my two older girls.
Question 1: What was the first thing that came to your mind after we sat you down and told you that your step Dad was transgender?
25 year old- That is very personal; however, I will share a little of that with you. I felt like I was losing another father. It brought up issues that I did not know I had regarding my biological father and it made me aware that I still have things that I need to address from my childhood.
23 year old- The first thing that came to my mind was whether or not you (my Mom) would be ok. The next thing that I wondered was if the two of you would get a divorce.
Question 2: What did you think her transition would be like?
25 year old- I anticipated how difficult it would be to have to have this conversation with friends and family members, over and over again. That was not something I was looking forward to. However, I thought that having another girl in the house would be fun.
23 year old- Since I already had a friend who was transgender, I thought it would be easy. When my friend had come out, they said my new name is J and my pronouns are he/him and we all just accepted him. I was naive; it was not the same with my step Dad. I tried to be brave and not let my feelings show, but that was difficult to maintain.
Question 3: How was it different than you thought it would be?
25 year old- It was way harder that I thought it would be. I was not living home at the time and every time I came home to visit it seemed like she had gone through so many changes. I needed more time to process than I thought I would. I thought that it would be more of a family affair, but soon noticed that the two of you went off without us to do different things.
23 year old- Five days a week she was going to work in men's clothes and on the weekends she was dressing as herself. It was hard to watch and process her living as two genders. I also remember that she needed to earn the title of Dad in my eyes when I was younger. During transition, that word Dad meant something masculine to her. For me, it was hard to let it go after it took so long to let her have it.
Question 4: Has your relationship with your strep-parent changed?
25 year old- Part of me feels like we are not as close as we were, but our relationship is a work in progress. Not living home has put a strain on our communication. However, we are now at a good place now, and I am discovering her new interests and what we have in common. Ultimately, I do not want to bury another parent. Having two loving parents is more important than the fact that one of them is transgender.
23 year old- Yes it has. I think she has finally found herself. There were certain things that she views as "man things" that we had bonded over. I just look at them like they are "our things" and I miss them sometimes.
Question 5: How is life today?
25 year old- Life is better. I am very proud of all of the work she does within the community and all of her activism for the betterment of transgender folks everywhere. This has become our new normal.
23 year old- We are closer than we have ever been. She now views life as worth living, and she is finally happy. Seeing her live her authentic life makes the last few years all worth the ups and downs.
My wife's transition brought out a lot of issues for the girls from their childhood. Things that we didn't even know that we had swept under the rug had reared their ugly head. We learned that our communication skills were not as good as we thought they were, so as a family we had several counseling sessions with a therapist. They helped a ton. It was a safe space for everyone to share what was going on for them. They both agreed that having my wife happy and healthy was worth all the turmoil that we had to go through to get to this place and that our love for one another has always been the same.