Coming out to My Father as Transgender
By Mila Madison
The moment comes where you are going to tell the man who raised you as their son that you are actually their daughter. I’ll admit, in many ways I was terrified to do it. I kept putting off the conversation, but time was an issue for me. My in-laws had found out I was transgender before I was ready for them to know, and it was just a matter of time before my father found out from someone else. It was not how I wanted it to turn out, and now the pressure was on.
Though I had wanted to be able to tell him face to face, my father was living in Florida and I was in New York. My only option was a phone call. I thought about writing a letter, but I felt he deserved to hear it from me in my own voice. I had procrastinated with having the conversation for too long now. My wife kept pushing me to get it over with as I was probably making her crazy with my being so nervous about it. I was afraid of multiple outcomes that could have possibly come out of it, and I was probably not emotionally ready to deal with any of them, but the time was here. I had to deal with this.
“WHAT I WAS ABOUT TO SAY WOULD CHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP FOREVER, BUT I HAD REASON TO HOPE.”
As I was getting ready to dial his number, the montage of my childhood passed by inside my head. All the times my dad attempted to “man” me up. The times I felt like I was disappointing him for not doing what typical boys did. None of those moments would compare to this. What I was about to say would change our relationship forever, but I had reason to hope. My father always knew I was different. He always supported me whether it was when I was making music or anything else. As I grew older he understood me better, and even encouraged me more to be myself. My father certainly had evolved in his thinking just as I did growing up. He knew who he was and didn’t apologize for it. He wasn’t the type of person who worried about what the neighbors would think if you get what I am saying. We shared many of the same world views. “Wait a minute! Maybe this won’t be so bad?” I began to think to myself. “Just do it already!” I picked up the phone and called him.
He answered the phone and after a quick bit of catching up, I told him I had something to tell him. I asked him to hear me out as it was complicated. I explained to him that I was actually a female and that I was transgender. All I can remember was that I was shaking with fear. I walked him through my process of getting to this point and explained what that meant as best as I could. A part of me was bracing for the push back. Something along the lines of “No you are not!” or “what are you crazy?” But it never came. It was almost as if he was anticipating this moment for many years. He didn’t sound surprised or shocked. He just said, “Be who you are and don’t listen to anything that anyone has to say about it!” Well that is the clean version of what he said, but those words stuck with me, and I knew he was going to support me even if he didn’t truly understand what it all meant. Afterwards I felt as if the biggest weight in the world was lifted from my shoulders as the reality started to set in that I was really on my way to being me for the first time.
My father would pass away just a little over a month later. He went to a hospital for a routine procedure on his liver and suffered a stroke. Even with all the doctors around, they couldn’t save him. It was a freak thing. In the end, I did go to Florida, something I should have done when I told him about me, but now while I was in the beginning and most awkward part of my transition. Only this time it was to take him off the respirator he was on and say goodbye to him. I knew it was what he would have wanted, but it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. With my father’s passing also came the end of the person I pretended to be all my life. It was the curtain closing on everything I knew to be male.
“I WAS LEFT TO WONDER HOW MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY FATHER WOULD HAVE TURNED OUT.”
I was left to wonder how my relationship with my father would have turned out. I think about what would have been if he was still here with us. I also think about what our relationship could have been had I been assigned the correct gender at birth and were raised as his daughter. These are things I will never be able to control, and I will never have the answers to these questions. In my heart, I think things would have been great and that he would have been one of my greatest supporters, but I will never truly know. What I do know is that I could have told him sooner. I could have stopped procrastinating and giving into fear. I might have found some of those answers I was looking for if I weren’t so afraid to tell him. Though I am happy he died knowing who I was, there was so much more I wanted to tell him.
The lesson here is to be whom you are at all costs and to not worry about what anyone else thinks about it. Don’t hesitate and waste time being someone else. Don’t waste your life trying to be what people want you to be. It all can end unexpectedly, and you will be left with regret. Make the most of your life and the time you have. These are things my father taught me and it is time that I start listening.