Announcing Gabrielle, Part 2: Coming Out to My Children

After almost a year and a half of coming to terms with being transgender, I finally made the decision that I needed to go full-time.  Those that have read my posts know that was a tedious and complex process full of grieving, emotions, ups, and downs.  But as 2015 was approaching its conclusion, my path became clear:  I am a woman, and I need to live my life that way.  It was time for my secret to come out.  But how?

There are several community circles I swim in, and I did not want to necessarily shock any of them by just showing up in a dress.  How was I going to come out at work?  What about my community involvements?  What about even walking around my apartment complex?  But first and foremost, how was I going to tell my children?

When the decision was made to go full-time, I felt it imperative that the children needed to know before I went public.  Being 5 and 3, I was aware that once I told them, there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  It would be unfair (and unrealistic) to ask them to keep my secret until I was ready to tell the world.  Little children are storytellers by nature.  My story was going to be told one way or the other.  I had to be sure before telling them, and I was.

A big question came up before I even had the chance to have the conversation:  What were the children going to call me?  My wife an I fought over a month over this point, when it became clear that full-time status was imminent.  I felt very strongly that I wanted a “motherly” title.  I mean, how can I be a woman in the world with children and not be called “mom,” or something similar?  How would I feel if I was out in the world with the kids in full make-up and a dress and my kids get my attention by calling me “Dada”?  The idea of feeling outed by my children on a daily basis sounded terrifying.  So did not having a maternal parental title.  Unfortunately, I was accused of trying to “steal” a title than did not belong to me, as the kids already had a mama.  I countered that I was not trying to steal a title; I merely wanted to share.  But my wife was adamantly opposed to allowing me mom, mommy, Mama G… it didn’t matter.  She laid claim to them all.

When it was finally time to tell the kids, an agreement on parental title still had not been reached.  I was supposed to tell the children on December 29, but it didn’t happen because my wife and I had fought earlier in the day about my title, which caused me to be upset, and I was unable to get it together to tell them before I went to work.  The next day, it was time.  No more delays.

I the morning of December 30, I put my 3-year-old daughter on my lap and my 5-year-old son on my other leg, while my my wife sat two spots away on the couch.  I did not have a pre-written script.  I didn’t know exactly what to say.  I was highly nervous.  I only had one shot to really get this right.  I proceeded to tell them  that I was a girl.  My head and heart did not match my body.  I would be changing my name and wearing girl clothes from now on.  I kept it as simple and accessible as possible.  In the initial conversation, I never used the words “man,” “woman,” or “trans,” or “transgender.”  I kept it terms of boys and girls.  The discussion mainly went over the 3-year-old’s head in the moment.  My son was super accepting.  One of his first questions was (without prompting), “Does this mean I have two moms now?”  Inside, I was ecstatic.  I wanted to answer with a resounding Yes!, but I count not.because the fights over this question.  With no agreement in place, I answered, “Kind of, but we will need to find something else to call me.”  He told also told me that he just wanted me to be happy.  Amazing empathy from a 5-year-old!  Clearly, we have done something right in raising him.

To my wife’s credit, she immediately began switching over to female pronouns to refer to me after the conversation was over.  Apparently, she had been practicing while talking to people that were in the know.  While I appreciated that move, without a maternal title, a weird juxtaposition occurred that made me feel uncomfortable.  For example, my son would do something I told him not to do.  My wife would say something like, “Dada told you not to do that.  She told you five minutes ago.”  My brain had a lot of trouble resolving Dada & she/her in the same breath.

The next day, New Year’s Day, my wife came home after having the kids out in the morning.  For the first time, they came home to see me dressed as a woman, something they had not seen outside Halloween ever.  My son walked in, paused, and said, “Oh yeah.  You’re a girl.  I forgot.”  But then, it was nothing had changed.  My daughter called me “beautiful” and “pretty.”  My wife went to work.  The kids stayed home with me as they do most every Thursday, and we had a good day.  Still, hearing Dada wasn’t working for me, so my son and I had a discussion about it.  In the end, we agreed to that they would call me Amma (basically, “Mama” without the “M”).  This was a suggestion my wife had previously made, and I had rejected, because I was opposed to non-maternal, intermediate type names.  But with the bitterness and the need to not be called Dada anymore, I begrudgingly accepted I would need to accept a new title, and Amma was the least objectionable choice.  At least it sounds close to Mama.  My son agreed, and ever since that day, I have been Amma to the children.  It has taken time for them to adjust, but in the six weeks since we had these conversations, I cannot remember the last time I heard Dada.  We are still working on pronouns, but hey, he’s 5, and that’s not easy anyway, but he is getting there.

While I kept my transition as positive as possible, I also needed to brace my son for possible negative reactions in the world.  I asked, “What would you do if someone said some mean to me because they didn’t think I was a girl?”  To this, he again had the most supportive answer he could come up with:  “I would block them (using his arms and his body to shield me from the offender).”  I told him he did not need to do that.  In response, he said he would hug me and tell me that he loved me!  That melted my heart.

That night, we spent New Year’s Eve as a family, with me in a dress and my kids surrounding me.  It was wonderful!  I could finally be the real me with my children!  A great way to start the new year.  Of course, there was still plenty of tension in the house, but at least now, the ball was rolling.  I could start walking outside of my apartment dressed as a woman.  I began dressing everyday around town, and getting into the rhythm of everyday life.  While not technically full-time yet, I treated it kind of as a “soft open.”  I still had to change for work and to see certain people, but the time of getting the family and myself adjusted had begun.  I even began dropping off and picking up my son at kindergarten. Parents (and his teacher) were taken a little off guard at the beginning, but there have been no real major incidents to speak of, as parents get more used to my presence at school.

In the end, my children are young enough that they seem to be adjusting to my transition and having an “Amma” really well so far.  I could not ask anymore from my son when it comes to how he treats me or how he refers to me.  He has been absolutely amazing.  My daughter is not having too many problems either.  She is more interested in the makeup I wear each day.  I was nervous, but really it has been a very positive experience coming out to my children.  I love them so much!

So… kids the children were finally told.  The avalanche was about to begin.  Next, I needed to come out to work and a volunteer community in which I am highly active.  More on that in future posts.

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