Letter to My Father

This is the letter I’ve written to send to my dad. I’ll make a version for my brother, too.

Opinions, thoughts, critique, support — especially support — eagerly sought.

—–

Dear Dad,

This is a difficult letter to write, but it’s an important one. I hope you will read it with an open mind and a loving heart.

For as long as I can remember, I have held a deeply guarded secret: I’m not female. When I was little I tried to content myself with being a tomboy, but I knew, even then, that I wasn’t really a girl. The inner-me is, and always has been, much closer to male.

I know I was a frighteningly smart and independent little kid with a vivid imagination and a strong will. I was lucky, because you and my mom nurtured my inquisitiveness and creativity, and mostly ignored and/or indulged my creative gender expression. You bought me football pajamas to sleep in and a buckskin outfit so I could play Daniel Boone to my heart’s content. I was also Batman, Captain Nemo, Casey Jones, a motorcycle stunt rider, a fireman, a policeman, an unnamed Indian scout, a Civil War soldier, a fighter pilot, and probably a hundred other exciting characters.

The one thing I never was, in all that imaginative play, was female. Even when I was pretending to be a horse or a cougar or a soaring magic condor, I was male.

It’s not that I was in any doubt as to the physical details of my body. I knew I had a female body and must be, therefore, a girl. I tried my best to make peace with it, but I never felt comfortable. Even in sleep, if I had a gender in a dream, I was male.

In a conversation with my sister in 1993 or ‘94, I came out to her as bisexual, and I very tentatively broached the subject of gender identity, and how I didn’t really feel like a girl. Sister was definite: she was attracted only to boys, and she felt like a girl, she’d always felt like a girl, she’d never questioned it.

I’d spent untold and vast quantities of energy trying to understand what it must be like to feel like a girl, trying to make myself be a girl, and never succeeded in doing anything but making myself more frustrated.

It was an epiphany for me: for the first time I had some evidence that people really could have a preference and a surety about their own gender. It didn’t answer my own questions, but it gave me a yardstick to measure against, and permission to go ahead and accept that I wasn’t mainstream. That I was, in many senses of the word, queer.

When I was twelve or thirteen I remember reading about Christine Jorgensen and being completely fascinated. A whole new world opened up for me. And one of my most treasured childhood books was The Incredible Deborah, a biography of Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

I’ve been reading articles and blogs and websites and medical journals about sex-change for years, but I never let myself really consider the possibility that I could change my gender identity. In fact I think I hung on to the outer trappings of femininity — long hair, skirts, jewelry, even the spelling of my nickname — as long as I did, because I felt the only way to make myself conform to the gender my body dictated was to create an illusion.

Five or six years ago I started having internet conversations with other transgendered people who were born female, wherein we would excitedly discover that we shared a common experience. And I watched like a penniless kid through an ice cream shop window while they embarked on transition, changing their gender presentation to match the gender they felt inside.

I started wearing men’s clothes and underwear several years ago. Following my hysterectomy in 2008, I was very briefly on hormone replacement therapy, but I stopped within six months of the surgery. When I got the estrogen and progesterone out of my system I felt better than I had since I hit puberty: more centered, more calm, with more energy and zest for life. It was a surprise to me, as I’d been expecting typical menopausal symptoms, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

A little over a year ago I gave up wearing women’s clothing entirely, cut my hair short, bound my breasts flat, and found that for the first time since childhood, I liked what I saw in the mirror.

So the question is, how far do I want to go? If it were easy, if there were a magic wand, I’d have a male body in a heartbeat and be delighted about it. There are no magic wands, but there are further steps I can take. I am exploring the possibility of changing my body and the way the rest of the world perceives me to fit the way I see myself: to slip to the other side of the gender equation, and approach the world from a place of assumed maleness

I have been seeing a psychologist who specializes in gender identity, and he agrees that I am, in his opinion, transgendered. He has approved me for testosterone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, both of which I am considering.

I also intend to change my name to [Nezu’s new name]. You have already noted that I have changed the spelling of [Nezu’s nickname] to the more conventionally male version.

I’ll still be me. Even if I grow a beard, have a flat chest, and sing tenor or baritone instead of alto, I expect to keep my aesthetic sense, my facility with feelings, emotions, and language, my softheartedness when it comes to kids and animals, my artistic sensitivity, and my creative nature. And of course I’ll still be as queer as a three-eyed cat. Bisexual is bisexual is bisexual no matter what equipment I might be packing.

Fundamentally, the thing I want you to know is that I am happy. I am embarking on this deeper exploration of gender from a place of strength and certainty.

I don’t expect you to necessarily understand this right away, and I will happily answer any questions you might have, but I hope you will support me and continue to love me, as your son who was born a daughter, and as your child who loves you.

[Nezu]

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~ by Nezu on 23 May 2011.

13 Responses to “Letter to My Father”

  1. it is elegantly written. my only comment is on the initial bluntness of the announcement. i am not a female. on the one hand this may be no big surprise to him. in which case you might acknowledge that. if it is then that might be too dramatic of a beginning. as a written piece it is dramatic and then informative. he may not get past that line to the rest. may Lise the openness you want. if there is some way to include him innthe knowldge. it might maintain the opening. you know?

    • Thanks, Pat that’s good feedback. I can see how that feels too blunt and doesn’t include him in the process. I”ll rework it.

  2. *giant hug*

    I love you.

  3. beautifully written. i do hope that your father, and brother, come to accept, if not fully understand.

    be ready for your dad to blame himself–for allowing you to dress up/make believe as a boy when you were a child, rather than forcing you into a girlie role. (My partners father wondered if allowing her to help out so much on the farm, with the cows and tractors, contributed to her being a (butch) lesbian).

    And remember that no matter the outcome, you are never alone.

    • Thanks, Victoria. That’s an interesting insight, and one I hadn’t considered at all. I guess it’s because I don’t see this aspect of myself as being a flaw in any way, that it didn’t even occur to me that my father might see it that way. I hope your partner’s father has come to treasure her for who she is.

      • My partner and her father are closer than ever, and he accepts her (and me/us) fully. It was just his thought process, although I don’t think he was ever bothered, he was just pondering if that’s what led her to be ‘different’. Now, she’s butch, not trans, so that would likely have added a new layer to the pondering, but I think he’d be okay with that too. It’s amazing how accepting people can be if we give them a chance.

  4. My new and beloved Brother –
    I think it is very well written and explains things in the best way possible for our father (bless his heart). A few suggestions:

    I agree with pat’s comment that the initial statement may be too blunt but, then again, it is sometimes better to cut to the chase. I would like to see you pose the statement in the positive – instead of “I’m not female” say perhaps “I’m truly, psychologically, emotionally, if not physically, male.”

    I also suggest you move the paragraph about our conversation down one. So the paragraphs would go: “It is not I was in any doubt…”, to “I’ve spent untold…”, to “In a conversation with my sister…” to “It was an ephiany”. I just think that order flows better.

    Finally, I like your ending. Very simple and direct and clear about the outcome you hope for.

    I love you. Let me know how the letter is received and if I can do anything for you.

    • Excellent suggestions, Sister, thank you so much! I love you dearly, and really value all the ways you’ve made it possible for me to understand and become my true self.

      You’re right, making that opening statement a positive would be a much stronger position. The thing that’s hard for me is that I’m still dealing more in the ‘somewhat and mostly’ realm. I’m mostly male on the inside.I don’t really fit neatly into the artificially black and white gender binary, but fall, as the title of this blog suggests, somewhere in the middle. But somewhere more on the male side of middle than female. Maybe I need to say it that way, and perhaps soften the phasing a bit to lead him to join me in coming to the same conclusion. I’ll play around with it some more.

      I also had felt there was something naggingly wrong about the flow in that next section, and I agree it’s much smoother with the rearrangement you suggest. Thank you.

      I’ll definitely let you know before I send it, and probably run the letter to Younger Brother by you as well. Actually this is going to become the template for a lot of letters, to various less-close family members, so it’s really helpful getting it wordsmithed to perfection.

      As for the reaction… Yeah. I’ll definitely let you know what that is, too. I suspect my reaction to our father’s reaction is going to involve rum. *wry smile*

  5. Eloquent. If my kid wrote this to me, I would be proud because it is well written and heartfelt. However, I am female and a mother, not a father so your mileage may vary.

    the paragraph that starts with “it was an epiphany” was slightly confusing. I did not initially get what the epiphany was and had to reread the paragraph before it. But then I do know your story.

    The initial announcement of your secret is dramatic but this may be what is needed to get the attention of those you are writing to. Your father likes puzzles. Starting with that might make him read the letter to figure out the puzzle. Or he might be taken aback. You have to make that call.

    I am glad you posted this. Other folks in the same situation will likely find this letter very helpful. It is a loving letter from a child to a parent.

    • Thanks Anet. I am hoping once I re-arrange the flow a bit as per my sister’s suggestion it will make more sense. I’ll also be tinkering with that opening, trying to make it more engaging.

      I know you have been through a similar experience as the family member of a transgendered person. If you have any suggestions or advice for me based on how your sister handled her coming out process, I’m all ears.

  6. I like the suggestions others have made. It’s very good as is, and will be even better with the suggested improvements.

    You’re missing a period at the end of the paragraph that ends with “assumed maleness”. 🙂

    Big hugs!!!!!!

  7. […] it, I carefully mined my personal history for examples of how I was never really a girl. And when I presented my decision to transition to my friends and family, it was with the “always knew” narrative well rehearsed. In that, […]

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