‘Dad isn’t gendered, it’s a title’: How do you tell your kids that you’re transgender?

"Zoe struggled with school knowing and kids knowing."
"Zoe struggled with school knowing and kids knowing."

Sarah, a 38-year-old transgender woman, started her transition about two and a half years ago. 

Sarah says knowing when she first realised she was a woman is a tricky question.

“I first felt something was deeply wrong with my body and the way it was developing in puberty, around 13 years old,” says Sarah.

“I knew nothing about transgender people, so it was mostly confusing. However, at that stage in my ignorance, I thought there were no options other than to continue as I was, and I buried those feelings."

Also read: "My son wants to transition into a girl. I want to help her. What can I do?" Our expert answers

'I used to pray for God to change me into a woman'

When she was 34, she started identifying privately to her family as genderqueer. When those confusing feelings came up again, they intensified over time and she came out to her family as a transgender woman at 36. 

Sarah first she came out to her wife, Anie, and said: “I think I might actually be a woman.”

Anie was and is happy that Sarah is happy and is supportive of her transition.

Sarah is also polyamorous and came out to her other partner as well when she knew she was ready. 

“When I had decided that transition was something I needed to do, I told my kids. That was a month or two later. Then it took me about another two months to come out to more extended family,” she says. 

'She did not want me to fetch her from school'

Sarah’s kids, 14-year-old Kira and 12-year-old Zoe each reacted a little differently.

“They were both happy for me, but there were worries about who to tell and when, and how they handle questions about their dad,” says Sarah.

Zoe was very worried about how other people would react, including her friends, her school and even neighbours who they walk their dogs with.

She was also concerned about public confrontations. 

Luckily, Sarah went to each person they usually talk to or interact with on their walks and came out to them so as to assure Zoe that there were no negative reactions.

“Zoe struggled with school knowing and kids knowing,” says Sarah.

“For a while when I was first changing my presentation, she did not want me to fetch her from school or for any of her friends to see me. Kira was a lot more relaxed about her peers and school, mostly wanting everybody to know so she wouldn’t have to explain or tolerate misgendering without being able to correct people."

It took everyone a little while to get Sarah’s pronouns correct and get used to her new name, but the kids were the quickest to pick it up.

“Kira now says when she reads a book where a dad is ‘he’, she feels weird. It helped that I don’t see the word ‘dad’ as gendered, but rather a title, so they didn’t change what they called me,” says Sarah.

'Hiding this helps nobody'

“They did ask questions, but I just answered honestly."

And honesty is exactly one of the things that Sarah says is important when explaining your transition to your kids.

“There are many scary elements to transitioning. They will know that you are scared. Hiding this helps nobody, and will let their fears grow in their mind,” says Sarah.

“Addressing them head-on allows you to comfort them that all the difficulties are conquerable. Be vulnerable in your honesty.”

Flexibility is also important says Sarah; because she doesn’t mind being called ‘dad’, she feels it really helped them.

I think it helped them not feel like they’d lost their Dad.

But most important is patience, says Sarah. "They will have fears, and you need to separate yourself from the equation so you can appreciate their struggle and support them to overcome them.”

"That part is not about you. The part that is about you they are likely just to accept."

There are going to be certain anxieties and concerns as you reveal to your family, especially your children that you are now a part of a minority that is heavily discriminated against, but Sarah says that kids are more likely to accept the “core truths” about your transition than adults.

Sarah’s kids aren’t confused about who their dad is, as Kira said this to Sarah when she heard her dad was being interviewed for this article:

“When my friends ask about how I feel about your transition, I tell them my dad is the same as she always was, just happier.”

*All names have been changed.

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FEATURE DOCUMENTARY: The story of 4 transgender children

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