Daddy's Not Here to Teach Me
My dad died in 2010 from colon cancer. I have coped with that loss well; nevertheless, even since I started transitioning three years ago, I found myself yearning for my daddy. I guess I don’t think that I can have conversations with other men about what it’s like to be men the way that I feel I could’ve with daddy. After all, if I had been assigned male at birth, perhaps this would have been part of our bond. He could have talked to me about the joys and hardships of manhood. But he isn’t here.
I have two sisters, and I was assigned female at birth, so my dad did not have any “sons” growing for lack of a better way to phrase it. I can’t help but to wonder how my daddy would feel if he knew he had a son. In many ways, I feel like I am the son that he always wanted but will never get to know.
It’s painful not to know if I am the son that daddy wanted or not to know if our bond would have evolved after I transitioned to male. Even though I identify as nonbinary, I still identify more on the masculine side. I don’t identify with stereotypical masculine identities. I don’t convey a tough persona, and my voice is rather soft and feminine; however, working as a counselor, I enjoy the soothing nature of my voice. I am also rather comfy in my feminine mannerisms, such as crossing my legs, gesticulating when I speak, and expressing my emotions. Hence, I am not interested in learning how to be a masculine person from just any male figure.
My daddy would have been the ideal male figure to mentor me because he was also an easy-going, soft-spoken, and gentle soul. He played tennis, ran road races, and indulged in watching just about any sporting event on television, yet he also conveyed a sense of tenderness to him rather than conveying a “tough guy” persona. In other words, daddy could have taught me to be a sensitive, gentle male. In other words, my father could have taught me how to be a strong masculine persona who also expresses a gentle sensitivity. If I had had the opportunity to receive his acceptance of me as transmasculine, perhaps I would be even more confident in my gender identity because his approval would have meant so much.
One evening after work last week, I reflected on sitting in an all-male meeting. I noticed that the men in the meeting seemed to assume that I had similar feelings to them as another male; however, I don’t know if I do because I don’t know how cis gender men think or feel. While I appreciate their validation in attempting to connect with me in that way, I don’t know if I feel the same as they do. When I reflected deeper, an intense, pressure of emotions circulated deep inside my chest. A wave of tears burst out of my eyes with such a force that I have never experienced. I realized that this feeling was a deep yearning for daddy.
I understood that I want to reach out to these men because I don’t have my daddy. I don’t have an older male figure in my life with whom to share my masculine experiences. Not having my daddy through this whole experience is a poignant loss, and I must accept that we will never experience the bond of father and son.
My daddy was by far an old school thinker; however, he also reveled in the 1960s counterculture movement, introducing us to Bob Dylan and other 60s rebellious music. Therefore, while I know that my transgender identity would have proven difficult for him to process, my daddy always had my back. He supported my decisions even when I knew that he had reservations about them. Nevertheless, he trusted my choices. I would have loved to work through any concerns that he had about my gender identity because I know that it would have only made us closer.
Eleven years after daddy passed away, I am learning more about grief. I now know that for me, the poignancy of my grief stems from the fact that my daddy will never fully know me. He only lived for 29 years of my life, and I have not only transitioned, but I have grown as a person in so many other ways. At age 40, I know that I will continue to grow and change as a person for the rest of my life. We are always in the process of changing as we encounter new experiences in across the lifespan. Thus, my heart aches because there’s so much of me that he will never know.
I am not writing this blog post to indicate that I have not accepted my daddy’s death. When I enter states of intense grief, my emotions do not overwhelm me. I know he is gone. Yearning for him merely reminds me of the love that I still feel for him. Taking grief breaks in which I let myself cry and feel my grief is a way to honor my daddy and our relationship. While he isn’t here, his influence on me is still present; thus, he still lives on in me. The pain that I feel sometimes is astoundingly beautiful because I am fortunate to have had a daddy that I love so much.
I know many queer people have experienced rejection from their parents and family. I have had my own conflicts with my mother. I guess that I can’t affirm that my daddy would have accepted me. Nevertheless, all I have is the memory of our bond, and I cherish it. Every time that I run a marathon, I feel my daddy in me. He was also a runner, and I picture him waiting for me at the finish line. I know that I must push my way to the end because he’s there. I hold this image for everything in my life. No matter how challenging, I know he’s with me because he’s a part of me.