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Celebrating Your Child’s Identity: A Parent’s Perspective

Post submitted by JR, a Dad for Transgender Equality

My name is JR and live with my wife and our two kids in Washington, D.C. Ellie is our five-year-old daughter. She is like any five-year-old kid: energetic, rambunctious, sometimes quiet, argues (and wrestles) with her older brother, comes into our bed in the middle of the night, loves to paint, and ride her bike.

That’s all that matters, right? It’s important, especially in today’s society. Ellie is an awesome little daughter. She is also transgender. That doesn’t define her. She knows the term and understands that she is unique. She is also way more than that. I learn more about her every single day: her extraordinary personality, her creative ideas, her thoughts on everything (keep ‘em coming!), and what makes her happy and sad.

I attempt to indulge in my kids’ presence every single day no matter how tired or frustrated I might be after work. Having such awesome kids and my incredible wife makes me extremely happy and appreciative. I can’t imagine not loving and supporting any of them, especially Ellie.

What is this all about?
My daughter Ellie came to us at the age of four and told us how she truly felt. She told us she was a girl. This happened on her birthday about a year and half ago. It wasn’t a huge surprise. For the past year we thought we had a son who love dresses – we were wrong. It turns out we had a girl who loved dresses.

What did you do to support her?
My wife instantly started researching it meant to be transgender. There were many questions we needed to understand – What does it mean? Were there resources in our area that could help us? Were there online groups we could join? What are the major issues surrounding transgender kids, teens, and adults? What does this mean for Ellie as she gets older?

What does this mean for me?
What I have learned so far is that being a supportive dad gives my transgender kid an incredible chance young trans daughter to live a positive and healthy life. We all have the right to live our lives as authentically as possible.

What does this mean for her?
To me, being authentic means you are not limiting yourself to the traditional societal norms that most of us follow. You do what makes you happy. To me, my role as a supportive father is more important than ever – helping Ellie live her life to the fullest. I am more aware that loving my transgender daughter has shattered my limitations on loving her and other transgender people.

It’s an emotional topic. It’s really stressful knowing the statistics surrounding transgender people who are not loved and supported by the circle of family, friends, and community. I am absolutely fortunate that my wife, my family, and my friends are “all in”. The village is here.

How is Ellie doing?
Ellie is functioning as a five-year-old – tantrums, eating only hot dogs and cheese sticks, wrestling with her older brother, painting and coloring up a storm. She’s also very cognizant of being transgender. She has questions about how she will be a mother when she gets older, how she will grow breasts, amongst others. She’s also timid sometimes around people who she thinks doesn’t know she was born a “boy”.

How am I doing?
I think I’m pretty doing well so far…I mean she tells me she loves me more than my wife! (To be fair, her older brother loves mom more!). I’m a fairly quiet person, but I’m learning to acknowledge and describe my emotions as they present themselves. Being vulnerable is not the easiest thing to do in any situation that requires you become absolutely selfless. As a proud dad who supports my trans kid 100 percent, I’m still learning. I understand modeling positivity, acceptance (not tolerance), and treating people equally is critical in how I want our kids to treat each other and everyone else.

If being outspoken on the issues that trans people face every day gives people an even greater opportunity to listen to issues that might not understand or be aware of, then that’s what I will do. I’m advocating for my daughter’s rights, and the rights of her transgender peers. I’m speaking out and standing proud.

For more information and resources on National Coming Out Day, visit HRC’s Coming Out Center and follow the hashtag #ComingOut.