A Woman Called 'Daddy'

Female toddler (21-24 months) wearing women's high heels, rear view
Female toddler (21-24 months) wearing women's high heels, rear view

Without being disrespectful, I had to crack a smile when I read about Lilly -- formerly Andy -- Wachowski talking about her reasons to come out as a transgender woman last month. It seems a reporter from the United Kingdom's Daily Mail appeared on her doorstep, and Lilly figured she'd better out herself before the press did.

"I knew at some point I would have to come out publicly," she wrote in a statement. "I just wanted -- needed some time to get my head right, to feel comfortable. But apparently I don't get to decide this."

It's a terrible thing to be outed when you're not ready. I know; my daughter outs me all the time.
When we go out, I think I've done my makeup right, gotten my hair just so, and I've even gotten comfortable using my voice training to sound more feminine. I am ready.

Unfortunately, so is she -- for more Skittles. "Daddy! Can I get the tropical ones?"

Needless to say, walking near the candy was a bad choice at Home Depot. A building large enough to hold Air Force One, everything has to be yelled to be heard, even when the conversant is just two feet from you. Or maybe that's just my daughter.

Let me say right now, I don't think being outed by a kid while you're shopping for GFCI's is the equivalent of having your private life broadcast across the planet. For one thing, I am have no idea what a GFCI is; I was told by someone they were important to keep my house from burning down.
More, however, the decision to decide who to tell and what to tell people about your transition is a private and complicated one. Having to decide how to navigate that in public as Wachowski was forced to seems like a nightmare to me.

That doesn't mean my situation isn't complicated. It is, just in a different way. How do you tell a five-year-old that she shouldn't call you what she always has? "Daddy" isn't just a word or even a title.

"Miss" is a title that someone at some point decides you're old enough to have. "Doctor" is a title you earn through hard work and study. My students call me the first, and someday I hope they can use the latter.

"Daddy," however, is a title you only get by doing one thing -- becoming one. Many people want it, while some people dread it. I more than welcomed it; I wanted it more than anything in the world. As far back as I can recall, I have wanted to be a parent.

When my daughter's first word was "Dadda," in my more than four decades on the planet, it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard.

Less than five years later in a big box store somewhere in suburbia that same utterance burned like a white-hot poker. At every check-out stand, heads turned, eyebrows raised, and every other five-year-old within earshot cocked their heads.

So much for getting my hair right.

On the way home that day my daughter and I discussed the fact that it might be time to start calling me something different. She wasn't sure what she thought about that, and neither was I; 42 years is a long time to wait for something -- and five years isn't near long enough to get to enjoy it.

Still, we discussed ideas:

"How about Bethany?" she asked, No, that's still my first name; you shouldn't call your parent by their first name.

"What about Mommy?" she suggested next. That was a bigger "No." Her mother hated the idea, and rightfully so. And I'm not exactly too hip on being in same league as my ex these days, either.
Clearly, I needed to come up with some ideas. "Honey, how about Maddy? You know, 'Mom,' plus 'Daddy?'" She liked that idea.

In the weeks that followed, however, "Maddy" just didn't seem to stick. This didn't surprise me. When she agreed that "Maddy" was a pretty good name, her first question was whether or not we could now go back to Home Depot and get more Skittles. Indeed, more often that not my name seemed to be "Daddy-Oops!-I'm-Sorry-Maddy."

She wasn't the only one having a problem with it.

For one thing, I realized if my daughter was indeed outing me in public it was only because no one around her was paying attention. My make-up is not always good, and my hair is just so... BLEH. And while I am better at mastering my feminine voice, the simple truth is when I yell my daughter's name down the aisle I sound far more like a matador than a "Maddy."

More than that, however, "Bethany" is my name, "Daddy" was my name; if I'd wanted to be a "Maddy" I would have put it in there after "Grace."

Listening to my daughter try to meet my expectations and say a name that she did not feel, it hurt as much as being gawked at. Perhaps more, there's what strangers do because they don't think -- and what I was doing claiming that I had.

Transitioning for me has been an easy experience. Far easier than it has any right to be. I've said before and I'll say again that if everyone had my life, my friends, my choices, the world would be a better place for every transgender person. It seems petty to complain about what I've lost when I've gained so much.

But the truth is my daughter now lives two hours away from me. I see her on weekends and holidays, as I'm forced to engage in the joys of her daily life via FaceTime and phone calls. Her mother has a new boyfriend. The male role model that I was in my daughter's life is now literally being filled by another.

I miss her every moment I'm not with her.

I don't regret the choices I've made. But when I consider the time I don't spend with my daughter anymore, I know that I have given up more than I ever thought possible -- and that there is at least one thing I never will.

She calls me "Daddy."