Why is an 11-year-old daughter so angry around her transgender dad?

Q:

My friend was married to a gentleman, and they had two daughters. When the eldest daughter was five years old the father came out, saying that he wanted to be a woman. He changed from being male to being female and then the parents got divorced.

The girls are now nine and eleven years old. They see their dad regularly and when they do, she is dressed as a woman but they still call her “dad.” When the eldest daughter sees her dad she becomes very angry and gets into a mood. Can you explain this please?

I am very worried about these two little girls. They have never gone for any help because their mom feels that it is not necessary.

— Family friend in South Africa

A:

While it might seem rocky right now, I am pleased to hear that the father is still in her children’s lives. Of all the LGBT parents who risk being ostracized by family, transgender parents are the ones who risk the most isolation and heartache. Whatever effects their father’s gender identity might have on them, none could affect them more adversely than not having a relationship with her.

Every child is going to react to a parent’s gender transition in their own way. Many factors go into how this change will affect them, including their age, the quality of their relationship with the parent before transitioning, their family’s religious background, and the rest of the family’s attitude about the transition.

Noelle Howey, author of Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods — My Mother’s, My Father’s, and Mine, was 14 when her dad came out as a cross-dresser and later as transgender. About her father’s transition, Noelle writes:

I never said good-bye to my father — the original model…How do you label the sensation of losing not a person, but a persona? It seems trivial compared to real ashes-to-ashes death, and yet there’s something profound about it. (p.307)

While Noelle says that her relationship with her Dad is stronger than ever, she still acknowledges that his transition brought a sense of loss. Her dad looks, sounds and smells different as a woman. Her dad as she once knew him is gone and another version took his place.

Returning to your question, the younger child in this family may possibly be adjusting better because she was only three when her dad transitioned. She can hardly remember anything else. The eleven-year-old, however, probably has memories of when her dad was male. The daughter’s expression of anger could most likely be her unarticulated feelings of loss.

Have the girls had the opportunity to talk about the transition? Even though their mother might not feel that counseling is necessary, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give it a try — provided that the family therapist is transgender-friendly.

As for what the kids call their father, “dad” is fine as long as the children and their father are comfortable with it. There might be times in public when it might be safer to use an alternate term of endearment, but that should be left up to the kids and their dad to decide. Regardless of her gender, she will always be their father.

15 thoughts on “Why is an 11-year-old daughter so angry around her transgender dad?”

  1. I’m wondering who has the issue here. I re read the letter a few times and the writer seems to have a bias. The writer says that everytime the children see their dad she is dressed as a woman. And I ask, how would a person who has transistioned dress but as the way their internal gender tells them?

    What we aren’t learning is if the children were able to still see both parenst without interruption, or are they only now having the chance to see a long missing parent?

    I also wonder how the one parent is reacting to the other. Is there support or anger coming from the non transexual parent? Children get the crappy end of break ups because they are in the middle and have no say. Since transexual parents are only now gaining rights, I`m guessing she lost a few years of seeing her children.

    Another factor I see is that the one child is coming into her teens, a time when they themselves come to terms with their own sexualality. That`s confusing as it is.

    I think what these kids need to do is to find a youth/child support either online or in person for children with queer parents. COLLAGE is one such org that allows children to speak with others in a non judgemental way.
    There are also some support groups starting to come out online, but again right now I would suggest COLLAGE, if it truely is their issue and not the issue of the writer.

    Having children myself, one 10 and the other 20 I sense something else going on.

  2. i am a daughter of a transgender father. i know exacly why the little girl is so angry. this where my first feelings: what would you do? all the people that are saying: ‘but you get something beautiful instead’. no i don’t. cause here i am grieving while my father isn’t that at all! but still i feel like he is dead. cause now i almost have two mothers. seriously you have no idea how angry it makes me.

    it’s so selfish, and i know he can’t do anything about it, it also seems horrible to me to grow up in a wrong body. but still. i feel so powerless.. it all feels like a bad dream.

    but now i’m accepting it. i have a special dad, and i love him in a special way. but still it hurts when we are with his ‘girlfriends’ and he says to me before we go: ‘don’t call me names, just call me Cleo’. and i’m like which names? ‘well you know like dad and stuff’. i’m not aloud to call my father ‘dad’ in front of his ‘girlfriends’. that’s hard. i just feel like there isn’t enough help for the children of transgender fathers, though Abigail has a beautifull website. we (the children of transgender parents) need to get in tough.

  3. Caroline –

    I wish I could talk to you. I am the MTF biological father of a son who is now 26 years old. Fate’s intervention resulted in my coming out to him and subsequently leaving my ex and both of my sons when he was 16.

    We were a very close family before I came out but that changed drastically afterwards (my ex and my 26 y.o. son have nothing to do with me now but my 29 year son still does).

    I have gone on being called “Dad” because nothing is more important to me than having their love and if that’s what they want to call me so what? (I am, after all…)

    But as I said, the 26 y.o. has completely cut me off and I have tried everything I can think of (from groveling to getting angry) to reconnect with him.

    Aside from my own feelings about this I never did and still do not want to hurt him but I also don’t know what else I can do.

    As a child of a transsexual parent, do you have any suggestions for me?

    Thanks, Caroline, and may you find peace in your heart in your relationship with your father.

    Pam

  4. I think you are all crazy. I don’t blame any child that hates their transgendered father. They have already made the commitment to be a father and it is a selfish decision to break that commitment and become a woman at this point. It is unfortunate that some people live their lives unhappy and feel that they are in the wrong sex, but they should suck it up and go on living depressed to spare their children, wives, and family. They have already committed to their families which may have been a mistake, but it is not something they have the right to take back.

  5. Sue, you sound an awful lot like one of those people who would “save the marriage” in order to “spare the kids”. The kids are not better off when a parent is depressed. Emotional unavailability does not “spare” them in any way. Of course the child shouldn’t be blamed, but as adults we are responsible to show them that hate and resentment are a non-productive way of dealing with someone else’s life choices, and that accepting the differences of those close to us and learning to live with them ultimately makes us better people.

  6. My ‘dad’ is a ‘transexual’ my parents are still together, and I still find it weird, my brother and I were bullied to an extent through our childhood, I still find it hard to deal with the fact that my ‘dad’ whom I now call my aunty to friends, isn’t my dad anymore. It makes me angry, and I often think he/she is very selfish, it upsets me quite a lot of the time, the only person I’ve ever talked to about it is my mum. I also find it hard when I get new boyfriends, and I am scared they will find out from someone else before I tell them. I also find it hard, when she gets angry with me and tries to shout at me, as I don’t see this person as my father anymore.

  7. My “moddy” has been a cross dresser all her life. She told my brother and I about it when we were 7 and 10. Then she went on hormones while I was still in highschool despite the fact that I begged her to wait just one more year until I could get out of highschool and wouldn’t have to explain all this to my friends. But she didn’t. Then when I was a freshman in college she flew to Thailand and got the surgery. I tried to mourn the loss of my dad but it didn’t work. I’ve tried not talking to her, I’ve tried therapy, I’ve tried anti-depressents. Nothing works. I still wish I had a male father. But I don’t and I move on and no its not fair what happens to childen of T parents but they will survive. They probably won’t have the healthiest of relationships for a while and they probably will have a lot of emotions. But its the support from others that they need. They need to know that although one parent may have coped out on their end of the deal they have a world full of friends and family that didn’t.

  8. I am taking care of a child that is from a broken home as the mother is a drunk and the dad is a cross dresser ( he does have relationships with males and he is still all male). I really do not know what to do for this child sometimes. She would like for her dad to dress normal when he is around her and he can do what he wants when he is alone. People do make fun of him and it does cause problems. I am the care taker and I have to honestly say I have problems with her dad as he wants her to come live him but up until this time he has never been there for her. I have to make sure her life is good and I can not depend on either of her parents. SHe as been with us for about 2 years and does not want to live with either of them. I do not think either household is good. I want what is best for her but I think both of her parents will do major damage.

  9. Cross dressing does damage to kids no matter what anyone says. Society does not accept it and they have to suffer. I do not think the kids have to suffer and no it is not normal.

  10. Thanks for the feedback. I am separated from my husband of 11 years because he wants to live as Erica. He didn’t want a divorce, he wanted me to become lesbian. No thanks!

    I consider myself very open minded but this is so hard to deal with. I have many gay friends and they are happy being male so don’t understand him either. It must be so difficult to be transgendered. Even the gay community doesn’t get it usually.
    He is not helping me financially in anyway and has seen the children twice in 2 months. He has money for hormones but not for gas to see his twin boys that are turning eight next week. He doesn’t want the neighbors to know he has children so they have to be quiet and do not want to visit his home.

    So I have decided not to have contact with him because he is always negative and hurtful to me and the children and life is confusing enough for eight year olds. Seeing their father dressed as a woman is something I do not want them to see at this time.
    My stepdaughter is in college and very supportive of him. My hope is that the boys will understand later in life.

  11. Well I’m glad I read this. I’m a 28 year old transgendered woman, and also the father of a 3 year old girl. It’s unimaginably hard to deal with. I’ve only been taking hormones for 2 months, and haven’t dressed in front of her yet. I’m sorry to hear that so many children of transgendered dads are so miserable. The last thing I want is to pass my misery onto my daughter. But at the same time, if I stop my transition now, and try to continue my life as a man until the day I die. I will live this entire life without ever knowing happiness. Suicide has crossed my mind a million times as it is. If I throw away these hormones I just bought (which make me feel blissfully at peace for once), throw away the new clothes I just bought, and forget about EVER being my TRUE self.. then I’ll continue to grow more depressed as each day passes, until my loneliness will one day get the better of me, and I’ll finally take my last breath in this miserable existence.

  12. This may sound harsh, but I think transgender dads are just plain SELFISH! It’s all about ME ME ME… how can my children be happy if I’m not happy… I feel sorry for my child BUT I would rather die than not be my true self… blah blah blah. Seriously!?!? There are so many parents around the world who sacrifice and do things that I’m sure make them want to die everyday, but they suck it up and do it anyway because that what parents do. If you want to become a parent and bring another child into this already cruel world, you must be selfless and be able to put your child’s well-being above yourself. My grandfather did hard labour everyday of his life to support his family. Do you think it made him happy or fulfilled? Of course not, but you’ve gotta do what you need to do for the sake of your kids. If you’re not capable of making children your priority – DON”T HAVE KIDS THEN!

  13. Hi
    I’m a young transgendered person and I’m writing and directing a play about a father who comes out as transgendered and loses his daughter and wife. I really want it to be accurate and truthful so I can help people through it who struggle in silence. I’m finding it hard to get into the mindset of the daughter and if there are any people here, male, female, sons daughters or parents who could help me out with information, I’d be eternally grateful.

    It’s personal stuff so I understand if the answer’s ‘no’. I’m writing the play though because this has always been my greatest fear with coming out – losing the ones you love.

    All the best,

    Jess

    jngames@mail.com

  14. I agree with Cayla Marie. My name is Stef and at the youthful age of 53, I am just beginning my transition.
    My 25 yr. old daughter and my 23 yr. old son, are having a hard time right now adjusting to the fact that I (their Dad) am not just gay (I came out 4 yrs. ago), but that I also want to transition to become the woman I feel I am.
    I can’t really imagine the emotional turmoil this is bringing into their lives, but I can imagine how they would feel if I had continued the way that I was living. I’m sure I would have put them through at least one suicide attempt; I feel that if not ‘successful’ the first time I would have tried again. My ex-wife and my kids are actually the three best reasons that I have for being alive today.
    However, I was very unhappy for most of my adult life; coming out as gay was a good first step for me, as I have always been attracted to men. But, due to my upbringing, I was in hiding (even from myself) for over 30 years.
    I agree that children of a Trans parent have a difficult time of it, especially when the transition occurs when they are too young to really understand what’s happening and why; although the why is difficult for all my cis gendered family and friends.
    I do strongly believe however, that my children at least will be able to come to understand. That seems to be the only issue for them now. Support was never a question. When I came out to them as transgender and told them that I plan to start HRT in the near future and dressing more as a woman, they both told me, “This time we’ll need some help. We love you and support you in any decision you feel you need to make about yourself. But we’ll miss our Dad, and we’ll need some help coping with this one.”
    I have a much more positive outlook on life now that I have realized that I am a woman and I’m taking the steps to inform the rest of the world.
    I remain hopeful, that my son and daughter will continue to recognize that, and extend their love and support and further their education about my situation with the resources that I am helping them to find.

    Btw, James is a troll.

  15. I am a mother of 2 teen boys who’s father is trans and it is such a relief to find a site where I can hear from people who are going through situations similar to mine n my son’s n it’s not all Rainbows n roses!! My son’s have gone through their dad dressing as a man literally one day n 2 days later dressed as a woman n being told that their dad is dead n that he is now their “maddy” n that they need to accept him for the woman he’s becoming!!! I tried to let him see the boys after that but he refused to dress even remotely appropriate for a visit with his 6 n 8 yr old sons (short shorts n low cut tops) he felt that the more they saw him dressed how he felt comfortable the easier it would be after a while…huh? He has posted pictures of himself in nothing but womens underwear online n Facebook n when kids at my sons school found them they were tormented n bullied for it!!! Subsequently my boys have not had any contact with their father in over 3 yrs but still they’re angry to the point of hatred and I of course am Silently angry for what my children have to go through!! People judge me and my son’s because we aren’t accepting of the whole trans situation (we’re not PC in the SF area boy do I get a lot of flack) I’m not sure how to help my boys to move on n let go… nor do I know where to find them a place where they can not only be open about their dad but also how they feel about all of this stuff n not be told their wrong or prejudice or whatever… what do I do?!!!

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