‘What did you do to my child?! She’s telling me she’s our SON.’ That was the angry text I got from my ex-wife.’

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“‘Siri left me a letter. Telling me that she is my son and was never my daughter.’

‘What did you do to my child?’

These were the two angry texts, from my ex-wife and mother to my child, that I woke up to on Saturday morning.

At first, I was angry and hurt. ‘How could my little girl tell her mom something like that before me?,’ I thought.

How could my ex-wife be so angry with me and throw this in my face? Like it’s something wrong, and my fault, rather than a transition in identity that our daughter was going through?

Do I need to start calling my beautiful little girl my son?

Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg

I had always been the primary parent. Before our divorce, I was a stay at home dad. Afterwards, I became the custodial parent. I’m the one who kept all of our daughter’s things, always helped with homework, did birthday parties, and school events.

Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg

I always tried to be an understanding and conscientious parent. Growing up, I was a very sensitive child. My parents never understood that and I faced a lot of bullying at school. Because of this, there was always a process I went through when my baby had any issues.

I knew that understanding her at times would be hard. So I tried to remember those difficult, emotional times for me and compare them to how she might be feeling inside. Then, be very honest with myself when comparing my needs as a dad to her needs as a child.

First, while crying, I sent an admittedly angry reply back to my ex-wife. I told her that we were not married anymore, OUR daughter was having a personal identity issue, and she had absolutely no right to throw that in my face. Furthermore, that OUR daughter (son?) needed her right now and we both had to be there for OUR child.

Then, I went outside to watch the sun on a nearby pond and remember my little girl growing up. She’s 11, almost 12 now. I knew she was different for a long a time. How? I didn’t know. But I wasn’t shocked by this new revelation. That knowledge didn’t make this any easier though. She was still my little girl. I had always wanted a girl and knew this would be rough for me.

I remember when she was in daycare and punched a boy in the face for pulling her hair. How she’d rather be outside climbing trees, hunting for bugs, and finding rocks rather than playing princess or having tea parties. How she always loved Legos more than Barbie, hated Disney movies, but loved super heroes. How, after the divorce, whenever she’d stay at her mom’s house, she would call me on the phone, crying, and ask me to come get her.

Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg
Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg
Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg

None of that really explains how I knew she was different though. She never really cried except when she was really upset or completely exhausted. She was never really good at telling me her feelings and rarely wanted to cuddle. But she always wanted to wrestle and always wanted me nearby when she was outside doing things. Whenever complicated situations happened, she would think about them for a few days, and then ask me pointed questions so that she could understand.

So, in the end, while watching the sun come up, I realized something. It didn’t matter which parent she told first. What mattered is that my baby needed me to love and support her, even if I didn’t understand these current changes. Even if it hurt me a little.

I went back inside, dried my eyes, had my coffee, fed the cat, and made breakfast for when my daughter woke up. Because she needed a normal and safe morning. I didn’t talk to her about this for a while that morning because I needed to think and make sure I approached it in the right way.

Later, while we were taking a long drive, I asked her about the letter and how she was feeling. It’s always been easier for her to talk about emotional things while we were driving. That way I wasn’t looking right at her and she had energy to look while thinking about her replies.

She said that she’d been feeling this for years but didn’t know how to communicate it exactly. She felt more and more, since then, that she should have been a boy. That she had told her close friends at school and they were okay with it. She also mentioned that she left a note for her mom telling us about this because she didn’t want to be there when her mom found out. She was nervous about how her mom would react. But she knew that I wouldn’t care and would just accept it. Thankfully, she couldn’t see the tears this brought me.

This was a week ago. It’s still very new for us both. I’m still struggling with the new pronouns and how exactly to show my child support in this. But that’s the thing about being a parent. It’s never easy. It’s always challenging. You’re never going to be perfect. The only thing, the most important thing, you can do is always be there and always be accepting. Because not matter how old they are, your kids will always need you.

We’re on a new journey now, a hard one. But with love and only love, I know we will be okay.”

Courtesy of Elisha Zaugg

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elisha Zaugg. You can follow his journey on his blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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