I have a strange relationship with my dad.
Not like a Prince Sign “O” The Times Strange Relationship. And maybe not even strange, since I really don’t know how “normal” relationships with fathers are supposed to go.
No one else had a greater influence on me as a kid, but we never spent that much time together. My parents split up before I was a year old, so I only saw my dad on Saturdays, and every year we’d go camping a couple of times, or on fishing trips with my uncles and cousins.
So he was in my life, but we were never really close. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s I hardly ever saw him. He moved once and I didn’t even know until I rode my bike out to where his mobile home used to be and it wasn’t there. And that was a long ride. He built a new house out in the woods somewhere and I only visited it a couple of times. Carol and I went to see him a year or so ago, and that was the first time I’d been to his house in Wisconsin. A place he probably moved to 20 years ago.
We love each other, there’s no doubt about that. But we’re very similar in that we’re not big phone talkers or keep-in-touchers. It’s like a childhood friend that you only see every ten years, but when you get together everything is easy and it’s like no time has passed.
When I came out as trans I didn’t have any awkward personal conversations with anyone first. I did it online, and in a podcast, and everyone found out at once. I didn’t do it that way because I’m a coward, though I am a coward as far as some things go, that’s just how it happened.
And if I’d given it a lot of thought (I didn’t) I would have probably done it that way anyway. It seems to me like it’s a better way to approach it. People can take their own time to get used to the idea, they can see my new picture and if and when they feel like talking to me about it, they can.
That’s worked pretty well so far, and I know where I stand with most of the people I know. But not everyone is connected to me on social media, and not everyone I know listens to my podcast, so there were some gaps there, in the who-knows-what area.
One of those gaps was bridged when I changed my LinkedIn profile to Hannah. I can see that a lot of ex-coworkers have looked at it, but no one has said anything so far.
The other gap that wasn’t so easily bridged was telling my dad.
He’s not exactly a computer guy, so he wouldn’t learn about it online. And like I said, we don’t really talk on the phone much. In fact, I can tell you exactly how often we talk on the phone: once a year. When I call him on father’s day.
I came out right around his birthday, so I didn’t want to call and say, “Happy birthday! I’m trans!” It didn’t seem like the timing of that was very good. And I doubt he’d even know what it meant.
So I wrote him a letter. That probably sounds weird, but since we don’t really talk, to me it seemed like the way to go. Plus I had no idea how he’d take the news. He’s 81 years old, and a traditional kind of man’s man, what with the camping and hunting and fishing and shooting of guns and riding of Harleys.
That said, he’s always been supportive of me, and I’m sure that wasn’t always easy for him. Like when I decided, as a teenager, that I was going to be a rock and roll musician and I wasn’t going to change my mind about that. Then when I was in my 20s and grew dreadlocks and played in reggae bands, that had to seem like some straight-up Martian shit to him. But he was always cool about everything.
But still, telling him I’m trans isn’t the same as telling him I’m headed out on a punk rock tour in a station wagon or moving to Los Angeles and growing dreadlocks. Those things aren’t normal, but they’re also not flying on the face of who I was, as far as he knew, my whole life.
So I wrote the letter. Which took a minute (or a month) because I wanted it to be right, and I wanted to tell him the truth about what was happening, but not project anything onto him, or assume his reaction would be negative and preemptively apologize for who I am (something that’s hard for me to do in general when talking about being trans – I have to stop myself from saying things like, “I know it’s weird, but…” because it’s not weird and I don’t have to apologize).
But the main thing was I didn’t want to force him into a conversation he wasn’t ready to have. So I wrote the letter and at the end, I said, “I look forward to talking whenever you feel like picking up the phone.” I sent it a couple of weeks ago.
So far, he hasn’t, you know, picked up the phone.
That could be for a few reasons. He and his wife could be on vacation. They like to travel around the country doing whatever they do when they travel around the country. Or it could be the letter was slow getting to him, with the leisurely pace the post office seems to operate at these days.
Or, more likely, he got it he read it – or his wife read it to him, he’s not real big on reading – and he’s freaked the fuck out, and hasn’t called because he doesn’t know what to say. I say that’s the likely story, but it’s also possible that he’s just like, “No, no, no, no, nope. Can’t get behind that. He’s no son of mine.”
Which I’m not, that’s the whole point. And he wouldn’t say something like that anyway.
My hope is that he’s not just like tremendously sad about it. But that’s also a possibility. This all sounds so stupid, doesn’t it, because I don’t have to guess how he feels, I could pick up the phone right now and find out in about 30 seconds. But like I said, I want him to have time to digest the whole thing.
It just feels weird that he’s still taking that time. I want to give it to him but I also want him to call me and say everything is fine and he loves me. That’s what I want, but I knew, even before I told anyone, that it wasn’t going to do me any good to have any expectations at all where anyone was concerned. It doesn’t help me to assume the best or the worst.
And that’s proven to be true since most people aren’t ever going to come right out and tell you what they think anyway. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so everyone’s either supportive – or at least pleasant – about it, or they’re not saying anything. Which is fine.
For everyone but my dad. Ha ha. I don’t have any expectations about his reaction, but I admit that I did have an expectation that he’d get in touch with me right away, whatever his reaction was.
My mom died a little more than a year ago, and it would have been the same kind of thing with her. My sisters seem to believe she would have been fine with it, but I know better. She flipped her damn wig any time I did anything remotely feminine, so I learned early on not to let her see anything like that.
So yeah, blah, blah, blah, parents. Boo hoo. Everyone has a difficult relationship with their parents. Okay, maybe not everyone, but just about everyone. The funny thing is I really don’t give a shit what my dad thinks about it. Yet his opinion feels like the most important opinion in the world to me.
Explain that. I can’t.