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My Dad is A Woman; Bruce Jenner and Other Trans-Dads

Updated on May 1, 2015

My Dad

The Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer aired on my 40th birthday. Bruce, a father of 6 biological kids and 4 step children by marriage, officially announced his gender journey. I didn't watch the show initially because I've lived a lot of that already. It’s old news for me but new for society. You see, my dad’s been a fully transitioned trans-woman for 15 years now. Seeing Bruce in the news lately made me immediately think of my dad.

I never saw my dad’s transition so I have to admit I was a tiny bit interested in Bruce’s interview. I was going to college and working so I was too busy to visit my dad who retired and moved a few states away. I hadn’t seen him in 2 years when “she” showed up in my hometown unannounced and called me to visit his hotel room. Let me tell you... You don't know where you stand unless you've had the rug pulled out from under you. Some people go a lifetime without that experience.

I walked in and saw my “dad” in a lacy black shirt with full make-up on and a noticeably larger chest. I wouldn’t say it was a complete shocker. I had early memories (beginning around 5) of my dad dressing in a frilly garment. At age 10, during my parent’s divorce, I heard my mom talk about him being a transvestite as if it was a contagious disease. Back in my day we had no Google (or Internet) so my information came from my mom’s second-hand conversations. Although they didn’t divorce because of my dad’s cross-dressing (that had been going on for a while), it lingered in our lives as a tremendous hurdle for us to conquer.

Should I "come out" to friends and family?

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Coming Out; Consideration for The Family

I knew the Bruce Jenner interview was going to hit home for me. I finally watched it online days later. Watching Bruce was like watching my dad. Here’s a "guy" who's done a fantastic job of being a guy most of his life. My dad also grew up with two sisters, he wasn't a star athlete but very accomplished in his career and served in Vietnam, a genius (literally)/over achiever, over 6’ tall, quirky sense of humor with sarcasm (gee, where did I get that from?). He got married, I was born, he cross-dressed, my mom and I knew, we lived with it, and we kept it secret.

After the interview I’ve considered posting my own news on facebook (not many of my friends and family know). I realized it’s like “coming out”. LGBT people struggle with coming out, but families do too. While Bruce’s kids’ business is already out there, mine has been conveniently hidden. Over the years, I’ve struggled with: Which of my friends and family do I tell? Do people need to know? My “dad” won't be walking me down the aisle at my wedding! Am I comfortable with my son playing dress-up with my daughter? Even I still have a lot to learn.

The transition can be heavy for all involved and I've always loved my dad (I loathe the word “acceptance”). Acceptance is a process (a longer journey) while love was/is always there. Just as it’s a transition for the transgender, it is for the family too- the kids, the parents, the siblings. We have to redefine ourselves in a way too. Initially it felt like grieving my dad yet he was still alive. How does one do that? My dad shaped me as a person and was my main role model. 15 years later it continues to be a process.

Ironically, I began my own journey here on Hubpages about 5 years ago with a hub that broke my silence. I came out to strangers here, and everywhere on the Internet, by writing several articles based on my experience with my dad who transitioned when I was 25. And oddly enough I still struggle with coming out personally in my life to all my friends and family. The struggle is that people will believe they need to accept it and treat me carefully now. I don't want that.

I think I might actually keep up with the Kardashians/Jenners now. How will they handle this process? I realize people may never see me the same again if I make this announcement. Is that judgment? Nah! And judgment I’m OK with, it’s acting on baseless hatred or unnecessary stereotyping that irks me.

Neither political party has a monopoly on "understanding"

— Bruce Jenner

The Elephant in The Room

Bruce broke other stereotypes. Let’s address the elephant in the room during the interview. Hint: It wasn't the Transgender discussion. Bruce Jenner is a Christian Republican! My dad is too! That was the little gem in the interview. Was it me or did Diane Sawyer nearly fall off her seat? I was so pleased with Bruce’s admission I couldn't help but smile. Bruce’s ultra Christian conservative mom stated she loves him, is proud of him, and wants him to be happy. This folks… is NEWS!

In fact, I love that my tough, conservative Marine Vet husband was totally fine with my dad as soon as I told him while dating. On the other hand, my dad’s two very liberal, sisters disowned him after I revealed to them the reason they hadn’t seen him in a couple years (during his transition). These were women who proclaimed and advocated acceptance and tolerance (I still loathe those words). Acceptance and tolerance have become trendy words low in substance and high in apathy. Acceptance is a process, not an ultimatum.

My hope is what Bruce embodies will help alleviate stereotyping over political party, social issues, and religious disputes. "Neither political party has a monopoly on "understanding,” says Bruce. He’s a smart guy. My circle of friends and family include a whole spectrum of colors, religions, beliefs, and political stances. Granted, it’s tough to be friends with all and say the "right" things. However, people should have questions and be forgiven for the occasional politically incorrect slip-up. It’s how we learn (and stay connected).

Tired Terms: Acceptance and Tolerance

Mother Teresa had a list of ways to practice humility. Within this list was a particular point I couldn't disagree with more: "To avoid curiosity". Countless times I've been in public with my dad and there are stares- acceptance or tolerance is silly or at least not realistic. My dad is 6' 3 and very gender neutral looking (like Bruce). He doesn't even fit the stereotype of transgender as even trying to look particularly male or female. As Bruce Jenner claimed, he is "A-sexual".

I don't hate that people stare, they're curious. Kids are curious and when we teach them to squelch that curiosity we kill the spirit of humanity- we draw a line between each other. Kids eventually learn to old adage, "mind your own business" (another incorrect statement by Mother Teresa) and they naturally begin to avoid what they don't know enough about. Some friends and family I've told have infinite questions and man is that awesome! Knowledge is power! If we come to merely "accept" we don't learn because people state they accept, "Good for you"... End of story.

To accept, you need to learn, have personal experiences with various people and that requires questions or even making politically incorrect mistakes without harsh judgment. We have no "tolerance" (the other word I detest) for that though. Since the emergence of political correctness we've stunted our growth. People are afraid to ask questions, afraid to have real discussions, afraid to disagree, and avoid those who are "different" than us.

Interestingly I wrote from my heart about my dad's story years ago and the response was mixed. Many stated I should accept my dad and how dare I feel betrayed (or feel anything). I wanted to give a voice to the families and I accomplished that. Would you rather me lie? To have real discussions one must be honest and forthcoming.

The truth is most of America has a problem and do not "accept" one type of person or lifestyle, if not many. This is the route of "minding your own business". People have less exposure to things they don't understand. In addition, the tolerance and acceptance agenda is pushed unrelentingly. Psychologically, people will rebel against agendas pushed and cling to their original beliefs in a stricter sense. They will be pushed to one extreme or the other further driving a wedge between all of us.

I see it as we all have a soul. Is that soul concerned about dressing as a man or woman? Does it have a sexual preference? Is it a certain color? Nope. Unfortunately pushing the topic to be accepted stirs more controversy and hate- in my opinion. Again, looking to my kids for wisdom, I've noticed from an early age there are other kids they naturally get along with and kids they don't. Often these experiences grow into a generalization we carry into adulthood. Are some kids taught to hate? Sure, but not many. As adults we have this silly notion that we need to like, love, or accept everyone equally.

The issue of religion is quite simple. In a general sense, the Bible has conflicting versus when we are supposed to love one another yet those with certain lifestyles are condemned. I believe it's between that person and God. The contradictions within the Bible are very reflective of the contradictions in humanity- so many differences.

We all have a soul. Is that soul concerned about dressing as a man or woman? Does it have a sexual preference? Is it a certain color? Nope. Unfortunately pushing the topic to be accepted stirs more controversy and hate- in my opinion. Again, looking to my kids for wisdom, I've noticed from an early age there are other kids they naturally get along with and kids they don't. Often these experiences grow into a generalization we carry into adulthood. Are some kids taught to hate? Sure, but not as many as we might think. As adults we have this silly notion that we need to like, love, or accept everyone equally.

We have a very complex relationship

— Cassandra Marino

The Process of Acceptance

How I came to terms: Children know best. Seeing my two young ones interact with their “Grampa” (my dad) helps me realize I can learn from them. This is becoming a common theme. I mean, who’s the parent here? They don’t see a transgender. Bruce will experience this with his grandchildren and he’ll love it. When his own children begin to notice his evolved look during the transition, the grandchildren will still see Bruce.

My relationship with my dad is full of ups and downs (not due to the trans thing). Interestingly enough, our relationship had been built on a lie since I was at least 5. Nobody explained to me why I had to keep certain things about my dad a secret. Into my budding adulthood, my dad knew I was aware of his cross-dressing but still it was a secret between us.

After his surgeries and emergence into a supposed womanhood, I'm sure he felt free to be him/herself as did I. That's where we have our issues. I also feel free to be me as I've never done before. My dad's Gender Dysphoria comes with other personality nuances added to the fact that I'm an outspoken woman, has created strife between us. I've always nodded my head in agreement to everything he's said before now- a very complacent daughter to the man I looked up to. Since I no longer do that because this sisterhood of silence was finally broken, it may be a more authentic relationship, it is more troubled as well. .

Since my dad has no patience for questions on this topic I will look to Bruce, as the Kardashians and the rest of America will, for answers. No pressure Bruce and good luck!

The big, formative years for them (biological children), I was really struggling with these issues

— Bruce Jenner

The Trans-Dad

I've heard form professionals involved in the transitioning of transgender people, that if they were nice people before, they will be after. Same is to be said about trans-parents. If they were good parents before, they likely will be after. As we learn more about families who have experienced this, we can open up a dialogue as I've advocated for yeas now. I guess it took the media a while to catch on.

What we're seeing now is involvement within the family unit. In Bruce Jenner's and my dad's era, any anomalies were hidden and adamantly kept secret. I am all for getting the conversation out there and opening up to families earlier...the better. I commend Bruce for involving his family early. We now know he had not done this back in the 80's when he originally considered a change while beginning hormone replacement therapy. I believe this in turn made his biological kids distant and they knew he had been absent in all ways. I also felt this way.

Years ago when I wrote that original hub, I was blasted with nasty comments from many transgender who believed I was being too harsh. The reality is finally out in the open as America watched Bruce's children speak out. Bruce's biological adult children realized their parent had been stolen from them because of the transgender issues he faced. Society reacts, and immediately protects, the transgender not realizing the family is a part of this too. The family has been affected by this and to pretend we haven't been is feeding into more lies of automatic acceptance.

In a quirky TV series called Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor (kudos to his performance) is a sometimes comedic take on the transgender parent in these adult children's lives- who are a bit eccentric to identify with (for me). I have watched a few episodes and am not impressed only because of the comedic theme and everything seems to be over-the-top rather than an authentic view into this world.

The one thing I think that we have gained that means more to us than anything is the honesty

— Burton Jenner

The posted link here is one perception at how kids are affected by transparents. My dad transitioned later in life, but I strongly disagree with the statement that it is "not harmful" as said by the parents themselves and doctors. However, the kids will say otherwise and doctors are usually participating in the transition of the parent, not the kids of these parents. It is merely a longer lie- the kids only get part of their parent.

Some aspects I agree with:

  • It depends on the child/parent relationship beforehand.
  • It depends on how involved the kids are in the transition.

Breaking more barriers

I have a varying perspective about this considering my background in psychology. Transgender or Gender Identity Disorder/Gender Dysphoria, is in the book of mental illnesses (DSM V). I think it's important it doesn't get dismissed as not having a component of psychological disturbances. Like I said, I've lived with one- well heck I was raised by one.

Another barrier that needs to be broken is that mental illness is shameful. It's just another struggle and we all have them whether it's addiction, depression, etc. There's a component of mental illness in all of those. Within mental illness is a biological component, which supports having no shame regarding this. Does that make them wrong or warped? No!

LGBT don’t want that stigma attached to them but then we only further perpetuate the fact that mental illness is something to be hidden, shamed, or kept secret. This is not the case for all, but it still is enough to be considered. If someone has a mental illness it only means they need extra support from friends and family and they need help form a professional because what they’re dealing with Is too much.


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    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago from The Great Northwest


      Sorry to say, LGBTQ is not a mental illness, but is often associated (comorbidity) with anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia. Update to the article, my dad died of cancer and was mistreated due to the fact that in a liberal city, he could not get the mental diagnosis he needed so that medical staff knew how to manage him. Finally at another hospital, he received antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder diagnosis. Just having this in his medical record helped him recover better treatment while going through cancer and towards the end of his life. Because of the fear of stigma the liberal city associated with LGBTQ and mental health disorders actually harmed him. I will tell you as a therapist now and all of my personal and professional experiences, LGBTQ is related to abuse, rape, molestation, etc. Many don’t get the help they need. Very sad.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      "LGBT don’t want that stigma attached to them but then we only further perpetuate the fact that mental illness is something to be hidden, shamed, or kept secret." LGBT is not a mental illness. The fact that the author can actually associate an entire group of people is frankly shocking behaviour from someone who states they are in psychology and read the dsm. I think you need to get a newer copy since most of the terminology and even aspects on transgender people are better than this. Never mind the misgendering.

    • Larry Copano profile image

      Larry Copano 

      6 years ago from USA

      Yes, acceptance is a process, and you are clearly doing you best. Thank you for that.

      I want to point out that simply being transgender is not a mental illness. It is not diagnosed as a disorder anymore. Some transgender people don't even have dysphoria. However transgender people can suffer mental illness from being forced to hide it for so long, and from this society being so cruel to them.

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      beautiful hub, whether dad is a female or male, doesn't matter as long he loves you as before

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Gem

      Honestly I wanted to give a realistic view and hopefully let people see what's it's like aside from what we see in the media.

      Thanks for your comment and stopping by here to read.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a fantastic article! I have crafted a response reminding viewers (e.g. of Magazines like Vanity Fair) to be realistic about accessibility issues that many trans persons face today. Your story (of your dad) adds nuance and reality to the very real barriers and struggles associated with being transgendered. Excellent read! Thank you and your awesome parent. ;)

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest


      Yes I know exactly what you mean- my family is into the avoidance style communication so I strive to be as open and appropriately honest as I can.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and all your wonderful comments that you shared.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Carson City

      Izetti.....You are so real. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with your readers. I really wish I'd have been as mature and open as you at your age. Sadly, I was brought up during the "we don't talk about this & that," "What will the neighbors think?".....horribly stifling era. Its' just the way it was you know....about most EVERYTHING, not necessarily just a transgender topic.

      Fortunately I grew out of that straight jacket and re-educated myself...

      I'd love a daughter like you! Nothing in this world could change my love for my Daddy either. He died young and I still miss him.

      Wonderfully written, Izetti...... UP+++

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest


      I just changed a portion of this hub when I realized it stated "I hadn't seen my dad in 10 years". That should be "2" years. I Made the correction!

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest


      You bring up a good point. It's hard not to generalize of course but in my experience conservatives (the less extreme) tend to be a case-by-case basis. They accept the person themselves and not necessarily the entire group in an umbrella sense. Which is healthy- we should not judge (like or dislike) a people as a group. It should be case-by-case no matter what side of the fence you're on.

      Thank you ,as usual, for reading and sticking with me all these years!

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Minnetonka twin,

      I completely agree. Family issues, no matter what they are, are embedded with a range of emotions and outcomes. Bruce has several children with all different views and that will be their journey. To be in the public eye will be tough, but hopefully will be worth it to help other families no matter their issues.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Jo Goldsmith,

      I love your view of God and the LGBT. I probably couldn't say it better myself. There are contradicting passages in the Bible and I think that's reflective of the differences in us all as human. It s between that person and God. I really enjoyed your comment. Unfortunately most people see the LGBT community up in arms and pushing limits- basically we see the uglier side of things in the media. And honestly I've never been a fan of any extremists, but many are not.

      My favorite movie was Crash as it shows how we all are woven into each other's lives. The gay person someone hates may be the EMT who saves their life the next day.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Jo Andover-

      I definitely wouldn't say your struggle with your dads alcoholism is any less difficult. Secrecy is tough on individuals and relationships especially with kids. You felt some of my emotions in this hub because you've been through your own distress with your dad. I think no matter the struggles it brings us all together and I hoped to accomplish that with this hub. And like I read in your hub, it doesn't make any sense and that's why I think theres some mental illness.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      I agree, Izettl, a powerful account like this is indeed much like a coming out for any individual. How challenging it must have been for you as a child growing up in these circumstances without knowing or understanding what was happening.

      You are a strong woman and an interesting writer and I thank you for sharing this very personal information.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      I want to thank you for sharing your families story with us. I do understand how there are so many levels and complexities that go into someone transitioning. I understand your feelings regarding your father. I can only imagine the confusion growing up with the secrets of his cross dressing and keeping 'the secret'. I totally understand that you went through a grieving process about your father. I hope Bruce's interview will help other families. This is a family issue like any other. My dad was an alcoholic and it effected every aspect of my childhood and how I turned out as an adult. It's the same growing up with a transgender parent or any other issue. God Bless you for sharing your informative and personal journey with us.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      6 years ago

      This was well written and it held lots of emotions I could feel as I read this. It is difficult for some to "ignore" their personal spiritual beliefs when it comes to the LGBT or Transgender folks. Then you have the issues of so many who seem to portray themselves as "God", and they believe they are the "Judges" of all of mankind!

      I use to fear the LGBT and transgender folks. Once I allowed for honest and open discussion, I finally understood that it is nothing about me, or my beliefs. It is about the person who believes he/she is different. The neat thing and what I find to be special about being honest with the person, and sometimes feeling uncomfortable to talk about this issue. Is that these wonderful people are amazing! They are intelligent and have many talents! They are loving and caring folks. And no matter what identity they "identify" with.

      Like you have excellently shared. They are the same people they always were~! They, thank goodness have found happiness and peace.

      This is something we all should celebrate! :-))

      Up for sure! Shared too.

      Blessings dear woman! :-))

    • Joe Andover profile image

      Ken Ratajczak 

      6 years ago from North Ridgeville, Ohio

      First, I thank you for your comment on the hub I wrote awhile back on Bruce Jenner. Moreover, what an excellent, informative and well structured hub you have written. It's amazing detail and blending of facts with personal life exposure is very powerful. I found your comments on having already had many ups and downs with your father not even relating to the trans-gender factor to be very revealing. It reminded me that all relationships can be strained without any mental illness issues being present.

      I cannot imagine the impact this had on your emotions as you grew up and still continue to evolve as a daughter, professional and adult. I painfully recall my emotional distress and associated difficulties with acceptance and knowledge of my father's own well hidden and long time troubles with his alcoholism. Even tho a serious illness of it's own, it in no way compares to the challenges you had to face.

      Thank you for a well written and personal account of your experience and professional knowledge on this subject. "Initially it felt like grieving my dad yet he was still alive." was a very intricate and personal statement that actually made me feel your struggle.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      love the hub dear. I to believe conservatives are more understanding in many ways that liberals aren't. Thanks so much for the writings.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Just years ago when I first wrote on this topic, it was something that was rarely talked about or anybody knew anything about. Even when gay issues are discussed rarely is transgender discussed. When I first did research I could look up transsexual or transgender and xxx rated stuff came up in the search engines. Talk about misinformed!!

      Thanks gmwilliams

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is a very interesting story of your father. There are some who were meant to be of the opposite gender but were born in a different body. Each person has to do which makes him/her happy and fulfills his/her soul. We are lucky to live at a time where transgenderism is acceptable.


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