Magazine for Sexuality and Politics

My Child in Transition

An Interview with a Dad

Katrin Angermann

Katrin: When did you first learn that your child was considering transitioning?

Achim: Before he truly opened himself up to me, I really had no idea how he was doing. He had been having problems for quite a long time. He was having problems at school, at his job, with his studies and I thought it mainly had to do with psychological problems. But it wasn't until he discussed everything with me that I knew about his feelings of brokenness. But maybe it also had to do with the fact that he first had to find his own way and to find out his own answers to "Who am I and what am I?".

Katrin: How did it feel when your son opened up to you?

Achim: I was more or less surprised and also very relieved. I soon had the impression that his decision was the best path for him going forward. As for myself, I did not have any negative feelings such as rejecting him or the sense of "this simply just cannot be”. And I should also add that he himself had not dared to tell me all this directly. He wrote me a letter and, while I was reading it, he was standing on the balcony looking at me in a state of anxious anticipation of what his "old man" would end up saying. He was very relieved when he realized that I had taken note of everything he had written and that I did not question him.

Katrin: What was the most difficult aspect about it all for you?

Achim: The most difficult thing was that I had lost a daughter in that moment. If my daughter acts like a man and wants to be treated like one, then she’s not a daughter anymore. I mean I raised him after all.

Katrin: Were you worried in any way about him?

Achim: I was basically worried about him because he happens to live in a dangerous part of town. This is a place where even his brother didn't get out unscathed. He doesn't like going on walks through his neighborhood. My son is rather short and skinny and so he’s very vulnerable in such an area. That honestly is cause for concern. Nevertheless, my concerns are slowly going away because my son has been developing a stronger sense of self-awareness.

Katrin: Did you know what was going to happen in the course of your child's transition?

Achim: Before, I didn't really know that much about it. My son explained it all to me, what was more or less going to happen. But still I did not know about any of the precise details then. I wasn’t quite aware about the entire process of transitioning. I only began dealing with the issue more intensively when it was happening right before my very eyes.

Katrin: How are you doing as a father today?

Achim: I’m always happy to see him. Even after his transition, nothing has fundamentally changed in our relationship. For me, it’s no longer important whether he was once my daughter or that now he’s my son. For me, he’s a human being! And it doesn't matter at all what gender this particular person happens to be.

Katrin: Do you experience him in a different way now?

Achim: He is definitely happier with the way he is now.

Katrin: How do you address your child now?

Achim: He’s now become my son. For the most part, I do address him using his new name but sometimes when we talk I might use his female name. He then goes on to correct me immediately but you can't just turn that off like a switch in your head. If you've been saying "she" for 25 years, then there's no way of totally erasing that. It will probably take another 25 years for me to accept this as an established fact.

Katrin: Is there any advice that you might have for other parents or relatives who find themselves in a similar situation?

Achim: Accept your children as they are, no matter how old they happen to be. Accept them the way they want to be accepted. Any idea that you might have about how your child ought to be is unimportant. What really counts is for them to be able to follow a path that is in harmony with themselves.

Katrin: How important was it for you to share your thoughts about your son’s transition to your friends?

Achim: When his transition had just occurred, I was formulating my thoughts and feelings rather extremely. I first had to deal with the death of my daughter, so to speak, before I could accept the birth of my son. The conversations I was having with my friends helped me to process to some extent the grief and pain I was experiencing. It was really necessary for me to have these conversations.

My son has made a decision for himself. And if he is happy with it for the rest of his life, then so am I.

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