When people find out my husband is a transgender man, they always want to know how I’m going to tell my kids, when I’m going to tell my kids, or if we’ll even tell them at all. My children are 5 and 2, and they have never not known my partner is trans. After all, why would we hide something that so obviously affects every part of their father’s life?
So, while people might not understand our family dynamic, my answer to many of their questions is relatively simple: It’s not a big deal. When it comes to my children, their papa is their papa and he’s always been their papa and he always will be their papa.
But there are a few ways it’s different for me, as someone who parents with a trans man. I don’t think our dynamic is better or worse than anyone else’s, I just think it’s different in some ways... and the same in others. For example, it sheds a little light on gender expectations and parenting roles in general. And my non-trans mom friends who are parenting with non-trans men are sometime surprised by the little ways it makes an impact. But there are also notable ways that our dynamic is a non-issue, and I believe those are worth highlighting, too.
1. My Husband Understand Periods
Not only does my husband understand periods, he truly gets them. So he's all about those heating pads and ibuprofen and massages, and he doesn't hesitate to just take the kids so I can be left the hell alone for a while. I don't have to explain why, or try to equate my period cramps to some other physical ailment so he can better empathize. He just gets it, and that's awesome.
2. "The Talk" is More Complicated
Talking to our children about what makes boys and girls is a lot more complicated. Since I’m a bearded mama and their dad is trans, the majority if not almost all children’s books about gender and reproduction just don’t make sense for our family.
Luckily, our oldest is extremely inquisitive and loves to asks questions, so when they were preparing to become an older sibling we did a lot of editing on the fly at story time. Yes, there are a lot more gender inclusive children's books available to families than there were just five years ago, but there still aren't enough if you parent a very nosy kid who wants to hear all the scientific details, and is not satisfied with Cory Silverberg's sweet and fairly general treatment of reproduction in What Makes A Baby.
3. Potty Training In Public Is A Different Kind of Stressful
My partner came out of the airport restroom looking a little more flustered than usual. We were changing planes with our toddler in some airport, I think Houston? In any case, we were somewhere you don't want to be if you're a trans man trying to change your 2-year-old's diaper, only to have your 2-year-old looks over at a non-trans man at the urinal in the crowded men's room and say, "Look, Papa, penis! Papa have a penis?"
Chalk it up to our commitment to educating our children about their bodies at a young age.
When my husband goes to the restroom in public, he's not worried that his kid will make a scene or those automatic toilets will scare his toddler. He's worried he'll be seen as a dangerous trans weirdo doing something to a young child in "the wrong" restroom. I get second glances in the women's room on account of my beard sometimes, but my right to be changing a baby in there isn't questioned the way my husband's is.
Once I understood this, we had a long talk about it and rehearsed a few scenarios. He's still got to take care of the kids in the bathroom when we're on the go, but it helps to know why it makes him anxious.
4. No Fights About A Gender Reveal Party
My partner supports our kids’ gender explorations 100%. If they want to wear a dress and jeans and play roller derby fire chief pirate with a superhero boyfriend and a surgeon girlfriend, he’s on board. He has never tried to shame our probably-boy-type children for crying, and he's never tried to "toughen them up." He's happy to buy them dresses or paint their nails, and he's not eager to indoctrinate them into sports. I didn't have to fight with him about not having one of those gender reveal parties that just feel so gross to both of us.
But... Dude Hangups Are Still Dude Hangups...
This man bought his own tampons for 20 years and he admitted to me it makes him nervous every time I ask him to buy mine.
He does it anyway, though. Because it's part of the job.
... And Household Chores Still Exist...
Household chores still exist, and no he’s not magically better at doing his part than the average cisgender dude. He is willing to work on it, but there's a fair bit of the household management load that falls on me because I'm better at it... even though he was also socialized as a girl. Probably every relationship has its share of stress and contention when it comes to the division of labor, but if I had any fantasies that a man who was raised as a girl would know how to load a dishwasher, they didn't survive the first six months.
But at least he cooks.
... And Our Family Is Still One Of Love
Our kids know that their papa is a different kind of dad than most kids’ dads, but that knowledge doesn’t shake them at all. They are simply not worried about it, and neither am I. It affects our lives together, but we’re a strong family because of who we are, not in spite of it.