This weekend, families across the state of Washington will show dad some much-need appreciation, and celebrate the love and support that fathers can bring into our lives.
And transgender fathers, and fathers of transgender children, deserve more love than ever this year, considering we’re less than a month away from I-1552’s ballot qualification deadline. If I-1552 passes, and non-discrimination protections for transgender Washingtonians are repealed, real harm will come to fathers, children, and families across our state.
That’s why we’re taking a moment to highlight the stories of three families who depend on these protections:
Clark | Mercer Island
Clark had long known something was missing from his life, but he hadn’t explored that feeling too deeply—until four years ago, when his father passed away.
It provided a moment of clarity, as well as a “punch in the gut” that reminded him how short life is, and that he couldn’t spend the rest of it not addressing this incomplete feeling. That feeling, Clark soon understood, was the fact that he is transgender.
From his earliest childhood, Clark always knew he was male, even though he had been assigned a female gender identity at birth. But he didn’t have the word, “transgender,” until he was watching a documentary about transgender actor and activist Chaz Bono with this mother, who had moved in with him after his father passed away.
During the movie, Clark says, “I turned to my mother and gasped, ‘this is me.’” And as it turned out, Clark wasn’t the only one who had always known he was living as the wrong gender.
“I cherish that I am living in a state that honors and respects me being my authentic self,” –Clark, Mercer Island
“My mom just casually nodded and replied, ‘You were supposed to be a boy.’”
Clark knew that to be complete, he needed to act on this realization. But it was such a big change, and he continued to put it off until one December when, inspired by the memory of his father—who was born in December—he finally began to take steps to live as the man he had always known himself to be.
It was a process made easier by the fact that Washington has non-discrimination protections for transgender people.
“I cherish that I am living in a state that honors and respects me being my authentic self,” he says.
Michael & Myles | Monroe
Michael is a high-school science teacher, so he’s used to being the one that people look to for knowledge, and to explain what they don’t understand.
So when Michael’s 8th-grade son, Myles, told his dad that he was transgender, it took a little while for him to get used to the fact that there was no road map, no “how-to” guide to being the father of a transgender child.
“Having a transgender son was something our family didn’t expect—and didn’t know much about,” he says.
But he was determined to do what he did know how to do as a father: Provide love and support.
“That meant educating ourselves,” he says. “I needed to get comfortable being the student for a change.”
“Having a transgender son was something our family didn’t expect—and didn’t know much about. That meant educating ourselves.” –Michael, Monroe
One thing Michael didn’t realize in the beginning was how pervasive discrimination toward transgender people is. As a father, this really scared him. No parent wants to imagine their child will be singled out for bullying and harassment.
Michael was soon reassured, thanks to Washington’s robust transgender non-discrimination protections. But now, ever since opponents of equality started pushing their anti-transgender ballot initiative, fear has crept in again.
I can’t take these protections for granted,” he says. “If they’re repealed, I’m afraid the fog that had settled over Myles before he was able to live openly could come back.”
Cory & Julie | Edmonds
Before Julie met her husband Cory, she didn’t consider herself the “romantic type.” Romance was something that made for a great novel, but someone looking for their “forever partner,” as she was, should be realistic.
“I had thought it would take a while to find this soul,” she says. “Then I met Cory. Not only is he exceedingly gorgeous, but we clicked immediately and talked many nights away, getting to know one another and falling in love.”
Part of getting to know Cory was learning that he is transgender, and getting to know better herself what that means.
That meant dealing with strangers who would ask rude or inappropriate questions, and medical professionals who would give Cory substandard care because of his gender identity.
“Being transgender is a piece of himself that regularly needs to be explained or defended,” she says. “There are cruel and uneducated people in this world.”
Being transgender is just one part of Cory’s identity though, and every day she’s finding something new to love about him. And one of the things she loves most is how diligent and caring he is with their daughter. Julie says no matter what is going on, no matter how busy life is, Cory makes time daily to play with her.
“We’d have to worry about facing discrimination, just because someone doesn’t accept Cory for who he is. What kind of message does that send to our daughter?” –Julie, Edmonds
The time they spend together as a family so important, and Julie worries about the impact repealing Washington’s transgender non-discrimination protections would have on their daughter.
“When we’re out in public as a family—with our two-year-old daughter—we’d have to worry about facing discrimination, just because someone doesn’t accept Cory for who he is,” she says. “What kind of message does that send to our daughter?”