I'm the daughter of a transphobic father

Opinion

by Bianca Graulau

I hesitated to write this publicly because I wouldn't want to paint a misleading picture of my father. I have no doubt he's transphobic, but he is also one of the most loving, compassionate, and generous people I know. After all, he's the same man who paid for rehabilitation for more than one stranger he encountered on the streets of Puerto Rico, to name one of the many actions that make him admirable in my eyes.

 

But my dad was also raised in a Christian household and taught to selectively, and conveniently, take parts of the Bible to heart (not the one that talks about selling your daughter as a slave, of course). For example, the verses that condemn cross-dressing as an abomination because, as my dad would say, 'God doesn't make mistakes.'

 

According to my father, being born with a penis undeniably means you're a man and if, as a kid, you start showing signs of 'derailing' from the manly tracks the Lord intended you to follow, it is your parents' job to set you straight. This conversation is what caused me to storm out of his house one summer afternoon.

 

We were watching TV and news about 'Brangelina' must have come on because I brought up their daughter who was born Shiloh but goes by John, wears suits and ties, and has short hair. In the provocative manner that I like to challenge my conservative family members, I applauded John's parents for being supportive of her wishes and added that I would be more than happy to allow my children to wear what they chose, even if that went against societal gender roles.

 

'That's right, dad. If your grandson wanted to wear a skirt, I would take him to the store, buy it for him, and dress him in it. Are you saying you would have a problem
with that?' At this point I'm not sure what I expected him to say to that. Sure, I was under no illusion that my father would suddenly approve of this after spending his life measuring his and others' masculinity against a checklist of macho requirements.
But I was also not prepared for such a crude response as 'he would not come in through that door.' I could feel the tension build up in my chest and I asked, 'your grandson? I'm talking about your grandson here.' He doubled down and said, 'he would not be welcome in this house.' I said, 'well, I guess it's time for me to go, too.'

 

As I opened the door he said: 'Adiós' (good-bye) in the tone he uses when he's unwilling to budge. So there I was, driving off in the car my dad let me borrow during my stay in Puerto Rico, because he refused my non-existent transgender son entry to his home. But it felt personal. And at that point I hadn't even met Kristy Ramirez or teared up with her story. However, it wasn't hard for me to put a face to the issue and understand that outdated ways of thinking, like my dad's, were responsible for the suffering of transgender people out there.

 

The question I posed to my dad was more than a hypothetical, it was meant to be a test of his ability to choose love and compassion over his skewed interpretation of 'Christian values.' In my heart, I hoped he picked the former. 

 

I stayed at my aunt's house for a couple of days until I started feeling regret for not spending time with him during my short vacation in Puerto Rico. I called him and, with a soft-spoken voice, he said he was wondering how I was doing and hoping to see me. We picked up where we left off, I came back to California, and we continued our regular calls, until an argument over homosexuality caused us to stop talking again for a few days.

I know my dad's words don't come from a place of hate. Part of the problem is he doesn't realize how harmful his lack of understanding really is. I don't know if my stories or my arguments will one day change his mind. But it's hard for me not to try to bridge the gap between the father I know to be loving, compassionate, and generous, and a section of the population that is being unfairly punished for our reluctance to let others live the life they choose.

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