My Daughter’s Reaction to Her Trans Parent Was a Surprise to Us All

Jess deCourcy Hinds
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The first time our two year-old Fiona saw her father in a dress, makeup and blonde wig, she stared. The second time, she barely blinked. She just scampered over to show off her cookie. “Shish-shish, Dada!” (Delicious).

After eleven years of marriage, my husband, Stefan, has become my wife, Stefanie. We all think of Stefanie as my daughters’ parent now, not their second mom, although this might evolve over time. Our 9 year-old daughter calls Stefanie “Stef” and our 2 year-old calls her “dada.” I’m a cis woman who identified as bisexual long before Stefanie came out, so I adjusted pretty smoothly to Stefanie’s discovery of her sparkly rainbow self. Six months into hormone therapy, Stefanie mostly presents as female, but not always. Coming out can still be scary or uncomfortable for her.

During our family’s transition, we find fun in simple, everyday things, like our undying devotion to colorful Crocs. Fiona likes to deliver shoes to all of the family members, running after Stefanie with pink plastic clogs and declaring, “Dada dooz!”

When our family starts putting on shoes, Fiona squeals in delight, points to the door and says, “Eggo!” (Let’s go!). Shoes are her passport to the greater world of playgrounds, friends and chocolate croissants. For me, shoes can be anxiety-provoking. What will happen when we leave our cozy family nest? Will we get uncomfortable looks, stares—or worse?

I’d like to think our plastic clogs have magical, fairy tale powers. Maybe the pink Crocs can protect Stefanie, who knows? Cinderella’s glass slipper shaped the trajectory of her love life; Dorothy’s ruby pumps helped her get home. Fiona is a fan of Disney’s Frozen films, and reminds us daily—and in a very stern voice—that Anna wears black boots and Elsa silver. If I ever put the wrong shoe on the wrong doll, I’m in trouble. Switching shoes would disturb her rigidly-ordered toddler universe.

If Fiona catches me wearing Stefanie’s pink shoes, she unleashes a toddler tornado. “NO! Dadda’s dooz!” She grabs at my feet, trying to pull them off, and will not be satisfied until I have surrendered the stolen shoes. Then she will fetch my zebra Crocs, and wait, hands on her hips, scowling, until I put on my own.

Stefanie isn’t comfortable wearing female clothes in front of the babysitter quite yet and one morning, she was packing the kids’ lunch boxes in gender-neutral clothing and shoulder-length hair. “Dadda dooz!” Fiona shouted, barreling towards Stefanie with the flowered shoes in hand and beaming. Stefanie looked a little uncomfortable, but thanked her and ruffled her hair.

The babysitter laughed in surprise, then looked at me with puzzled disbelief. I’d spent months coming out to almost everyone we know, giving lengthy explanations, educating people on trans issues. I’d helped Stefanie decide on a new first and middle name, and fill out paperwork to change her gender on official documents. I’d agonized over questions about how to book plane tickets, pay credit card bills and fill out emergency contact forms. When Stefanie runs errands late at night, I often wait at home with my heart in my throat, afraid for her safety. And what do we do about Father’s Day?

When our lives feel complicated and fraught with tough decisions, toddlers give us a crystal-clear vision of unconditional love—and the ferocity of their convictions. I learn from my Fiona. So I just smiled and said to the babysitter, “Yep, those are her shoes,” without further explanation. Being queer fits our family. Every day might not be easy, but my family finds deep satisfaction in walking through our lives authentically—in cute and comfy shoes, of course.

 

Jess deCourcy Hinds
Tinybeans Voices Contributor

 

Jess deCourcy Hinds loves being a mom of two daughters, 7 years apart. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, Jess has been a New York Times Modern Love columnist. When she's not working as an academic librarian, she's toiling away on a novel and memoir. She and her wife and girls delight in lake swimming and bookstores. Photo by Doug Weiner.

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