When My Daughter Became My Son

One dad grapples with his transgendered child.

by Jack Pugh
man and woman symbols image


Your wife comes home and tells you she loves someone else. After 15 years of marriage, she wants out.

Your boss -- the one who says the company is like a family -- calls you into her office. Seems the family has too many mouths to feed, so goodbye and good luck.

The phone rings. It's the hospital. It's about your father. He's had a stroke.

The universe turns on a dime. We all know that. We come to expect the unexpected. Life quickly teaches us that hearts break, jobs evaporate and health should never ever be taken for granted.

Nothing should be taken for granted. Yet here I am, after a half century of bizarre surprises and rude awakenings, blindsided again. The universe has once more changed and, frankly, I am having a hard time dealing with it.

My daughter, the little girl who made me watch "Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City" every day for two years, is now a man. Sue has become Stu. This new person is completely bald with a small goatee. Hugging "him" (I must force myself to use male pronouns now) is like hugging an oak tree because of the hard corset-like device used to strap down his breasts.

He cannot afford surgery. He just takes lots and lots of male hormones. The result is jarring. My little girl looks like a bald version of beatnik stereotype Maynard G. Krebs.

I have to be honest. It freaks me out. My son, well, my other son, is equally freaked out. He grew up with a big sister. Just a teenager, he cannot accept that he now has a brother. I know how he feels.

I was about his age when I found out that a classmate of mine was homosexual. That was a hard reality to accept back in the late '70s. I felt then the way my youngest son does now, that I never really knew that person, that everything I thought I knew was a lie.

But I also know those feelings are an emotional reaction to a changing and ever-evolving universe. People change.

My oldest child is more than outward appearances and specific pronouns. Still, it will take me some time to get used to the new status quo. I think he understands that. He has not been militant about his transformation. He barely even mentioned it. He just changed his personal references and subtly, over time, let be known that he wants to be regarded as a man.

I respect that. OK, maybe not all the time, but I try to. I still use female references behind his back and refer to him as Sue and "my daughter" to old friends. It feels so much more comfortable.

I wish at times the universe could be ordered to my liking. I wish I wasn't a struggling father, laying awake at night worrying about how my child will now fare in this new life. I wish my daughter was my daughter and giving birth to her second child with her astronaut husband by her side.

That is in my weaker moments.

Then I reflect on how much I love my life, especially the children who have made it so incredible. I think about all the moments we've shared and how proud I am of both of them. And I realize I just want them to be happy and be true to themselves.

The universe can be a chaotic and unpredictable place. It is rarely orderly or even understandable. But I can adjust.

Photo courtesy of Augusto Cabral/Shutterstock.com.

Read: MORE's interview with Chaz Bono.

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Jack Pugh is not the author's real name. At his request, we allowed the use of a pen name in order to protect his family's privacy.

First Published November 18, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


How brave your daughter is to experiment w/ becoming her Dad's son. She may change her mind. She may need your reaction to convince you love 1st as much as little brother. If there is any one piece of advice to give, it is re-assure your child you love no matter what choice made. To be consistently supportive, positive and to hug. You can't change people's feelings. Accept the feelings, accept the child. Nothing can divide your love.Build trust.

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