Transgender dad: I used to have to celebrate Father's Day in secret

·3 min read

My first Father’s Day after I began transitioning came in 2018. I’d just had my surgery the day before and was given bed rest orders, but I was too excited to stay home. I was eager to join my father-in-law and my wife’s grandfather, cooking and barbecuing on the day set aside to honor fathers. I spent the entire day on my feet, entertaining and soaking it all in.

Sure, I paid for it the next day with some excruciating pain, but it was worth it to receive my first Father’s Day gift – a gift card to Golden Corral, our favorite family restaurant – and to finally feel recognized for who I was inside.

That day was years in the making. I never celebrated Mother’s Day, even when I looked like a woman. It never felt right. My son, Jacob, had been calling me “Dad” for years, and since he called my mother “Mom,” we had always celebrated Mother’s Day with her, for her. When Father’s Day came along, Jacob and I would sneak away to spend time together so as not to upset my mother’s conservative, Catholic and Hispanic values.

Finding fatherhood

When I came out to my parents as lesbian at the age of 15, those same beliefs meant they couldn’t understand. I left home, in search of the support I craved to discover what was going on with my mind and my body. At 20, I knew I wanted to transition, to make my body look the way I felt inside – a dream that I wouldn’t realize until three years ago, at the age of 42.

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Now that I’m completing my gender affirmation surgery, I think about other queer people who feel like I did so many years ago: stuck in a body that doesn’t represent who they truly are. And on Father’s Day, I think of all of those assigned the gender of female at birth who hope to one day transition, and to openly celebrate this day with me.

Kris Garcia, left, and his son, Jacob, in Denver, Colorado, in June 2021.
Kris Garcia, left, and his son, Jacob, in Denver, Colorado, in June 2021.

While Pride Month is a celebration of the movement to win equal rights for all queer people, Father’s Day itself is traditionally a very gendered holiday that leaves many queer people out of the festivities. Instead of recognizing all those who identify as male fathers, the holiday is often reserved only for those who look a certain way.

This Father’s Day, I hope that all father figures – including gender noncomforming, nonbinary and transgender people – are seen and celebrated. I hope that we all find our community of support who rally around us and recognize us as the role models and leaders we are, in spite of what we may look like on the outside.

I understand that it’s a blessing to not only be called “Dad” but now, because of how I look, to also be recognized as a dad. It’s a feeling I want other queer people who are fathers to experience. And there's the same need for inclusion for trans mothers in Mother's Day celebrations.

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My son, Jacob, whom I carried and delivered, looks so much like me now that when we go out, people wonder aloud what his mom looks like. It’s a funny occurrence, but it reminds me of how far we have to go in understanding and making room for noncisgender lived experiences.

Pride is not about singling out a certain group; it’s about being able to recognize differences. And I hope this Father’s Day, society actually lives the tenets it celebrates during Pride Month by valuing fathers of all kinds.

Kris Garcia is a board member for Colorado 9to5 and an activist with the Family Values @ Work and the Paid Leave For All's Voices of Workers group. Follow him on Twitter: @Krisfgarcia

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What Father's Day means to a transgender dad: Make the day inclusive