Today I called my older daughter, Azaelia, who lives in New Jersey with her other dad. I live in Texas. Yes, we co-parent. Yes, I gave birth to my daughter. And yes, my younger daughter, Jurnee, who lives with me in Texas, has a different dad than her sister. Why is that, you ask? Because transgender people are human beings. That’s why. We have relationships that don’t work out. We have families that consist of stepparents and half siblings … just like the rest of the world. My being transgender doesn’t make me any less human than a cisgender person — and I shouldn’t be held to different standards either.
But sometimes I feel like people want me to be.
My name is Kayden Coleman. I am a 35-year-old Black, gay, transgender dad. I gave birth to my two amazing daughters after I began transitioning. When I think about what I want people to know about being a transgender dad, the very first thing that comes to mind is that we are human beings. As a person who is openly a “seahorse” dad (a term used when referring to transgender men who carry their own children; in nature, it is the male seahorse who carries babies), I have quickly realized that the assumption for most of society (a lot of transgender people included), is that when transgender men transition, we are saying that we hate our bodies or what our bodies can do. That is absolutely false. I have never hated my body; it just felt foreign to me until I made the changes necessary for it to feel like home. My transition wasn’t me “giving up” my option to give birth. I did not transition to try to be a cisgender man. I know I am not a cisgender man. I am a man, but I am a transgender man, and in my case, that means I have the tools necessary to carry and birth children, and the autonomy over my own body to do so. So I did. Twice.
Being a dad is amazing. Being a transgender dad is amazing. My kids call me Daddy. They know, or, in my younger daughter’s case, will know that I gave birth to them. My 8-year-old already knows and has never been confused. I am just a parent. I struggle with being overwhelmed and tired and broke … and tired … and overwhelmed … did I mention broke? I also love my kids with every fiber of my being. They keep me going and are the main motivation behind why I fight so hard to educate people about the transgender community. I want them to grow up in a world where they won’t have to fight for … anything, really. But realistically, I want my kids to grow up with empathy and tolerance. And I lead by example.
When Azaelia was 4 or 5, she asked me why she doesn’t have a mommy. I told her that she doesn’t have a mommy because Daddy (me) wasn’t comfortable being a girl, so I changed some things about myself so that I could be happy. I told her that while she may not have a mommy, she has two dads who love her and would love her forever and that will never change. Her response? “OK, Daddy. I love you, too.” And she never asked me that question again.
I told her that she doesn’t have a mommy because Daddy (me) wasn’t comfortable being a girl, so I changed some things about myself so that I could be happy.
Being a transgender dad means answering a lot of questions. The problem is that most of the questions are not coming from my kids. My kids have the fewest questions, actually. Adults constantly question why I transitioned to male just to do a “female” thing. Or they tell me that my children will grow up to be unhappy and confused. I’m asked where their mother is when they’re being taken to the doctor or signed up for day care. What’s strange about that last question is that when you see a woman with a child, how often do you ask them where their dad is? I’m guessing not very often, huh? Yeah, I figured.
But more importantly, there is also a great benefit to being a transgender dad to two daughters. I was assigned female at birth; my parents raised me as a girl. I lived a good amount of years being perceived as a woman. I know what it is like to navigate this world as a little girl and as a woman. I have seen what women go through firsthand. I have also lived over 13 years of my life being perceived as a cisgender man. I was allowed to enter spaces that women aren’t allowed in. I was allowed to hear the conversations that men don’t think women will hear. These experiences arm me with a very unique ability to arm my daughters and teach them how to navigate this world that is dominated by misogynoir (misogyny directed toward Black women) and patriarchy. I will use what I know to raise confident, strong-willed, open-minded, empathetic, powerful beings, who will have full autonomy over their lives and bodies. And I will make sure of that.
March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility.