This problem for Jeremy doesn’t lie in his decision to be transgender. I am sure that there are many kids out there who have two parents who live in different locations, There are many kids for whom negotiation about where Christmas will be, halves of school holidays and weekly phone calls form part of the tapestry of life. Today J shared something and I am furious.
Jeremy asked for space from his father at the beginning of the year. His father’s response when contacted after he had an accident was typically self-centred “I thought you didn’t want to talk to me”. I recently provided J’s dad with J’s new mobile number and received the response “I am puzzled why you are telling me this, your e-mail said ‘No contact until 2014’, had this changed”. My response was factual, as a parent he had an entitlement to up to date contact details for his child.
Still, I pondered why Jeremy did not want to talk to his dad. He used to make special efforts to be home to take his Dad’s call at 5.00 on a Wednesday afternoon, he chased him electronically for hours last Father’s Day, only managing to get his dad on the phone after dinner I think. This was a relationship that was fraught but still J had tried.
As a baby he idolised his father, every inch Daddy’s girl. What had changed?
So today the story poured out. My ex husband is engaged. Good on him. There was a ring on his girlfriend’s finger at Christmas time. No one in his household said the words to this child. Apparently it was the last in a long line of issues with being at his father’s. The silences when J entered a room, the tears that his girlfriend had when J was around requiring comfort from J’s dad, the comments about Jeremy, his hygiene, his physical appearance. As Jeremy said, “Didn’t Dad ever go through puberty?”. From my perspective it did seem that Jeremy’s dad was awfully shocked by the physical manifestation of puberty on Jeremy, this occasionally smelly, emotional and very opinionated young woman was a far cry from the blonde baby that he knew. The child seemed to change from minute to minute.
I know it is hard to have a child living in a different state. My ex husband witnessed this throughout our marriage with my eldest’s father. My ex husband was rude and dismissive about the regularity of phone calls, the time that my eldest spent with his father, efforts that this parent and his new partner went to to make sure that my eldest felt included in their family. As an adult my eldest has an immense amount of love and respect for his father and his step mum.
So back to Jeremy. In nearly four years my ex husband and his girlfriend have had holidays without Jeremy and visits have been confined to times to when they are working. When Jeremy asked for one on one time with his father he was told that it was not possible and when it did happen it was a morning or day. So I am not surprised that Jeremy showed more and more reluctance to go and visit, when each visit was one where you were left alone all day I can imagine that there was not much that seemed attractive in going to visit your father. I am not saying that absent parents should make visits OTT movable feasts but some connection should be apparent.
On this last visit what I think upset Jeremy most was that despite a very obvious ring on his father’s girlfriend’s finger, his father did not show him enough respect to have a conversation with him about what that meant. At the end of a challenging couple of years I imagine that it was the last straw.
I was told by a third party that my ex husband said that no communication with Jeremy for a year was a “tragedy that he would have to live with”. My response to that was that, as an adult and a parent he was entitled to contact his child. My inner thoughts were that to get Jeremy to engage there would have to be a sentence from the father that didn’t start with “I”.
I do not know how Jeremy’s father has taken the news that his child is transgender. I do know that Jeremy is not referred to by name in the limited communication that he and I have. I will be honest and say that I did not invite comment, I have my own journey and my own issues in managing that journey to provide support for Jeremy without managing any issues that my ex husband may have. That being said after knowing me for nearly nineteen years he should know that I would answer questions honestly if I am asked. I don’t “hate” my ex husband, his actions are his and his life is his. Our only connection, and it is tenuous, is via this exquisite child.
Father’s Day this Sunday will not feature a call to an absent father at this stage. Jeremy has the right to change his mind if he wishes. Please send him your prayers of love and support if he does.