This week, we’re celebrating Father’s Day by sharing the stories of two fathers for whom the push to enact explicit, statewide transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections is a deeply personal one.
The first is Jameson Patrick Gagne, a transgender man and father whose ability to be open with his son about his transgender identity has been made more difficult because of New Hampshire’s lack of transgender non-discrimination protections.
The second is Eric Golden, who says it’s his fatherly duty to his transgender daughter to ensure that she feels safe, welcome and protected.
Jameson Gagne & His Son, Garret | Nashua
I came out as transgender at the young age of 16. These days that is not so uncommon, but just 15 years ago, that was a rare occasion. Then, at age 22, my life changed dramatically again, when I was thrown into fatherhood because I was dating a woman who had a son, Garret.
I didn’t know what I was doing—by a long shot.
In the years that followed, I raised him alongside Pam. We did it all: We ate dinner together, read books, and went on adventures. We were an “insta-family,” as I liked to call it at the time.
Garret never knew I was transgender throughout these years. I was stealth, and becoming more and more disconnected from my transgender identity. As Garret got older, my own fears of being “found out” intensified. What if he thought less of me as a father if he knew? What if he was embarrassed? What would other parents say?
These are questions I still ask myself, but now, Garret knows I am transgender. I came out to him when he was 11. He did not have much to say, as Pam and I raised him knowing other transgender folks, and being around other people of the queer community. I am lucky he is so indifferent to it. It’s a non-issue, and talking about it seems to be silly in his eyes.
More recently, I brought Garret to a filming I was participating in for a documentary. I explained to him what the film was for, i.e. to promote non-discrimination for the transgender community. He was surprised and saddened to hear that transgender folks can be legally discriminated against in New Hampshire.
“I explained to him what the film was for, i.e. to promote non-discrimination for the transgender community. He was surprised and saddened to hear that transgender folks can be legally discriminated against in New Hampshire.”–Jamie Gagne, Nashua
Writing those words, “transgender people can legally be discriminated against in New Hampshire,” pulls at my heartstrings.
I have not experienced direct discrimination as an adult, or as a parent, but I have experienced it indirectly. The fear of being targeted for discrimination is what made it harder for me to be open with my son about my identity.
Because people do not know that I am transgender, they speak freely about queer folks—and what they say can be very hurtful. I know that people do not understand what it means to be transgender. People make fun of people who are transgender. And, lastly, people think that’s entirely OK. It’s the transgender people who are not OK, in their minds.
Whether we have directly experienced discrimination or not, we feel it. We feel it as less-than-citizens, and it deeply affects how, if, and when we come out to our children.
These days I am more out than I used to be. It took a lot of personal growth to get here. I am more comfortable being the dad I always wanted to be, but it has taken a lot of work. It is my hope that in the future, transgender fathers will not have to do all that work. It is my hope that they can celebrate being the fathers that they are, as soon as they become fathers.
Happy Father’s Day to all of those awesome dads!
Eric Golden & His Daughter | Belmont
When my family began this journey, I was given advice by someone I was close with. They said to me I should continue telling my transgender daughter she is a boy and when she turns 18 and still persists, then I’ve done the best I could.
Forty percent of transgender people attempt suicide. To say this is unfortunate is a grievous understatement. In large part transgender people who do commit suicide are those with little to no support system—those people who feel little to no love, acceptance or rights as a person.
My job as a father is not to make this gamble. As a father, I will never gamble my child’s life. As a father, I will support and uphold my children in who they are.
I am the father of five beautiful children. One of my kids is transgender. Let me be completely up front: Coming to terms with the idea that my son is not my son, but rather is my daughter, had to be one of the most challenging obstacles as a father that I have faced.
She had been dressing up and watching shows that are generally reserved for young girls from a very young age. I never gave it much thought because we tried to be gender non-specific in the home. A few years ago, she wanted to be a fairy for Halloween. She wore the fairy costume constantly. One night she said to us, “Don’t judge what’s on the outside of the fairy costume. Judge only what’s inside.”
It did not occur to me at the time the significance of her saying this to us. Not long after, she came to us and asked if we would please raise her as a girl.
What’s the best I can do?
Panic ran through my head. “What are people going to think? I’m sure this is just a phase.” I was stricken with a fear the likes of which I’ve never known.
“I realized: This has nothing to do with me. It’s not about me. It’s about loving my child as she is. Loving our children unconditionally as their authentic selves is a father’s highest calling and the greatest motion we can make is that of love.” –Eric Golden, Belmont
Finally, and not too long later, I realized: This has nothing to do with me. It’s not about me. It’s about loving my child as she is. Loving our children unconditionally as their authentic selves is a father’s highest calling and the greatest motion we can make is that of love. It’s about allowing people to exist. My daughter deserves the same rights and privileges as a citizen that all of my children receive.
Telling my children they are not who they say they are; disrespecting my fellow humans by enforcing another worldview onto them that suits other interests and minimizes them in the process is not the best I can do. It is not the best any of us can do.
All transgender people are worthy and have a right to be who they are. I strongly urge all of us to embrace and hold true what is most loving. Let us as men, fathers, parents and people release falsehood and fear. Let us strive to be understanding, supportive, authentic and courageous.
Today, I am honored to be the father of a beautiful, intelligent and gifted transgender daughter. I am grateful for the experience and everything she has taught me. My life is richer and I am stronger. I have forged new friendships and have met beautiful people along the way. Today, I am humbled to walk among you. Protector, provider, ally, friend and father. Today is about love, our families and remembering our utmost role in them.
That’s why I fully support passing #TransBillNH. In February of this year I had the fortunate opportunity to testify in front of the HHS committee to support HB 478 and was present in the rally before the House session in March. Transgender people in this this state—including my daughter—and everywhere deserve to exist in public spaces. They deserve to rightfully obtain housing regardless of gender identity. Our transgender family should never, for any reason be denied employment, nor should they lose their jobs based on their gender.
We must protect all transgender people in the state of New Hampshire. I will continue fighting for my daughter and my friends until then, and well beyond.
And that is the best I can do.