Chevaleau: Father’s Day is a chance to love your kids for who they are

Father’s Day is a time to celebrate Dads in all their shapes and forms. But, being a dad myself, I like to take time to celebrate the two people who made me a father, my two amazing daughters.

Robert Chevaleau

They both have taught me that one is never too old to be goofy, ice cream is always important, and truly what it means to love unconditionally.

One of my daughters is transgender and the other is not. While my youngest child is biologically male, very early on she made it clear that her gender is more complicated than her outside appearance. My wife and I were surprised and quickly realized that we had some work to do to help our little family.

When it was first clear that my daughter was more interested in “girl things,” Barbie, princess gowns and the like, I was quick to dismiss it as a phase or just a case of a child playing with her sibling’s toys. As weeks and months passed, it became clear that this wasn’t just a phase. It was something deeper.

We hit a tipping point one evening while my wife was putting her to bed. My daughter was very upset, irascible, and for seemingly no reason. My wife finally got her to calm down and asked what was going on. My daughter took a deep breath said, “Dad wouldn’t love me if he knew I was a girl.” Hearing that absolutely broke my heart.

I wanted nothing more than to reassure both my daughters that their mom and I would love them no matter what. We love their soul. We love their mind. We love their person. We love them, not whatever package their bodies are wrapped in.

But how to do that!? As supportive as we wanted to be, my wife and I were unprepared. We weren’t familiar with what it means to have a transgender kid or how to support her. All we knew was that we loved her and that we needed some help.

So, we did a lot of reading. We found a counselor to help guide us and sort though our worries. We found a support group, a community of local parents with trans kids who shared our same concerns. We discovered that we were not alone. Through this support we learned how to listen to our child, when to let them lead, and how to help her knock down barriers that try to stop her from reaching her highest potential.

But embracing our daughter’s authentic self also opened us up to a scary reality. The discrimination and levels of violence and harassment transgender people face is vastly higher than the general population.

The red tape required to correct the gender on her birth certificate was discouraging. And there are those in town who would rather force her out of a public space than take the time to know her as a person. In 60 percent of Arizona, including the city in which we live, it is legal to discriminate against her in employment, housing, schools and public accommodations simply because she’s transgender.

My daughter loves Arizona. She was born here and wants to grow up, and build a life here. But I want her also to be safe, to be protected and respected here with all the same opportunities for success that are given to her sister. I want them both to have an equal opportunity to thrive.

I realize that part of my unconditional love is not just to look inward at my family, but outward at our community.

So on this Father’s Day, I reaffirm my commitment to educate and advocate, even though it’s out of my comfort zone. I do this to help our community grow. I do this to help keep my family safe. And I do this to show my children how proud I am to be their father.

Editor’s note: Mr. Chevaleau is a Scottsdale resident and local advocate of LGBTQ equality

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