It all started last July (2016). I was texting with my daughter, who was 16, when she told me “she” wanted to be a “he.” After keeping the feelings inside for years, she came out to her mom (mom and I are separated). Mom took her to speak with a therapist and she wanted to begin “T” (testosterone) treatment. She wasn’t sure how to tell me. She thought I would be upset. The news was no surprise to me. She had always dressed rather boyishly and never showed interest in girl stuff.

At first, I was pretty skeptical. She had not had the best adolescence thanks to factors well outside of her control (and despite my greatest efforts, out of my control as well). So, I was concerned that she was maybe finding some way to “escape” by becoming someone else. I was worried she would not fare well in a world that is just plain crappy toward alternative lifestyles. I was worried that, perhaps, she had not thought everything through. I was worried that it would be a distraction from her studies or her ambitions for college and a career.

I set up some time that weekend to take a day-trip with her. It would give us plenty of time in the car so we could catch up on what was going on.

My daughter – who had always been quiet, soft-spoken and reserved – opened up about what was going on inside her mind. Things she wanted to do to be more comfortable. To feel better about who she was. She said she’d had feelings like this for a very long time. As long as she could remember. She told me she started looking things up on Facebook and becoming active in groups. There was a new form of confidence I’d never seen in her. She knew exactly who and what she wanted to be. And exactly who she wanted to be…was male.

I told her that I was totally on board with whatever she wanted to do to make this happen, but said that I was not comfortable with any surgical procedures just yet. I was concerned that, at her age, making permanent decisions about such a huge matter was not a good idea. I know the things I thought i wanted to be at that age. None of those things lasted, thank goodness. This is a stance I’ve maintained until very recently.

Now is probably a good time to point out, I’m 43. I have lived all over the world. You will find very few people who have more appreciation for different cultures than me. Having said that, I’ve not had much exposure to the LGBTetc community (this is what I call it…I’m equal parts sorry and not sorry if it’s not the proper terminology). I knew it existed in many forms. I’ve worked with plenty of people over the course of my life who are homosexual. It’s never bothered me. Life is too short to concern yourself with the lives of others. In fact, to take that a step further – I believe impeding someone else’s happiness is the greatest evil one can do to another.

I know that is not a general sentiment among humanity. I know that the LGBTetc community faces more than their fair share of struggles. Especially transgender. I’ll admit, I had a hard time understanding it at first – I mean, we’re boys or we’re girls, right? But, I hadn’t really had a need to understand it before this. All I know is – I don’t care what bathroom people use. And I don’t care how people live their lives as long as it doesn’t affect me and my family. Well, this does. I am concerned about the way the world will treat my daughter as a boy. As a young man. And as an adult male.

Over the past year, I’ve seen what was once my daughter transform into a son. Thanks to the treatments, his voice is deep, his figure has changed, and he even has a bit of hair on the upper lip – more than his dad did at his age, that’s for sure. I’ve also seen his confidence grow. He is more comfortable being who he is.

Changing around pronouns has been a bit of a challenge, old habits are hard to break. But – after a while – you make progress – and it becomes the new normal.

A few months ago, he told me he wanted to have his breasts removed. He said he and mom had found a doctor in town who was able to do it. I stuck to my initial stance on permanent surgical procedures at his age. I thought it was a rash thing to do. I was very clear that I would not stand in the way of anything, but that I could not get behind it fully because I was concerned that if he were to ever change his mind. Or if he were ever to come to a realization that being a “he” was not worth the effort involved (forever is a very long time) – he would not be able to go back. I told him I would feel the same way about gauging his ears. You can’t undo it. And I don’t want you to regret it when you’re older.

Through this entire process, my wife – his stepmom – has been enormously helpful. She has provided support for him and for me. She has worked tirelessly to make sure that I support his decisions as best I can. She helped our daughter (who is 5) learn to consider him an older brother. Boy, does she love it when he comes around. Our youngest son (who is one) will only ever know him as a brother.

In June, he was over again and brought up the surgery again. I was pretty firm on my stance that I was not on board with surgery. That I thought it was a rash and irresponsible thing for him to consider – or for a doctor to perform. He said he would need to have three months of therapy before they would do the procedure. No fewer than six hour-long appointments with a therapist to make absolutely sure that it was the right thing to do before going through with the procedure.

It was at that point that I realized – he had thought everything through. He had never been more confident about anything in his life. He’s no dummy. He’s maintained a 4.3 GPA in high school, so this transition was clearly not affecting his studies. He has researched the procedures. He knows that, for the most part, the world – and the many of the people in it – won’t approve of his lifestyle. But, those things have not swayed him from being compelled to go through with it. It is that ingrained in him. It’s ingrained in him – not because it was planted there by someone or something or movies or music or TV or the internet – it’s always been going on inside.

So, I decided to take him to his therapist appointments so I can be more involved in the process. I called that Monday and actually spoke with his therapist – who took the time to help me understand what goes on in the mind of a transgender person. The doctor, who has years of experience dealing with teenagers like him, allayed many of my fears and concerns about whether or not this was the right thing for him.

Our first appointment went well, and I trust the others will as well. I’m excited to be a step closer to the process and to help him in any way I can.

I know he is surrounded with love from all angles. All of our immediate family – the ones who matter – are on board. They have differing levels of understanding – but they all love him just the same. His grandparents even signed him up for Krav Maga classes so he’s prepared to defend himself in the event that he finds himself on the wrong side of society’s ignorance.

I am so proud of him. I am so proud of the way he’s stuck to the things that matter most to him. I am so proud that he – just by being himself – will make life just a little easier for the next generation of young people who have these feelings.

I know that he doesn’t want the world to change or work around him. He just wants to live his life.

It’s all any of us want.

Update: Our sixth and final appointment is set for this week. Everything has gone swell and we are on pace to have the procedure done in mid-October.

Note: My son has read this and supports me sharing our story with you. I am amazed at the level of support we have gotten from those with whom I’ve shared this privately. I hope it helps. Please share it. Ask questions. Learn.