Navigating Parenthood - A Transgender Dad’s Perspective

By William Elisabeth Cuthbert

Illustration by Peach Sommerfield


I love being a trans dad. I’ve said this before and will again:

  1. Fatherhood is no different to any other kind of parenthood.

When the love, commitment, and engagement is there, being a dad can be just as ‘natural’, joyful, painful, and loaded with challenges as motherhood. I know—I’ve been both!

  1. My trans journey has made me more compassionate, and wiser to boot.

I have a deeper understanding that we can always learn important things from other people, children included. Being open to that makes for better parenting. 

  1. Being trans is amazing.

It’s transphobia that ruins it. 



When I say fatherhood’s no different, I mean there’s no real boundary between what any parent or parental figure can or ‘should’ do for their kids.

We can be full-time carers or working parents, brash and playful or quiet cuddlers, out taking them to schools, clubs and parties, or at home making dinner.

We can each be any or all these things, or different ones depending on the day.

The one thing none of them depend on is our gender.

Who am I to say all this though?

I’m who my daughter comes to for cuddles when she’s sick, scared, or tired. My trans femme partner, who our daughter chooses to call “Daddy”, has always been the better one for fun and games.

I, on the other hand, find most play frustrating and boring. I often feel guilty about this, but can’t change it.

If it helps you understand where I’m coming from, I’ve always been flummoxed by pretend play. It’s an autistic thing, in my experience. I escaped into books much more than playing with toys as a kid, and share that sanctuary reading provides with her. When I can read her a story, I’m not worried about anything else.

I find the gender identity books in the library, and discover new words to share who I am with her. And she listens, to how it doesn’t matter if someone’s a boy, girl, or neither, or what it means that I’m trans and she’s cisgender.

I gave birth to her, and would do it again for the waves on waves of ecstatic, tearful adoration when I saw her eyes open to see me for the first time.

Times were often tough as I wrangled with post-natal depression in her first year of life. She wanted near-constant love, hugs and play that I couldn’t always dredge up for her.

Some days were darker than others, many nights much longer when she wouldn’t settle. But then she’d look up at me, smile and coo from the cradle of my arms, as if she knew I was doing my best and couldn’t ask for more.

Being a young-ish mother at 26 was hard. So has being a school-run dad in full view of other parents. Both have come with their own emotional hardships. Both have been equally beautiful.


I feel the urgency of teaching my kid to be respectful and kind, not to judge anyone or assume anything based on first appearances, to defend her compassionate heart against the prejudice that can creep in so easily. 

But like anyone, I have days I could do without. I deal with depression, the intense anxiety that comes with being autistic, and the fear of what people will assume about me if I’m not seen to be a model parent.

Except for me, as a queer and trans person, that fear is magnified through the lens of systemic queerphobia and transphobia. I’m as human and fallible as anyone else. I’m not and could never be the ‘perfect’ parent.

But even so, I risk prejudiced people assuming the worst about all trans people being parents, based only on my example of doing my best.

It’s hard to live with. But most of the time, being Papa makes everything worth it.

I feel pressure to be worthy of her, how she’s made me a better person. It’s painful when I catch myself thinking or behaving in ways that are less than she deserves.

But no matter what, she loves me anyway. I have confidence that she always will, or at the very least, that what others think of her trans parents won’t change a thing.

When I stop to remember all of this, I wonder at how lucky I am.

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