I Am a Much Better Father as a Woman

Being yourself will always be better than who you are not

Amethysta Herrick
Amethysta Herrick

We celebrate Father’s Day today in the United States. It is a day to consume wings and beer, make Dad Jokes, and enshrine the easy chair in which the eldest male of the house spends countless hours “watching the game” / sleeping.

I am a parent to my son, although I hesitate to use the word “father.” When my son was conceived, my body was capable of generating gametes characterized as sperm, which lumped me in with males of the human species. In that particular act of reproduction, I expressed my sex characteristics to contribute sperm, which further lumped me in with men in terms of gender.

I’m being cagey with terminology because — while by definition, I am father to my son — I rebelled against being a father from the very beginning.

To be clear, I never wanted children. I believed I was so messed up in the head, passing down my genetics would be an act of disingenuous sadism better reserved for totalitarian dictators and Fundamentalist Christians.

But I did have a son, who has enriched my life far beyond my expectations. His birth helped me decide to quit drinking, to improve my physical health, to address my mental health, and — ultimately — to transition gender and present as a woman.

I am far better at being a parent to my son now that I am a woman.

A simple act of kindness

Last week, my son was playing with a yo-yo before breakfast. His wavy blonde hair (the one great aspect of my genetics) has grown longer — he wears it styled similar to Link in the Zelda game he’s playing. Like many 11-year old boys, his hair was sorely in need of a brushing directly after a night of sleep.

Sometimes my son doesn’t take great care of his hair, and I step in occasionally to help out. After all, If he’s going to have long hair, I want it to look good, if just for my womanly aspect of caring for what we have.

There is another aspect, however: although I never wanted children, I always wanted to brush a daughter’s hair. I admit this is part of a little fantasy I had around a daughter. I wanted to dress her up in lacy black dresses and tie black ribbons in her hair. I intended to make her into my own personal Goth-Me-Up Barbie.

In my fantasy, I saw only an act of making a little girl look pretty. I had not analyzed my intentions much. Brushing my son’s hair feels completely natural today, and I was surprised by the depth of thought sparked by a comment my wife made.

A gateway to transition

My wife said she realized I would want to brush my daughter’s hair to live vicariously through her. By dressing her up, or brushing her hair, or learning about girly things of the day with her, I would have an outlet to express my own femininity.

Frankly, I was surprised that wasn’t already obvious — I was quite aware I needed an easy outlet for my femininity, and a daughter would have been an excellent excuse. But I see a deeper reason today — after gender transition — than I had thought before.

I believe if I had had a daughter instead of a son, it would have opened the door to my own gender transition.

After all, a daughter doesn’t need a father to teach her to be feminine — and my wife and I always joked (I did, anyway) that I am the woman in the relationship. Having a daughter would have helped me acknowledge explicitly what continued to grow inside me my whole life: that ultimately, I was going to transition to present as a woman.

I wonder if this hypothesis also explains why I wasn’t interested in having a daughter after my son was born — I had already committed to being a man for his sake. Once my son was born, I wasn’t allowed to transition. Having a daughter at that point might have made my mental health worse instead of better.

The stereotypical father

Looking back over 11 years of my son’s life, I believe it has been more difficult than I thought. I was despondent not only because of drinking and other mental health issues of the day, but because in my mind, I faced a mandate — to remain presenting as a man for the rest of my life.

After the first ultrasound, and the knowledge our baby was a boy, I struggled across many pages of my journal. I tried to convince myself that I could love a son, care for a son, teach and guide a son.

But frankly, I didn’t believe I could take care of a son. I believed I would be a poor father because of my transgender…and looking back, I think I was right.

I remember resolving over the course of the months leading up to my son’s birth to be a man. I would act like a man, not as I wanted to act.

I would cut my hair, stop dyeing it black, give up going to the salon, take up running, learn to survive in the wilderness, use a map and compass, enjoy camping. I would be manly and sweat and do home improvement projects so I could swear and bitch about it Monday morning with the guys — who would understand, as men do.

The presumptuousness of parents

Looking back over the 11 years of my son’s life, I recognize what a fool I was! I made assumptions then that I would castigate another for now.

I assumed my daughter (real or imagined) would want to dress up or be dressed up like My Dark Little Princess. I assumed my son would not like the parts of me that wanted to dress myself as My Dark Little Princess. I assumed my son needed me to demonstrate how to be a man — with all the sweat, swearing, maps, compasses, and bitching on Monday.

But what I demonstrated for 11 years was how to kill every aspect of myself that gave me pleasure and a sense of life at all.

I should not be surprised I did poorly as a parent. I was distant and absent from my son, because I was distant and absent from myself.

I broke down a year after my son was born — a six-week period of psychosis in which I was unaware of who and where I was. Although I resolved to be a man, it is no wonder I continued to struggle…until I finally transitioned gender.

Learning to love my whole family

Worse than the assumption my son would not love me for who I am, I assumed my son’s gender was up to me to decide.

I assumed because my son possessed certain genitalia, he would want all the survival and sweat and bitching on Monday I tried to express. And for what it’s worth, my son does enjoy some of these traditionally masculine pursuits (certainly the swearing). But he also enjoys many other traditionally feminine pursuits.

Maybe if I also didn’t assume my gender was up to me to reject, I could have explored different avenues of life along with my son as he grew up. I could have been there for him as who I am, not as who I wished I could have been for his sake.

I completed my social transition January 2023. I started driving my son to school that month — at his request. One morning, as we drove, he asked me how I felt having transitioned. I told him I felt great, and wondered at his opinion. He told me:

I think it’s made you a better person.

I was a fool when my son was born, but at least I’ve learned more about myself and about gender. I learned that — no matter how much I think I know what somebody needs — that person will always know their insides better than I do.

Oddly, that included myself. But I’m much better now, thankfully. Now I am a woman, and I can be a better parent for my son.


Amethysta Herrick

Ami is a transgender woman dedicated to exploring identity and gender. She is Editor-in-Chief of Purplepaw Publications, LLC.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the offical policy or position of Purplepaw Publications, LLC. Please view the Disclaimer page for further information.