My daughter, Chrissy was married Saturday, Sept. 23, to her long-time boyfriend, Ryan. It was a beautiful ceremony, as was the venue and every aspect of the event.
It was just perfect.
That’s not to say it was easy. See, I’m Chrissy’s dad, and I’m transgender.
Unless you live as or with a transgender person, it’s unlikely you have any kind of appreciation for just how gendered our world is. It’s everywhere — from ordering fried chicken and hearing the drive-through clerk say “Thank you ma’am; please pull forward to the 2nd window,” to phone conversations.
And weddings are loaded with traditions — especially ones between a man and a woman.
The issue of who would walk my daughter down the aisle was settled a long time ago during a conversation I had with Chrissy about a wedding she attended with Ryan. She told me she had fun — until the “father/daughter” dance. She said she just broke down then, because she realized she’d never have that.
I assured her then that I would play any role she wanted me to in her wedding. She answered, “I know. But one thing’s for sure: You and your fake tits aren’t walking me down the aisle.”
We both laughed then, but I knew she meant it. She loves me dearly, but I don’t play the role of father in her life any longer. We are closer than ever, but the relationship is different.
Weddings are like giant family reunions, and my partner Katie and I had the chance to meet many of Chrissy’s friends along with Ryan’s side of the family.
One relative there was a trans girl from Michigan. Her mom and I have been Facebook friends for a while, but it was really good to meet her and her daughter face-to-face. We spent part of the wedding day just chatting while she played with our dogs. She is very shy, but also very bright.
The day of the wedding rehearsal, one of the groomsmen, who I’d never met before, introduced himself to me and said he’d been wanting to talk to me all day. He said he had some questions but stressed that it was ok if I didn’t want to answer.
What he asked wasn’t what I was expecting him to ask.
He told me about his dad — a strong father, a hard worker, a man’s man. He said that his dad came out as transgender about 10 years ago. This young man was in his mid 20s and married with children when his father came out as trans. He was most certainly not in the mood to hear that his dad was planning on flying to Thailand for gender confirmation surgery. He told his father if he did that, he was essentially dead to him. He told his father he would not be a part of his life or his kids’ lives.
This young man ended up not speaking to his dad for nearly nine years. It took a toll on his own health.
This year, during the women’s march, the young man was overcome. He wondered how he could raise his kids to be the people he wanted them to be if he, himself, could not accept his own father.
He sent his dad a text, and the conversation began. He didn’t understand how his dad felt or what could drive someone to live life in a different gender, but he wanted to learn and to love his dad.
This reconciliation didn’t spread to the rest of he family, nor did it last long: His dad passed away recently and the funeral is pending.
This young groomsman and I spoke for quite some time, and he was in tears for most of it. The rehearsal dinner guests were all around and we were oblivious. In the end, he hugged me and told me it was like being able to talk to his dad, one last time.
Now I was crying.
The next day when the ceremony was taking place, the officiant turned to me, seated in the front row with Katie — I was wearing a floor-length sequined gown — and said “Leslie, do you give your blessing to this union of Chrissy and Ryan?” Chrissy had anticipated that moment, and the language was handled perfectly.
True to Chrissy’s plan, my son-in-law, Chris, walked her down the aisle, and he did a wonderful job. My daughter asked me to say a few words to kick off the toasts. My brother-in-law asked how long I’d been working on it, and I told him, “My entire life.”
After the toasts, my newly-married daughter danced her first dance with her new husband, and after a couple of elegant twirls around the dance floor she turned and looked me in the eye and extended her hand to me. And I joined her in a dance.
It wasn’t a father/daughter dance.
It was something so much more. I’ve never felt more loved in my life.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 29, 2017.