Articles / Violence

The Power of Fathers (and Siblings)

I re-read my last post and was kicking myself for focusing on mothers and spouses, and not mentioning fathers and siblings. As a father myself, I always get annoyed when I read “parenting” magazines that assume that the parents are all female, so I feel I owe it to all the other fathers out there to set the record straight. I should also put in a word for siblings. Krystal Heskin’s sister has been very vocal in supporting her memory. Siblings can do a lot for each other.

A mother’s concern makes a bigger splash in the news. I could come up with a dozen examples of high-profile mothers in the news right off the top of my head, but it’s hard to think of fathers. Two that come to mind are controversial: Michael Berg and Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Of course, their sons weren’t trans as far as we know, and I can’t think of any well-known fathers of transgender people, let alone of murdered transgender people. I have no information on the fathers of Gwen Araujo or Krystal Heskin. I imagine that many of the transgender prostitutes who are murdered would not need to work in such a dangerous field if they had more support from their fathers.

(After writing that last paragraph, I realized that I do know of one well-known father of a transgendered person: Ernest Hemingway. I was actually trying to think of people who were famous specifically for being fathers of transgender people, but I think Hemingway is important. He’s the only one I can think of, and he was not an example of a supportive father.)

In fact, I can only think of a few trans people I know who receive support from their fathers. Several of my transsexual acquaintances have had bitter fallings out with their fathers over their transitions. My own father was lukewarm about my transgenderism and changed the subject whenever it came up. My stepfather has been more supportive, but not exactly positive about the whole thing.

I can understand why fathers can have a harder time than mothers, particularly with male-to-female transgender people. A son’s desire to be a woman can be perceived as a rejection of the father’s role model, and that perception may be accurate. It can also raise oedipal issues (touched on by Almodovar) that might have been easier dealt with during early childhood. These don’t justify a father’s lack of support, even if they do help to explain it.

Of course, fathers can be just as devastated by mothers when something happens to their kids, and they’re often in a better position to do something about it. One of the reasons why the story of a mother fighting for her children (or her children’s memory) is news is because the odds are against her. This may be one of the missing pieces of information in the Day of Remembrance and the stories of murdered transgender people: where were their fathers?

Here is an idea for next year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance: a pledge for fathers and stepfathers of transpeople.

I, _________________, (step)father of _______________, condemn violence against transgender people. I pledge that I will do everything in my power to protect my child from anti-transgender violence, and that I will support efforts to end violence against all transgender people.

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  1. I am the sister of Krystal Heskin, and I am grateful that you added this post about fathers and siblings. See, I was so very close with my sister Krystal.. and her death has ripped us all apart, our whole family. On the other hand, from reading the things that I’ve read, I have come to the conclusion that despite her tragic end, Krystal was one of the lucky ones. That might sound strange, but see Krystal did have a family who loved her, who accepted her and who supported her. Our father has been the world’s best father.. to myself.. to my brother, and to Krystal. He never turned his back on Krystal or made her feel ashamed of who she was. He supported her in every way possible. If Krystal did things in her life that can be construed as wrong, it was never because of a lack of love or understanding from her parents, or her family.

    Myself, and both my parents attended our local day of Remembrance. And we were saddened by many of the stories we heard… and we were grateful in the end, grateful that we know with absolute certainty that Krystal knew how much we loved her… that she knew how much we were there for her, and that she knew that we accepted Krystal for exactly who she was… a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend. Our lives are forever changed now, and not for the better. We will forever miss our sweet angel, and we will never stop fighting in her memory.

  2. I appreciate your contribution, Vicki. Thank you for reminding us that even with a supportive family like yours, people are still killed. We will never completely end violence against transgender people; all we can hope for is to bring it down to the level that non-transgender people experience.

    I’m glad to hear that your father and the rest of your family were supportive as well. It may be a small consolation, but at least you know that what happened to her was not a result of your neglect.

    Thank you for working to combat the negative press against your sister and for supporting efforts to end hate crimes against transgender people. If every family were as supportive as you, maybe the transgender murder rate would be closer to the average.

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