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When a Dad’s Secret Changes Everything


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I understand all of this. And I can see how my father’s transition helped her become a better, happier person. There’s less shouting, less anger. She’s easier to talk to and our relationship is stronger. I support her transition. But when your parent shifts identities so drastically, so unexpectedly, it shifts something in you too. If the people you love can change their names, bodies, identities — if these things that seem inalterable can be altered or even erased — can anything be counted on? Can anyone be believed?

Time with Bryan was easy, his happiness infectious, but within our relationship I harbored a fear that he, too, could reveal a secret that would change everything. The potential was always there. Feeling suspicious for me was an everyday thing. I had to work to keep from asking Bryan too often, “Are you sure there’s not something you need to tell me?”

During a late-night rainstorm a few months into our relationship, we curled up under blankets in the warm darkness of his bedroom and listened to the rain, the rare California thunder. I felt both vulnerable and safe, full of buoyant, bright happiness. Surely this happiness couldn’t last, I thought. I didn’t want to go home. He felt like home.

Bryan proposed to me in the mountains that border Lake Casitas. He knelt on the sun-splashed rocks as I stood looking at the water below.

“It’s a beautiful view,” I said, my voice quiet.

There are so many forms a personal evolution can take. For those around us, it can feel like betrayal. The kind of betrayal that can lead to anger, yes, but an anger that’s woven into compassion, understanding and love. The kind that changes your life and, for my parents, resulted in an amicable divorce.

Questioning Bryan hadn’t brought me peace. There was nothing he could say that would truly satisfy my fear. One day he may tell me a secret. There is no way to keep that from being a possibility. But over time, over dinners and movies and evenings and mornings, I began to realize I could learn to live alongside this possibility if it meant I could live alongside him.


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