My name is Daye and I’m from Clear Lake, Iowa.
Growing up in the country, back home, I always knew that I was different. And I remember at one point when I was 10, actually each night before bed, praying that I would wake up a girl.
When I was 22, I was ready to come out to my family as a woman. I sat down in the living room, I had just graduated college and gotten off of working on a political campaign, and was living there with my family for a while in Iowa. I think I tried to tell them a couple of times and I couldn’t get the words out. I was so hot under the collar and blushing and just freaking out.
But I finally, sitting in the living room with them on the couch watching TV, as we often did in the evening, was able to say, “Mom and dad, I know you’ve known me in this particular way. I know that I’ve come out as something else in the past, but I’m a woman and I want to go by this name. I want to go by these pronouns and I’m going to pursue transition.”
The response was better than a lot of people who I know who’ve been disowned or not accepted completely, but it also wasn’t really what I hoped for. There were little things over the next few years, like them forgetting my name and pronouns. There were times when I had to come to them and say, “Hey, mom and dad, we’ve still got these old photos up in the living room, and I’m feeling embarrassed, and you’re kind of holding onto maybe how I used to look, and can we take some new family photos and put those up in the living room.” So this was the ongoing journey that we were on together, which was a little bit touch and go for a while.
When I was 27, a few years into my transition, I decided that I was going to pursue gender confirming surgery in Thailand. Given the response that I had had when I came out as trans and began some permanent changes, I was really scared again that this was going to be just the latest thing that might hurt my relationship with my family.
I had to stay at the hospital for a week to recover and I couldn't walk or anything at first, and my mom was really my rock in those moments.
I couldn’t put it off any longer and I was living in Washington, DC at the time and I remember having so much nervous energy that I actually left my house and was pacing around the neighborhood and talking to them on the phone. I told them, “Mom and dad, I’ve done a lot of research. I found this surgeon. This is really important to me. I’ve done a lot of reflecting. I know that it’s what I want to do. I know that it’s what I need to do.”
And finally, when they could get a word in edgewise, because I was trying so hard to just get it all out, the response was totally different than I expected. My parents were like, “It sounds like you know what you need to do.” And my mom said, “I’m going with you.”
This kind of blew me away after some of our earlier experiences where I felt accepted, but almost tentatively. This felt like, okay, we’re going to Thailand together. I scheduled surgery and my mom and I started planning for the trip. Suddenly it was on the calendar, it was coming up and my mom and I fly to Thailand. She goes to some of the pre-appointments with me, with the surgeons and the hospital to get everything ready and we had a couple days in Thailand on the last day before my surgery date.
We took just this little tour around the province that we were in, went to the beach, went to see this Buddhist temple, and I really remember looking up at this Buddhist temple that was shaped like Buddha and had gold covering it. And I remember being so beside myself with excitement, but also so much fear and uncertainty, not knowing how am I going to do with the surgery? How is recovery going to be? I actually remember feeling like I could hear in my mind’s eye in front of this temple, the word, “surrender.” And it was a really meaningful spiritual moment that I got to share with my mom that kind of calmed me down before the surgery.
My mom was with me up until the last moment before I got wheeled into the OR and she was there when I started to wake up. I remember just crying because I was so happy that this had finally happened and I’d wanted this for so long and I just knew that this was what I needed to do. And finally it had happened.
I had to stay at the hospital for a week to recover and I couldn’t walk or anything at first, and my mom was really my rock in those moments. Just to see that she was there with me in my hospital room all night for those first nights, and able to hold my hand, and help kind of tell the nurses what I needed. I feel like that made all the difference in those early days of recovering.
That changed my relationship with my family to know that they had my back when it came time to … they could have turned their back on me, or they could have even just sort of tentatively supported me but wished I wasn’t going to do this big change. And instead they went all in and they were like, “You’re my child. I want to be there. I want to hold your hand through this.” And I think it’s a reminder that even though so many families can be broken up or can struggle with coming out or being ourselves, that actually sometimes telling the truth about who we are allows us to get closer to our family.
I feel like this was a moment that really shifted my relationship to my family and just reminded me that that’s what family really is, is the people that love you and show up for you when it counts.