My daughter came up to me when I was about to type the first words of this article. She asked what I was doing and I told her I was going to write about being her dad.
“Always stressed, has to pay for things, has to make everybody in the family happy,” she said.
Amused, I asked what else. She maneuvered herself onto my lap, grabbed the keyboard and started typing.
“Makes her daughter happy when she’s sad. Loves the family very well. Smokes a lot. Works for the daughter. Very kind. Always has me time. Asks for things kindly. Very loving. Sometimes spends time with daughter. Lets daughter play with the neighbor. Sometimes plays with her daughter. Works a lot. Kisses daughter when she goes out. Very patient. Sometimes helps daughter study.”
My 6-year-old, everyone.
I decided that she will call me “Dada” when she came into this world. Mainly because that’s what I called the father figure in my life, my grandfather. It’s also because “Dada” is a combination of the words “dad” and “mama.” The extra “a” is a little indicator that I’m not like other dads.
You see, I am biologically female, attracted to other females (lesbian). I mostly look and act like a male (butch). My gender identity is bigender. It means I identify as both a man and a woman. I have characteristics of both sexes and I take pride in being both.
I am Dada
But I do feel more strongly about being a dad than a mom.
I’d say that I love being her protector, savior and provider but moms are that, too. Gender roles are slowly becoming blurred these days and I couldn’t be any happier about it. But still, I love being the one with the “dad” jokes, I look forward to wearing Hawaiian shirts, khakis and Birkenstocks when I get old. I was amused when she admitted her first crush to her mom but never to me.
I love hearing her call me “Dada.” It never fails to make me feel happy inside no matter what kind of day I’m having. It does not matter to me that we are not biologically related. I loved her the moment I laid my eyes on her. I still feel the same when I look at her now six years later. Sometimes, I wonder how much more love a biological parent can have for their child. I might explode if I feel more.
I never thought having a family is possible. I never thought I would write about being a lesbian father for Pride Month and Father’s Day six years ago. It has not been an easy journey. There were a series of heartbreaks, decisions and even coincidences that occurred in my and my partner’s lives. If it were not for those, we will not be together now. We faced our fears. We gathered our courage. And now, every single day feels like a miracle.
It takes a lot of guts to be a parent and a queer one at that. No matter how progressive our society claims to be, there are still a lot of people are not on our side. We will still face discrimination. Our child faces situations that she wouldn’t if her parents were “normal.”
We are a family
On top of that, we do not have the protection and benefits other families enjoy because our family is not recognized as one by our law.
We are really scared especially for our little girl. We don’t know what the future holds for her. The older she gets, the more she will be exposed to a world that could turn her away for being different. We cannot control what she goes through in the outside world. We cannot control what she would feel. But we want to believe that as long as we love her and take good care of her, she will be all right.
My partner and I knew all this when we started, but we chose to carry on. It was the most natural thing in the world to do. We also took a step further into pushing for the normalization of families like us. We created social media accounts so people can follow our journey. I am involved in activities that raise awareness among my coworkers. This month, I am delivering Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression lectures to leaders in our company.
These are things that we can do. We can only be the best examples of ourselves for her to learn and draw strength from. It will be up to her to decide what’s right or wrong. I think our efforts are paying off. Because her teacher wrote in her preschool yearbook, “But what you’ll love about her most is how much she loves and values her family.”
What makes a Dad
Sometimes, that extra “a” in Dada taunts me.
Sometimes, I wonder if I chose that name because somehow, that extra “a” softens the audacity of calling myself her father. When you’re queer, sometimes, your biggest enemy lies between your ears. The brain will tell you to stop going over the lines, to not be too brave because it might cost you. Internalized homophobia is real. It spreads especially when we are told to be ashamed of who we are growing up. It’s up to us to fight it.
I wonder how many sleepless nights or diaper changes does it take to be a father? How much testosterone level or muscle mass is needed? But for me, being a father is indeed a great responsibility. It is not defined by blood or even gender. It is not when the sperm meets the egg or when you heard that first cry in the emergency room.
Being a father is making a vow that you will be there for your children no matter what, no matter how hard it gets. And that’s who I will always be, gender roles notwithstanding.
You can share your love with Shef and her family on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube @pinaylezmums.