Coming out to family as trans is often a complicated and emotional process.
The possibility that family won't be accepting, or might even be violently opposed to the trans person living as their authentic self, makes coming out a scary concept for a lot of folks.
Even accepting families sometime make mistakes, including deadnaming their trans family member (referring to them by their old name, which can hurt). A mistake here and there is one thing, and can be forgiven, but a tattoo with someone's deadname can be a painful daily reminder of their life before they came out.
A father recently turned to the subreddit r/AmItheA**hole for some advice after a disagreement with his wife and trans daughter about his tattoo.
The tattoo has the names given to his 3 children when they were born, not the name his daughter goes by now, and is causing some strain in their relationship.
It seems he had a hard time accepting his daughter when she came out, as he states his wife threatened to divorce him if he didn't accept her.
"I got them going down my arm and they read from top to bottom . . . My oldest child . . . came out as trans and has decided she only goes by female pronouns now. My wife[F41] immediately supported her and made sure that I would too without any arguement or else she would divorce me."
Things seemed like they were slowly getting better, though.
"It was a huge family issue for a while but eventually it was solved and everything has been good for the last little while. I'm slowly learning more and trying to accept my daughter and her new pronouns and her name change to Athena."
Then the subject of his tattoo came up.
Athena and her mother tried to explain to him why it is hurtful to see her old name on his tattoo every time she sees him.
"The problem arose yesterday when my wife and Athena sat down with me and told me there was an issue. The tattoo going down my arm still reads . . . and not "Athena" and my wife claims this is hurting our daughter and putting a strain on our relationship."
He made a reasonable point when his wife asked him to get the tattoo removed or altered: tattoos and laser removal are expensive.
'My wife told me she wants me to get it touched up to correct it but I explained to her tattoos don't work like that and you can't just change [what the tattoo says now] to "Athena". I told her I would most likely need laser tattoo removal surgery and then would need to pay the cost of a brand new tattoo which I can not afford either of."
However, he then went on to trivialize Athena's pain by saying:
"I explained how my tattoo is such a non issue that I don't understand why this needs to be brought up now."
Athena was understandably upset by this, and it definitely seems like there was more going on than what ended up in the Reddit post.
"Athena yelled at me and called me a sh*tty father and said if I don't support who she is, I just need to leave her life. My wife threatened to go stay with her parents with the kids if I don't 'get my act together.' I personally don't see the reason to change the tattoo and this feels like a bigger problem then it should be."
You can read his full post below:
Redditors made some good points in their comments.
Many felt that the father's post was missing some pretty important information about his relationship with his daughter.
"INFO 1. How do you interact with Athena regarding the fact that she is trans? 2. What have your interactions with Athena been like since she came out? 3. Have you expressed anti-trans views in the past?"
"The fact that you write 'My wife[F41] immediately supported her and made sure that I would too without any argument or else she would divorce me' makes me think you were, initially, less than supportive. Or, at the very least, you have said things that gave your wife and Athena good reason to think you wouldn't be supportive."
"While I am leaning towards NTA on the precise issue of the tattoo, I feel like this tattoo issue is more like the straw that broke the camel's back." -Ask_Reddit_ThrowZ
"Yeah, like NTA if this story actually unfolded as written, but I feel like there is a good chance that there was more to the conversation that OP is leaving out. 'Get your act together' may not have been about the tattoo specifically, but maybe the arguments/language that OP used during that convo." -dodw0002
Some folks thought that the tattoo seems like just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is probably a lot more going on to elicit this much of a reaction about the tattoo.
"This is pretty rough but I'm voting YTA because this goes way deeper than the tattoo. You said your wife made sure you supported Athena without question or else she would divorce you -- this leads me to believe you were not happy that Athena was trans and that you're likely transphobic. Or were transphobic, but you may still carry some transphobic tendencies whether you realise it or not. Is this the case?" -gorgeouswvr
"'My oldest child Andy[T22] came out as trans and has decided she only goes by female pronouns now' I suspect this right here offers a little insight."
"I'll fix it for you OP: 'My oldest child Athena[F22] came out as trans and she only goes by female pronouns now.'" -Jesalis
Others were more sympathetic to the poster, bodily autonomy is a right and the tattoo is on his body, but still felt that he was not as supportive of his daughter as he claimed.
"You're right that the removal/rework of the tattoo would cost a lot and take a lot of time and pain for you. This is entirely true. But do you know what kind of pain it's causing for Athena to have her deadname on your arm? The name you gave her at birth is not the name she feels is 'right' or feels comfortable with. Whereas her new name is something that makes her feel more herself, something she is proud of. Describing it as a non-issue is like dismissing her feelings entirely."
"Plus, imagine people asking about your tattoo for the rest of your life, and you explaining that Andy is your kid but that's not their name any more. That's keeping the deadname alive, and Athena doesn't want that. She doesn't want to be referred to as Andy any more but it's on your arm forever. The reason to change the tattoo is because you love Athena just as much as you did when you decided you wanted to memorialise all your children on your body, and you want Athena to feel happy and proud that her name is there and that you support her enough to have her new name there."
"Family therapy with a therapist who is supportive of trans people could really benefit you and Athena both, but ultimately you need to have a conversation with her about how you do support her and that you just didn't really see the connection of that support to the tattoo." -gorgeouswvr
"INFO do you actually support your daughter's transition or are you saying you support it because it's the only way to keep your family together? before your wife gave you that ultimatum, what was your initial reaction to the news? do you frequently misgender your daughter or use her deadname?"
'While i understand that the process of removing/covering the tattoo would be expensive, i have a feeling your wife and daughter's reactions are less about your reasoning and more about your overall attitude towards the situation (i.e. you calling something a non-issue that is so obviously an issue to your child.)" -pansynth
From some follow up posts in the comments, it really seems like the poster wants to understand and support his daughter but he needs some help getting to that point.
"I don't want to compare my difficulties to hers but this has been so hard on me. She was my only son and I am happy to gain a daughter but its all still so confusing. I just want to be a good father."
Several folks recommended therapy with a trans-competent therapist to help them work through things.
"I HIGHLY recommend family therapy with a therapist who specializes in trans issues. What you're feeling is very common, but if you can't move past it to true acceptance then it's going to be extremely damaging for your relationship with Athena and most likely with your wife and potentially your other children as well. A good therapist can help all of you feel heard and grow closer as a family through this transition."
Trans folks spend much of their lives fighting just to be afforded the same rights and courtesies as their cisgender counterparts. Having family that actually understands and supports them can be the difference between barely surviving and actually thriving.
In this situation if the poster truly wants to support his daughter and show her that he loves her, it doesn't necessarily mean that he has to change his tattoo immediately or never see her again. Making an effort to understand why it is hurtful to her, and maybe going to family therapy to work through some of the underlying issues in their relationship, would be an excellent place to start.
Trans folks don't need perfect families who never do anything wrong, they just want to be loved and accepted for who they are.
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