Amid social norms and standards, one man struggled to prove that a father’s love is always unconditional.
What does it mean to have a child? When do you need to be a father? How do you qualify to be one? In a world where a father is presumed to be a strong, masculine figure who can provide for his family their basic needs, I could only wish I’m as conventional.
I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body. Or that’s what they think I think. In dictionary terms, I’m a homosexual. But to a four-year old boy, I’m a father. A few years ago, when coming out of the closet was not yet typical and when dating someone from the same sex was dramatically more than a taboo, people like me had no choice but to conform. Conforming to the norms for me meant going out with a woman. And it had been for a couple of years. It was not being pretentious or putting up a show, it was a supposedly safe resort to an already confused mind. I had dated three girls before I finally made it clear to myself that the reason why nothing would work out even with the most wonderful woman was because she was never a he. But a two-year relationship with a woman would change my life forever.
Dino* was conceived during that rocky stage in a relationship when you ironically could get a girl pregnant. His mother and I tried to fix things as soon as he was born, but it turned to be a vain attempt that only led me to have the child in my care. His mother left the country, allegedly “to save money until she can help raise Dino”. Four years later, the events would make me assume that she was never able to raise that money. She never returned. The first year from Dino’s birth began my gradual transition. It was an unsolicited game of fate that urged me to be confronted with a reality I have been escaping for so long. Having no woman by my side and feeling oddly good about it only validated something—I was gay.
Along with my journey of transition was the responsibility of raising a child—on my own. My parents, who appeared to have understood my eventual shift of gender, were there to back me up. But the biggest burden was on me, a task I gladly took. With a wavering heart, I had to take care of Dino with every inch of love I could show him. From rocking him softly to sleep to religiously preparing his milk, I took on the mission of being the best parent ever. I felt sorry for the baby who was deprived of breast milk, but most of all, I felt sorry for the child who was not lucky enough to have the most emotionally equipped father. Being a father was the last thing I considered during that time. Furthermore, getting married was never an option. I have to admit, nights of his relentless crying and countless diaper changing were tormenting. But I guess they were right when they say all the anxieties and fatigue just amazingly fade away when your baby start wrapping his tiny fingers around your thumb.
Three years and a whole prying neighborhood later, I am now a proud father who is able to watch my little boy run around. Although I can’t completely say that homosexuality is now really accepted by society, I can at least attest that anyone in this city who goes out of the closet can have a bearable existence. And this fact alone has helped me express myself freely, all the while making sure I’m not doing anything that would ultimately hurt my son. Not that I’m against it, but I don’t cross dress. I show up in a corporate office everyday in a tie and I have a whole department who considers me their boss. No, I don’t think I can teach Dino basketball, but neither would I be leading him to become fond of pink.
Every night I arrive home with a beautiful angel waiting for me in the family den. I am not a perfect father and I know that as an individual, I have done so many mistakes in the past. I might have hurt many people with the decisions and choices I have made. Yet amid those wrongs, I would like to believe that I must have done something right. I have Dino and I am happy. Right now, he is a delicate soul who sees me as his hero; but I know he will one day see me differently. How he will judge me when he is big enough to realize the norms is something I have always prepared myself. But I am certain that an unconditional father’s love could handle anything.
* This article first appeared in The Philippine Star in 2010, a year when LGBT started taking baby steps in acquiring the rights they equally deserve.