Navigating Parenthood As A Trans-Dad

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Star of Rūrangi, Elz Carrad, tells us about his experience of being a trans-father and how his recent hormone therapy has helped give him a greater insight into the challenges of puberty.

I caught my 12-year-old step-son inspecting his upper lip in the mirror the other day and I knew instantly what he was doing. He was looking for signs of hair growth, I remember doing that like it was just yesterday – that’s because it basically was!

Parenting has got to be the most challenging job I’ve ever had to do, but I can’t help but think about how lucky I am to be in such a unique position. My journey with hormone replacement therapy so far has benefited me in more ways than I had predicted and it just keeps giving. There are many physical aspects of being male that I will never get to experience, which means the advice I can give to my son in that area is limited. Male puberty for me only started 3 years ago, and with my son not too far behind me, at least I have a fair idea of what he might be going through on a psychological and emotional level.

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My top surgery in 2019 was an opportunity to really get stuff off my chest. Laid up on the couch for 2 weeks with tubes hanging out of my armpits and wearing an ugly off-pink vest, raised questions from my 9-year-old step-daughter, which provided a perfect time to casually let her know that I was born with a female body but that it doesn’t quite match who I am inside. This also meant that I would casually walk around shirtless, scars and all, in the hopes of reminding the kids that every single body has its own shape and characteristics and that it is actually okay.

In our home, we have open conversations with topics that range from ‘feeling our feelings’,  ‘working through emotions’ and ‘managing period pains’. I will never forget the cramps and lethargy that comes with a menstrual cycle, and I still feel quite haunted by it. Since I am qualified in this area, giving advice and having empathy for the two main women in my life during the moon times has been helpful for us all. Hot water bottles, snacks to feed the hunger monsters and a lot of patience, are essential.

While I don’t miss the effects of oestrogen with its cramps and whirlwind of emotions, I feel I have lost my motherly touch and become hardened by testosterone – something that perhaps my son and I will navigate together as he becomes a teenager.

Who knows what the future holds, it’s far too easy to create imaginary scenarios and get caught up in what might be, only to end up anxious and weary.

Challenges I’ve faced haven’t been all that different to any other dad, it’s kinda cliche, but there just isn’t any manual for raising children – they are all different and are constantly growing and re-shaping. In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing and was largely guided by old unhelpful habits, ego, and fears. I’ve since learned that kids love unconditionally and all they want is to be loved back, treated with kindness, and have a sense of security.

So far in my experience, casual has been the best approach to being a transgender dad – the less it’s made to be a thing the better. We’ve decided as a family that any bridges that need to be crossed will be crossed when we get there. So for now, my method for surviving and thriving as a step-parent is to continue being patient, to keep on top of the hunger monsters, and be willing to love.

Rūrangi The Movie, a trans-homecoming story set in the heart of Aotearoa, is having a ‘Rainbow-carpet’ screening at Rialto Cinema Newmarket on Wednesday 3 February, as part of the Auckland Pride Festival. A fundraiser for Rainbow Youth, tickets are on-sale now from aucklandpride.co.nz. Rūrangi will be released nationwide from Thursday 4 February, screening at select cinemas.

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