My dad’s name is Jack. John, really, but the nickname “Jack” stuck with him throughout his life. As a transgendered woman, he then became Jackie.
Let’s just say that my brother and sisters really didn’t know Jack.
Instead, allow me to start with this: When my Dad came out to me as a transgendered female in February 2015, I was in full support of his choice. So long had he lived an inverted, double life, that I thought it was healing and inspiring to be open of his true self. Dad (through the 1980s) had always identified as bisexual, but I thought that was the extent to where it went.
I had even published an article on Elite Daily and Hello Giggles voicing the need for more familial and community support for the transgendered community. Sophia Rossi, co-owner of Hello Giggles, even invited me to speak at her book tour in Arizona about my essay on this fresh experience with my transgendered father.
But, all of that changed in June 2016, when my father passed away from (what my siblings believe) was a heart attack. Dad was 67, his body was chock full of hormones, he was a faithful stoner and probable user of other harder drugs.
As my two sisters were organizing Jackie’s finances, etc., there was an email on his laptop labeled “Life Plans.”
Great, my sister thought. This is the social security and life insurance information that we need.
Instead, the email detailed a much darker side to our father than we ever could imagine. My sister describes it as reading a “medieval gothic novel.”
At 32, I’ve come to know my emotional triggers pretty well and have yet to read the email. In fact, I have absolutely no desire to read it at all. Because in it, it apparently describes how he wanted to be consistently arrested by the police for prostituting, being known as the most famous prostitute in his city, along with other S&M fantasies where I cannot let my mind travel. His email server was also filled with Craigslist solicitations with his prices from people who wanted sex.
But, my sisters originally did not tell me about this email when Dad passed.
At the time, I had discovered two weeks earlier that I was pregnant. I was emotional, and there was an argument to have the funeral for “Jack,” the man and dad who helped raise five young children; or “Jackie,” the transgendered female we had gotten to know in less than a year.
I wanted to support this pure and true idea of an often misunderstood and complicated sexual lifestyle that my dad had struggled with for, apparently (what he told me), years. (As a teacher, I had worked with transgendered students as well, and know firsthand how difficult that lifestyle can be, especially having any familial support.)
What I did not support was the idea that my dad had used his trans-gendered identity to sell himself for sex. He used that title for money and steer away toward the idea of what is truly a deep and emotional sexual lifestyle that should be taken seriously.
Being “transgender” or “transexual” was being used in the frustrating and misunderstood way of archaic ideas of the actual lifestyle people struggle to be taken seriously for.
I was devastated.
That’s when I immediately asked that those articles be retracted by those publications; they weren’t the truth, and my father had been living a big, lard-laden lie. I wasn’t going to let him do that past death.
There were signs that he, she, Dad, Jackie, was prostituting himself of course. They weren’t obvious to me because no one thinks their parent — nonetheless their father — is offering sex for money.
Dad came out on Facebook as Jackie, and then pictures started appearing. Of course that was fine, but they were rather overt, as if my Dad’s idea of a woman was a sexualized Dita Von Teese minus the burlesque glamour.
Dad was the type of person who was sincerely nonjudgmental, and whom I could openly have conversations with him in hopes that his truth would come out. With that, I relayed to Dad: “Women don’t have to wear make-up or show underwear openly to feel beautiful. In fact, I think this is something you taught me as a father to three daughters.”
He did take that into thought and then posted a different profile picture, but it was still sexualized: a sheer top showing a bra. Again, I discussed his ideas of beauty and women, and he said: “Well, I want to leave something a little sexy.”
About a month or so after Dad’s funeral passed, I received a Facebook message from a stranger who had copied Jackie’s exact Facebook page. I was shaken, and confused, and my husband told me not to respond to message, but it had turned out that those Facebook pictures — his facebook page — was being managed by (God, do I call him pimp?) a pimp then.
I immediately deleted both accounts: the copied one and my father’s.
It has been two years of twisting thoughts as I attempted to process his life. But, as I raise my now 10-month-old daughter, I can’t help but miss him.
When Dad died, I coincidentally (though, I don’t think there are coincidences in life) was reading a book that had gotten me through my parents divorce in 1996: A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt. It was probably one of the only books during that time about divorce and a parent’s abandonment, which is what Dad did to his five children back in the mid-1990s.
I love my Dad. I forgive my Dad. I think about my Dad so often, and the strange and deep and spiritual conversations that I had with him. I savor them. I wish he could meet my daughter; he would get a kick out of her.
But, I will never understand my Dad. I always wanted my Dad to feel open and loved, especially since my siblings had so much trouble forgiving him through his double life of adultery with my mother during my childhood; we didn’t have much of a relationship then.
It was through my early adulthood where we grew closer. And through all of this, Dad always lived a double life thinking that he would be misunderstood. My heart absolutely aches while writing this because wherever he is right now, I want him to be free of that shame and neglect, and to feel a love where he feel like he doesn’t need to hide.
His life was shitty, and he acted shitty because of it. That’s no excuse because life can be absolute crap, let’s just say it.
But, I cherish the gifts that John, Jack, Jackie, Dad gave me.