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Pt 1: Life University’s Women’s Rugby Team Uses Tournament Game to Raise Awareness About LGBT Equality Women's Rugby Team ~ Marietta, GA
Transgender Father On Coming Out to His Daughter and Her Unbending Acceptance October 4, 2016

Gabe is a transgender dad. And his daughter, Rye, is his world.

Rye was around four years old when Gabe first started explaining to her that he was transgender and that he would be transitioning from mommy to daddy.

rye-and-me“I just told her that I never felt right in my body,” Gabe said. “I let her know what kind of changes she may notice. And if she had any questions or concerns and if anything bothered her, she should let me know.

“My family is just very open. We talk about everything.”

Gabe said it was always a top priority for him as a parent to have an open, honest, and communicative relationship with his daughter, because that’s the type of relationship he always had with his family. When he decided he wanted to transition to live his life as the man he knew he was, that priority didn’t change.

But Gabe was nervous. “I was always worried she was gonna get picked on at school. That was probably my biggest fear,” he said.

But the issue never came up. Rye has never been bullied. Gabe’s gender identity isn’t a source of conflict for her or her peers. In fact, Gabe has always felt resoundingly accepted by his daughter—just as he is.

“Kids accept things a lot better than adults do,” Gabe said. “And I’ve always been there for her and been providing and we love each other so there was never any problem at all.”

***

Unfortunately, some of the adults in Gabe’s life were not so readily accepting.

“It was very difficult transitioning at work,” Gabe said. “It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do.”

When he first started transitioning, Gabe was working at a small family owned restaurant in Douglas, Georgia, just a few miles from his hometown of Pearson. And his bosses were not supportive of his gender identity.

“It was very difficult transitioning at work,” Gabe said. “It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do.”

The owner refused to call him by his preferred pronouns and chosen name—even after he had it legally changed. And they enforced a business-wide rule prohibiting other employees from calling Gabe by his name and pronouns.

When Gabe’s bosses found out that one of his coworkers was referring to him as Gabe, the owner pulled her aside and had a one-on-one conversation so severe that he made her cry.

“One coworker was calling me Gabe and my boss talked so ugly to her that that wasn’t allowed there, we keep that for Facebook and when we see each other away from work. Actually had her in tears she talked to her so bad.”

Gabe said his bosses’ lack of support was incredibly hurtful.

“There’s so much hate in the world why contribute more to it? I’m the same as anyone else,” Gabe said.

Being from a town of just a couple thousand people, almost everyone knew one another. Gabe had grown up with his boss’s kids. He had frequent sleepovers as a child with his boss’s step-daughter, and they grew up to raise their own children side-by-side.

He knew his bosses probably didn’t understand what it meant to be transgender, but he thought they would—at minimum—be accepting of him for who he is.

His mom—who has been always been loving and supportive of Gabe—worked at the same restaurant. He recalls one instance when they were talking in a group with other employees and the owners, and his mom said she’d always wanted to work on a cruise.

His boss’s response was: “If my daughter came to me and said they were gonna be a boy I’d try to get as far away as I could as well.”

Eventually, after struggling with the verbal harassment and abuse for over a year, Gabe got the Transgender Law Center involved to help enforce the use of his real name at work.

“And even after that it was like pulling teeth. They still didn’t want to cooperate,” he said. “[My lawyer] mailed a letter and they wouldn’t respond. They faxed. They said they didn’t get the fax. And finally, they just called them.”

After five or so years at the restaurant—and one and a half years battling his owners for the right to be called by his legal name—Gabe took time off for surgery. And he never went back.

pride-2015

Since then, Gabe has moved to Atlanta to accept a job at a real estate firm and pursue his real estate license. And this work experience has been polar opposite to his experience in Douglas.

“No one really knew in our office that I was transgender until FTM Magazine done an article on my daughter and myself,” Gabe said. “So no one knew that I was trans until the story was shared by my boss. She’s Facebook friends with everyone in the office. So when she shared it on Facebook, they seen it.”

Gabe hadn’t anticipated his coworkers seeing the FTM feature story. So when people approached him at the office, seemingly out of nowhere, he was a little caught off guard.

“Honestly, I didn’t really think about the office people seeing it,” Gabe said. “For some reason that never even crossed my mind until we were sitting in a meeting and a lady that I sat beside said, ‘I loved your story.’

“I got nothing but positive feedback.”

“I’m a better person since I transitioned. I’m a better parent, a better brother, I’m a better son because I am now truly happy with myself.”

Ultimately, Gabe is really happy with his life now. He’s confident and well supported—both at work, and at home by his daughter, mom, and extended family.

But his early experiences as a transgender person will always stay with him. He knows first-hand the harassment and discrimination that too many transgender people face. And he knows that, in Georgia, there are still no statewide laws to protect him from unfair treatment and harm.

That’s why he’s sharing his story. To show lawmakers and everyday Georgians that transgender people aren’t that different—they just want to work hard, create a home, and live freely just like everyone else.

“There’s so much hate in the world why contribute more to it? I’m the same as anyone else,” Gabe said. “And I tell people, I’m a better person since I transitioned. I’m a better parent, a better brother, I’m a better son because I am now truly happy with myself.”

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Today we thank the Macon Commissioners who voted to advance #LGBT protections—& urge a YES vote to pass them on 5/2! bit.ly/2o6Yux3 pic.twitter.com/teZCZv1edy

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