So to start with, I need to make it clear that this is very much an opinion piece and as such it is my interpretation of the subject. I say this, as the Feminist movement throughout history has contained numerous factions and all with differing agendas and approaches.
What is a Feminist?
In its simplest form, Feminism is a belief that the binary genders of Male and Female are equal. The Feminist movement is about realigning the imbalances that were created from our history of being a Patriarchal society.
In essence, equal rights! Rights such as the right to vote, the right to equal pay and the right to not be portrayed as a weaker, one dimensional and less capable gender.
Can a Male Feminist exist?
Well this really depends on just who you talk to. There are those who believe that any man who is a supporter of Feminism is just that, a supporter and cannot lay claim to being a Feminist. The belief is that without the personal experiences unique to women, someone cannot be part of the Feminist movement.
Another view an one that I subscribe to ( albeit as a male) is that anyone who supports and believes in the concept of gender equality and equal rights for women should be able to be termed a Feminist.
So from my perspective anyone, male, female or non-binary can lay claim to being a feminist, provided they genuinely believe and support the fundamental ideals of the movement.
So what then are my beliefs on Feminism?
Personally I believe that Women should have no more or less rights than their male counterparts. I strongly believe that the world will be a far better place with total equality across the genders.
This means equal representation across all areas of society and most notably in positions of power such as Government. It also means equal pay for equal jobs as well as access to those equal jobs.
On top of this, my ideal would see a more varied portrayal of women in the media, one that reflects society as a whole.
Does this make me a Feminist?
Well the answer to this is actually both yes and no. Whilst obviously I do strongly believe in equality between men and women and as such ally myself with feminist principles.
I cannot call myself a Feminist. This is not due the fact I am male, nor is it in response to some of the more radical factions within the movement. Rather it is simply because to call my self a Feminist would be too restricting of my social beliefs and conscience.
Instead of calling myself a Feminist if pressed to categorize myself, I would call myself an Equalist. You see my belief in equality goes beyond that of women's rights and includes everyone.
As a Father of a gay Transgender teen (about which I have written in my post Goodbye Daughter , Hello Trans Son), how could I not be as strongly supportive of LGBTIQ rights as I am of women's rights? As a Man, I hate to see men on the receiving end of gender inequality ( Although rarer, this does exist)
My beliefs are to fight against any form of inequality and prejudice, be that based on binary or non-binary gender, race, skin colour, religion and others.
I am an Equalist and I am Proud of it
The people I admire the most are those who are actively fighting against inequality and prejudism. People such as the worlds first Plus Sized Supermodel Tess Holliday who has created the #effyourbeautystandards movement. A movement about body acceptance of all (Fat, Thin, Disfigured, Hirsute, short , Tall etc)
So whilst I clearly believe that I have the right to call myself a Feminist I choose not to do so and call myself and Equalist instead. There are bigger things to worry about than belonging to a group that feels itself to be superior to others.
I can clearly remember the moment I received the news, that the life of my only child was about to be turned on its head. I was driving and had to pull over to the side of the road to process the phone call I had just received from my ex wife.
The news was a shock and I was struggling to grasp the concept that the life of my young teenager would never be the same again. They were in hospital and doctors had confirmed they were now a Type 1 Diabetic.
I can also recall, being informed that they were on the Autism Spectrum, just a few years before. On both occasions, there is a clear before and after moment in my head.
Both diagnoses came out of the blue and were a complete surprise. They also meant big upheavals for the parents and the unfortunate teen, including some big lifestyle changes.
However, the same cannot be said for the moment my daughter became my son. It was not a lack of comprehension of the gravity of the situation, that had left me without a defining moment.
The reason for a lack of a defining moment, was due to a combination of it being a gradual process, as well as simple parental intuition. In other words, I had been aware for a number of years that my daughter had been struggling with a number of issues relating to their identity.
Indeed the previous year, they had been seeking help from the Perth Gender Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital. (For access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Western Australia, a referral from your GP is required.)
It is important to note that my son made his decision(s) himself with the help of specialist. The specialists in no way pushed him regarding a time frame or a decision, instead, they helped guide and advice him to make an informed decision at his own pace.
At first his decision was one of continuing with the status quo, but as time went by he became aware that his assigned gender was indeed incorrect and a decision to be himself and identify as male became the only option.
Watching your only child, struggling with the concept of where and how they fit in, on top of all the usual teen angst is heartbreaking. His mental health was a real concern and this was compounded by several other issues beyond Gender Identity and Body Dismorphia.
So how then did I handle the idea that my only child was now my son and not my daughter? In many ways it was easier for me to handle, in part, because of the fact I do not get to see him anywhere near as often as I would like.
Much like his Diabetes diagnosis, I was not required to deal with it on a daily basis. The day to day changes were not an issue for me, except on the weekends that Danny stayed with me.
Initially, perhaps the hardest part was having Danny stay over less often for a while. Danny, my ex and myself had discussed this and we agreed that, for the sake of Danny's mental health it would be better for him to stay at home.
To understand this decision, you need to be aware that those on the Autism Spectrum, find change very distressing and tend to have their own "safe space" they can go to, when overwhelmed.
For Danny, this safe place was his bedroom at his Mothers home. So not being able to retreat to the safety of his bedroom would simply add to his stress level.
Understanding of your child's mental health needs, is key to both helping your child through this difficult time and simply good parenting. I still stayed in touch and would see Danny when I could.
This was made complicated by Danny living nearly an hour and a half away and the fact that I work shift work. However a caring and supportive parent does what they have to.
The reality was that no one was in any hurry to rush into things. The fact that my son is home schooled, meant that his timetable for coming out was his own.
I feel sure that just making the decision, must have been a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. The rest of the world could wait, for the time being the focus was on his own well being.
Of course the time would come to gradually let others know, starting with family members. But for now there was no need to rush.
At this point in time Danny is essentially no different to the person he was before. The only real change is his name and change of pronouns.
Danny has always had a non gender specific appearance and this remains the same today. His interests and passions are still exactly the same, as are his friends and his sense of humour.
So how have I as a Father dealt with this change? After all I have lost a daughter and gained a son.
The name change was hard, due in part to the fact that he had chosen a name that I wasn't exactly enamored with. However two things have helped me to accept his new name.
First of all has been time, I have simply got used to using his new name. I will on occasions, especially when tired, slip up, but for the most part Danny is Danny.
Secondly, is a realization that everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Danny is a sensible and mature teen and so I do not have the right to dictate who they are.
A parent's role is to guide their children to be capable of making reasoned decisions. I feel confident that Danny's choice of name is the right one for him and now have no issue with it whatsoever.
The use of pronouns was admittedly difficult. Pronouns are words such as He, She, They, Her and Him and every Transgender person will have their own preference as to which pronouns they prefer.
I found the use of new pronouns difficult at first, the first issue was knowing what pronouns to use, the second issue was to remember to use a different one to what I had been using for 14 years.
The next issue was trying not to draw attention to the changing pronouns. In the first few months the only people who knew were his immediate family.
His extended family, being his Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles as well as our greater circle of friends had not been told at that point. My response was to use gender non specific pronouns such as They instead of He or She.
Naturally when we did inform the rest of our family, the need to use gender non specific pronouns became no longer necessary. I then had to change to Danny's preferred gender specific pronouns.
To be honest I really haven't found the change of pronouns all that difficult. I think this is primarily because I am accepting and supportive of Danny.
For me the hardest part was not the the idea of the changing of gender, but the knowledge of the difficulty of the road ahead, that worried me. The Trans community can attest to the prejudice, the violence, the misunderstanding from the wider community.
It is natural for any loving parent to be concerned, knowing that the life ahead for their child will be a difficult one. I am very much aware that Danny does have the support and understanding of those around him.
The greater community is also far more accepting of LGBTIQ. Transgender celebrities such as Jordan Raskopoulos, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and former Australian Soldier Catherine McGregor have certainly helped with community acceptance.
I know that this has been the right thing for Danny. I am also aware that he will have to fight against prejudice and ignorance.
As a Father, of course that pains me greatly. However I have always been a proud supporter of LGBTIQ rights.
I for one am proud of Danny. For in him I see a wonderful young man who will grow into a prejudice free, citizen of the world. Whilst he himself may face discrimination, I know he will be accepting of others.
On a final note, I am one of few fathers who has had both a son and a daughter, yet only had one child.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.