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.