Perspectives of a loving transgender parent in Singapore

Perspectives of a loving transgender parent in Singapore

Just like the rest of us, transgender Dads love their kids as much as the next person. However, they are faced with a very unique set of challenges. Read about how this parent has chosen to deal with them as his kids mature.

Although Singapore has improved by leaps and bounds in its social acceptance of the transgender, it remains a taboo subject. Transgender individuals often face ridicule and scorn, not least because of the stereotypes associated with them that are less than flattering.

It may come as a surprise to some, but contrary to the stereotypes of the Desker Road or Changi Village transgender, many gender-ambiguous individuals have a stable family life and even have children.  They also have sound parenting values, and like the rest of us, only want the best for their children.

One of Hedrik's favourite looks, complete with scarves

One of Hedrick’s favourite looks, complete with scarves

Other than heavy metal and gender issues, being a serious horticulturist, plants are also one of his pet topics. Heddrick is featured here having a conversation with one of the industry veterans.

Other than heavy metal and gender issues, being a serious horticulturist, plants are also one of his pet topics. Hedrick is featured here having a conversation with one of the industry veterans.

Hedrick Kwan, a horticulturist by profession, and also the owner Plant Visionz is one such person. Though born a man, Hedrick identifies with being female and loves to wear silk scarves. He is also a lot more comfortable shopping in the ladies’ department.

That’s where the differences end though. Like most ‘normal’ men, Hedrick also has a loving wife and 2 highly active boys, aged four and six. On the career front, he is expanding his business in Australia and has since relocated there with the entire family a year ago.

This is what he has to say about being a transgender parent.

How open are you about your sexuality?

I dont have any issues answering questions. If anyone asks, I will share that I am a transgender. I also do tell some people I have just met that I am different so as to break any barriers so the relationship can be more natural. I’m very much open as can be.

Have your children asked you about your sexual orientation?

Actually my kids have not asked much questions about the way I look at all. I actually have taught them to call me mummydaddy. I explained to them that I am both mummy and daddy to them. They have mummy and they have mummydaddy. I look after my kids from birth and did everything a mother would except giving birth and breast feeding.

Hedrick and sons enjoying a day out in the gardens

Hedrick and sons enjoying a day out in the gardens

The term was actually coined by my 2nd son who started calling me that when he saw me during day care at age two. I thought that was the perfect term for them to address me by as I moved forward in changing my life to be the person I really am.
I have longer hair now and my elder son said its fine because I am mummy as well as daddy. I wanted them to accept this is their family dynamics since the beginning, reason as not to add unnecessary  stress in the future.
Have you ever been openly criticized by anyone about being a Dad and a transgender at the same time? 
I have some people being puzzled when I say I am a transgender, married with kids. I ask the next question….does it matter? I just don’t fit in the social norm of what a transgender is, that’s all.
It’s my journey and I have no plans to find another spouse of a different gender or the sorts. I am just adjusting myself to be the person I really am inside. Screw socially assigned gender roles. Are we in the black and white era?? The roles of parents have evolved.
Are you worried that your kids will follow in your footsteps?
Not so much. That said, we do remind that kids about their birth gender. I would like them to stick to their gender of birth….I really do not want them to go through what I went through. However, if its in there..its in there. I believe gender is 50% nurture, 50% nature.
So far no issue with them saying they are not of their birth gender. We give them the opportunity to enjoy ‘girl’ stuff such as watching Dora the Explorer, wear pink T shirts and caps. I hope to teach them to be in touch with both sides of male and female traits, if you have to compartmentalise it.
They kids will figure themselves out as they grow. As parents, we can only be their guide to lay down the best principles we know, right from the start.
Were you worried when you first found out about your wife’s pregnancy? Specifically, did you foresee any problems of being a transgender parent or were you well prepared and confident that you would be able to deal with them as they came?
 For my first son, it was a real surprise. We were planning but of course it was the first system shock. I was in the midst of exploration and learning to dress according to my correct gender. It was hard because I was suddenly faced with a responsibility of a baby.
I kept a male persona and a female persona at that time and compartmentalized them according to the social situation. As K got older, we had grandparents’ help and I was able to take time off to explore the female persona.
The real stress was when the 2nd son arrived. I felt trapped. I felt I could not get away from my male persona. The pressure of having kids made me feel like I had conform more to social and parental expectations.
Hedrick out on a family outing

Hedrick out on a family outing

It was totally stressful that I did not have the space to express myself. It was also during this time that my career took a change as the orchid garden I had been working at closed down and I had to move to a lesser paying job. I got more and more upset with myself, thinking about why I had been born the way I was.
Till I noticed masculine females. They could get away with wearing male clothes and having male hair cuts. Every other corner I turned I saw them and they were getting younger. So I fought a mental battle;  why couldn’t a physical male wear female clothes and still be accepted?
It was then that I started exploring unisex types of clothes. Clothes really do make the person as it is an expression of inner character.
At the same time, I also discovered Queer parents. It really hit me that I was a Queer and a parent at the same time. I started to work to being true to myself, even in front of the kids.
Heddrik is now comfortable with his andro look

Hedrick is now comfortable with his androgynous look

I started becoming more comfortable with my androgynous image, and I wore this persona all the time, no more compartmentalization….it was easier to get away with it in terms of social perception. The K wave was getting more popular at that time, which was a good thing too.
Do you foresee any future problems or issues that your children might have as they develop into adult?
No idea really….I just take it as the situation comes.
 Parents, have you had your own personal experiences with gender ambiguous individuals? Share with us below! 

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Written by

Leigh Fan

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