Like most fathers, Vann says being a dad is a continual learning experience. That’s especially true when your child is transgender.
“Before Ella was born, I thought I knew everything—but boy I knew nothing,” he says. “She has taught me so much about gender, priorities and life. It’s been a long strange trip, but it’s been beautiful.”
Vann says their family is blessed that Ella has always been articulate and not shy about sharing her emotions. That skill was important when, at four years old, Ella began to express to her parents that despite being born a boy, she was truly a girl.
“She was crying in the bathtub, ‘I know I’m supposed to be happy with who I am, but I’m not happy with what I am,’” Vann says, “And she told us she was a girl.”
From there, the family immediately took steps to affirm Ella as the girl she knew herself to be, and have been with her every step of the way. Now, she’s grown up, and headed off to college in New York City.
As her father, Vann knew that he would support Ella no matter what. But finding support outside of the family was less of a given.
“Before Ella was born, I thought I knew everything—but boy I knew nothing,” he says. “She has taught me so much about gender, priorities and life. It’s been a long strange trip, but it’s been beautiful.”–Vann
Vann says he and Ella like to say that she’s a “success story”—an example of how transgender children can thrive when they’re given the space to be themselves. Vann has heard the horror stories: transgender children who don’t have their parents’ support, who can’t get medical treatment, or who can’t even go to the bathroom at school.
Before she entering high school, Ella was bullied at school and online, but because of the strong support system her family fostered at home, she flourished.
“We often joke that she should write a book about being trans—but she says, “Dad, being trans is just a chapter in my book.’ She’s got her sights set high.”
The law was not always on their side either, but now that it’s caught up, Vann says it’s a huge relief. Laws are usually the last thing to change, he says, and the fact that Massachusetts is one of 19 states in the country with nondiscrimination protections in place is something that makes Vann and Ella proud.