Gender Diaries: Lia Clay
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, MILK.XYZ will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender; this week, we feature trans photographer Lia Clay, who took the opportunity to pen a letter to her Dad.
This is for all the trans folx with daddy issues. This one is for all the repressed days and nights spent locked in our bedrooms, terrified that our fathers would abandon us, leave us, force us on the streets, or make us stay in a metaphorical (enough with the puns, gays) closet.
- FU for making me feel like the only way to become a woman was to cut my penis off. I love my penis. She and I are doing amazing things together. When I was 6 years old, you asked me if I thought I was a girl. To be entirely honest, gender complexities had perplexed me, but I wasn’t ready to confirm or deny any sort of profound gender confirmation. I shook my head. “Are you sure?” you said. For a moment, I wanted to say yes—I was a girl. I felt myself siding with wanting the girls toy in the Happy Meal situation. (Thanks for that, McD). My non-answer was firmly answered when you said, “We can go to the doctor tomorrow and have your penis cut off.”
- FU for making me feel like I had to be a pretty woman to be a woman. When I was 4 years old, my grandmother gave me a dress of hers to play in. It had flowers on it, and I spun over and over to see the whirl of flowers fly around me. Again, this wasn’t a sign of gender confirmation, it was magic. When you picked me up, you were wearing a suit and I told you that you looked ‘”pretty.” “Boys don’t look pretty,” you said. “Boys look handsome.” I corrected myself, “You look handsome, Dad.” You got angry with me and told me that boys also don’t call other boys handsome. I can confidently correct you now—boys DO call boys handsome, boys CAN be pretty, and girls don’t have to be pretty.
- FU for making me feel like to be a boy, you have to hit back. When I was 9, the next door neighbor hit me with the back hand of a baseball mitt. I started crying, and ran inside. When I opened the door, you grabbed my arm, and began beating me harder. You told me that was for not hitting him back. Boys had to fight back to be men. I’m not saying that we should all sit inside our homes, and eat lemon flavored sheet cake—but there are other ways of fighting back. As a trans woman, I am constantly fighting back. In groups, we can fight together—we fight against white supremacy, we fight against systematic racism, we fight against transphobia, we fight against xenophobia—we fight for so many reasons, but none of them are because we have to fight back to prove that we are men.
- FU from my Mom. When you finally decided to leave my Mom for a woman in South Carolina, you took her out on her parent’s boat to the middle of a lake because you wanted her to feel isolated. You put her in a place where she couldn’t control the situation. My mother is the strongest person I will ever know, and we have both survived you. When we talk about you now, it’s mostly because we can’t believe that we wasted part of our lives conforming to you. Because we are strong women, we laugh instead of cry. We picked ourselves up, and we became women who can survive. If anything, you taught me how to survive. And here I am, surviving, writing to you openly for MILK.XYZ. I am happy, I am an openly queer transgender woman. I don’t need you to feel like a valid person, and I am so much more than my daddy issues.
Sincerely your daughter,
Lia Haley Clay
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.