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Daughter: ‘She was still my father on the inside’

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Daughter: ‘She was still my father on the inside’

Cornell University student and Lathrop High’s 2012 valedictorian, standing at left, is pictured with her mother Angela and her cousin Cai Xiao Yun and her husband Gai Ting, both university profess...

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POSTED April 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Editor’s note: First of two parts. In Friday’s Bulletin the transgender spouse and non-transgender spouse share their thoughts.

It’s hard enough being a teenager and in high school. It gets even more difficult when your father is a transgender. Megan Cai can personally attest to that.

She bears all the emotional scars from all the onslaughts – verbal and otherwise – that she was subjected to particularly during her last year at Lathrop High School. She is now finishing her freshman year at Cornell University which offered her a $250,000 full-ride scholarship.

In an interview conducted via e-mail, Cai was very candid about her initial reaction to her father’s decision to become a woman, how that affected her mentally and emotionally, what she has learned from this life-changing experience, and where she currently stands on the issue. She considers her father’s “transition from male to female” as the event in her life “that most affected my views on diversity.”

Before her father, Ramon, took that huge step, “I had always considered myself an open-minded person who was willing to accept people regardless of their differences,” said Cai whose career plan is to become a legal beagle and a journalist.

“Nevertheless, when my own father decided to undergo this radical change, I found myself becoming uncomfortable, even repulsed at her changing appearance and behavior. I knew I was being a hypocrite, but it was an irrepressible feeling. After some time, however, and several impacting experiences, I realized that accepting her for who she is was important both to our relationship and to the world that we live in.”

During her last year in high school, when her father informed her of his plans to undergo a sex change operation, the revelation did not immediately sink in. In fact, she thought it was just a joke.

But, she said, “Within a few months, I started noticing the changes and discovered that it was no laughing matter – he had actually set his mind on it.”

Daughter was initially shocked & disturbed

And once she realized that her father was deadly serious, she was “shocked” and “disturbed at the whole situation,” she said.

“It was as if someone had made my father disappear and replaced him with a stranger. I was not sure whether I could ever come to accept it,” Cai said.

Acceptance took a while. And she has close friends and family to thank for that, whose reactions Cai considered as “unexpected.” It was like a miracle watching this renaissance happen. When her father informed family members and their circle of friends about his “transition” plans, “their reactions were nothing short of miraculous,” Cai said.

“I had expected them to look upon her with shock and disdain, but instead they accepted her with open arms. There were even warm reactions amongst the most conservative of the group. I saw my father’s eyes well up with tears of joy and I felt a pang of guilt for ever having been cold. Witnessing the warm acceptance that our friends and family gave my father opened my eyes to how wrong I had been in how I treated my father. It was at that moment that I committed to learn to accept my father’s new identity.”

Cai, who is on the Dean’s List at Cornell, now has a fresh perspective when it comes to diversity and tolerance, she said, and that a simple gesture of acceptance can bring a lot of relief and acceptance.

“My preoccupations with my father’s gender identity and appearance were mostly skin-deep – she was still my father on the inside,” she said.

“The pain that my father endured from my intolerance made me aware of the necessity of accepting all people regardless of their appearance, gender, race, or sexual orientation. We all deserve to live in a world that accepts and respects us for who we are including our differences,” she added.

Was mocked by former classmates

Although she still feels the pain of having been isolated by “some school staff” at Lathrop High – she graduated as co-valedictorian with classmate Hargun Oberai – and being “mocked” by former classmates “because of my father,” things she tried hard to ignore but nonetheless made her “a bit lonely,” she said, Cai has put all that behind her and is now intent on focusing her attention to what lies ahead.

“I have moved on with my life and I am very glad to be at Cornell,” she said.

“As for my father, I love her to death. I know she will encounter a lot of problems in life but I will help her when I have the ability. I don’t think I can live with my father because she spends a lot of time in her appearance which I really cannot tolerate. My parents have sacrificed a lot for me and I love them to death. I have big dreams and I want to do great things. Right now, I just have to focus and do well in school,” said a very determined Cai.

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