Mother's Day, Father's Day, other's day. Shout out to the parents who struggle and love and give their children, above all...permission to be. Thanks to Kai for his openness. Feel free to add your own letters of response. -Mo
I love you. I love you. I love you.
You have taught me to be courageous and to be unafraid.
You have always been a sensitive guy, you have always longed for love, and you have always longed for the laughter of others. Dad, you taught me how to do my best cooking. You taught me how to taste for flavor. You taught me how to adjust those flavors based on my own palate. When you were home with me and mom, I remember the mornings when you would get me dressed. I remember always liking those mornings better. I remember how mom never could do hair, but you, you could braid, you could do some of the smoothest ponytails. You taught me how to look in the mirror and pose, cause we were some good-looking people. You always had your wave game on point. Yes, you have a permanent crease in your forehead from the wave cap and I love it, cause nobody had waves like my Dad. You are smooth. When I got braces and closed my gap, I didn’t think anything of it. These days I miss my gap because that was something we had in common, it brought me closer to you. But there are still so many other things that made us alike; our love of music, our dreams of happiness and freedom, our curiosity for people, all people and the streets that we live on (I walk around my neighborhood now and think of you and how you would walk from Hayward to Berkeley, you'd walk all over).
I loved our walks together. You taught me how to pee on the side of the road. You’d take me places that no child should go, but I was there and you took me to teach me something. I didn't know what the lesson was then and maybe you didn't either, but I so appreciate you. You’d show me shortcuts. I remember being near the Bart station, under that overpass where the grass was high. You parted the way and I followed. I remember now, you were taking me to some office that helped teens get summer jobs. I remember now, the people I saw lived under that over pass. I didn’t say much. I just listened and watched as you told me not to ever come here alone. I never went back because I trusted you, I trust you.
But I remember what I saw. I remember thinking about all the worlds you knew about that I never knew existed. You showed me pain, you showed me life in pain. You showed me survival.
The things I am learning to love about myself these days are qualities that I got from you. It was hard for me to embrace you because of your addiction, because of the times you promised to show up and you didn't, because of the things you stole. There was a time when I wanted to be nothing like you and I hated how everyone said it looked like you just spit me out and Mom had nothing to do with it. It took me a while to forgive you. But I remember that moment a few years ago now when I hugged you and I mean I really hugged you. I felt how you had gotten much bigger than the father I had known as a child. You were
different and in that hug I felt something shift in my body and in my heart. A healing had taken place in you and now it was time for the healing to happen between us.
I embraced you and I’m now learning to embrace all the amazing qualities I got from you without shame or self-doubt or judgment.
I love being on stage, in front of people, I like to perform and I learned that from you. I learned it from going to your rehearsals at Brother Turner's house. You could sing soprano and play your bass guitar at the same time. You could sing all the parts if needed. I learned from you how to be smooth and to take pride in how I dress. No one will ever be able to iron a shirt or slacks like you. I learned from you how not to judge. I remember my walks with you down East 14th. It was so different walking that street with you than walking it alone. I remember all the friends you had, street people, people I would judge when I was alone or with Mom. These were the people I was angry with because I knew those were the people you’d be with when you weren’t with me and Mom. I wondered why you just couldn’t get saved and be the upper middle class Black man I wanted you to be (what dreams). I wanted you to be Bill Cosby mixed with Denzel Washington, but you were always more like Easy Rawlins, a character from Devil in a Blue Dress (Yes Denzel did play that character in the movie, but I love the books). Mom told me to pray for you. Told me that maybe if I prayed long enough and hard enough, I could save you.
I couldn’t have known then that you would be the person to come and save me. There were always signs though. I remember the first transgender person I can recall meeting. I must have been around 10 or 11. We were walking to the store and at the bus stop on the corner a dark transwoman sat on the bench. I had already been staring before we even reached her. I would have stared and continued to walk on by, but you
greeted her like you did everyone else on that street, with smiles an upbeat “What’s happenin'?” (I can’t emulate your speech here so I won’t try, but it’s poetry and I love to hear your voice). I was afraid. I judged her. I didn't see her. I didn't want to see her. But you held my hand and looked at me and told me with so much love, “It’s okay. I have all kinds of friends and that’s okay.” I hold on to that moment. I held on to that moment then not knowing why it would be important.
Now as I go through my own gender and other kinds of transitions, I realize that it is your voice, you, my father who gave me this strength. You gave me courage. With you, I never felt too small or too young, or too anything. I was always enough. You always loved me because I was your only child, but also because I believe you have been given a gift of loving people. Thank you for passing it down to me. I realized this morning that part of my sadness comes from trying not to feel. Trying to keep bound feelings, emotions, because I’m afraid to be overwhelmed by my own love for others. But you love fiercely. I see how sometimes in you and in me that fierce love of others can lead to neglect of self. When we don’t love ourselves no matter how much we may want to give, it won’t come out right. I watch you today as you model recovery from addiction. One of the best gifts is that I get to bear witness to you loving yourself. You deserve it. You teach me that I deserve it too.
Every Sunday morning I can expect your call.
This Sunday, this morning I decided to tell you about top surgery. I knew that you’d be fine. I don’t know why I waited so long to tell you. Perhaps it’s because Ihave enjoyed getting to know you so much these past couple of years that I didn’t want to risk losing you again. When I told you, your first response was with laughter "Well, I guess I'm gonna start calling you bro," (funny because last time I was home you started using male pronouns for me and we hadn't even hada conversation). I thank you for your encouragement this morning. You told me to do what makes me happy. You told me that if anyone, any religion, anything tried to tell me that I was wrong or going to hell, you told me not to believe that. You told me to stand firm and to you I’m always and forever your baby. I listen to you and follow you. I trust you. I appreciate you. You asked me “So they’re just gonna cut them off?” and I said jokingly “...kind of. I’ll have a chest like yours now, except less flabby,” making fun of the recent weight you’ve gained. You joked back, “Man what you trying to say? You bet not come up here trying to flex;)” I love you, Dad for being yourself for taking the time to learn how to love yourself. I needed to see you model that. Thank you for teaching me how to be a queer Black man. Thank you for showing me how apology is not given in words but in deeds. Thank you for teaching me to be courageous.
I’m so glad you are my father.
Kai M. Green completed his B.A. in American Studies with a minor in Africana Studies at Williams College (2007). Kai is a graduate student in the department of American Studies and Ethnicity (ASE) at USC. He is also a spoken word poet and documentary filmmaker, and is currently working on a project that examines the role of documentary filmmaking in the production of images of Black Lesbians. Additionally, Kai is currently working on a film that examines and documents the experiences of Masculine of Center women and Transmen of color in Bathrooms and Barbershops. If you’d like to contact him about this project or anything else email him at email@example.com.