‘Mom feels more like a dad’: how Alberta couple explained transition to 5 kids

WATCH: Two years ago marked a big change for the Okotoks family when the kids started referring to their mom as dad. As Kim Smith explains they're sharing their story as an example of a healthy family with a transgender parent.

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Nick McArthur and Anna Kunnecke describe their immediate family as pretty ordinary. It consists of a mom, dad and five kids under the age of 13.

“If you met us or saw us around town, you wouldn’t know that anything is different about us, other than we have five kids,” Kunnecke said.

Two years ago marked a big change for the Okotoks, Alta. family after the kids began referring to their “mom” as “dad.”

“We met three years ago and I was living as a woman. And we were just a really cute lesbian couple with lots of kids,” McArthur said.

The McArthur and Kunnecke household is a blended family. The kids are between the ages of three and 12. The four youngest children are biologically McArthur’s and the eldest is biologically Kunnecke’s.

“I birthed four of the five children as a woman and then realized I’m not living in a way that’s authentic to who I am,” McArthur said.

In the fall of 2016, McArthur began hormone therapy and medically transitioned to male.

Being parents, McArthur and Kunnecke had five other people to consider during the process.

“We had this big thing where (we thought), ‘It’s going to be terrifying’ and, ‘We’re going to have to have a meeting about it’ and, ‘It’s going to be awful.’

“So we worked with a therapist ahead of time,” McArthur said.

READ MORE: Unique Alberta transgender clinic is saving lives but says funding help is critical

In the end, the parents decided to speak to their kids about McArthur’s transition in an informal setting and opted for around their kitchen island while everyone was making pizza.

“My wife was like, ‘So you know how mom doesn’t necessarily do the things that other moms like to do and doesn’t necessarily like to wear the clothes that other moms like to wear? Well it’s actually because mom doesn’t really feel like a mom.’

“‘Mom feels more like a dad.'”

McArthur said the kids didn’t act surprised and they questioned why he hadn’t transitioned sooner. He told his kids they could continue calling him “mom” if they wanted.

“I said, ‘You can call me whatever feels good. If you still want to call me ‘mom’ forever then go for it. But you’re going to hear other people call me ‘he’ and you’re going to hear mom call me ‘he’ and ‘husband’ and you might decide that you might want to change what you call me too.'”

McArthur said by the end of the week, all the kids were calling him “dad.”

“They really couldn’t care less.”

WATCH BELOW: Alberta parent Nick McArthur explains how he and his wife told their five kids that he was transitioning from female to male.

Since then, McArthur and Kunneck have been open with their kids and encourage them to share how they’re feeling.

“If I were to tell my kids that it was a secret and they couldn’t tell everyone that I was trans… I would fear that they would think there was something wrong with who I am.”

They’ve also armed them with the language skills to answer difficult and sometimes awkward questions from their friends or teachers.

“They’ve certainly dealt with additional challenges at school and out in the world, which is hard sometimes for them, but also it’s made them kids with empathy, kids with compassion,” Kunneck said.

READ MORE: Canadian transgender soldier speaks out on transitioning to help others

McArthur said his transition has meant some small, but difficult moments while out in public with his family.

“They’re little things like when you take your kids to get their vaccines and they want to know who the mother is. But Anna’s name isn’t written down because I birthed them,” he said.

“Things like bathrooms (and change rooms at swimming pools) in the beginning were tricky because I identified as male but I was still sort of androgynous. So going in a male bathroom felt tricky but going in a woman’s bathroom was also hard.”

“All of it sort of added up. None of them are these huge big things. It’s a little poke. But all of those pokes add up.”

However, they say McArthur’s transition does not define their family.

“I would say that 98 per cent of the time, me being transgender has nothing to do with our lives.”

McArthur and Kunneck hope by sharing their story it serves as an example to transgender kids that they live a happy, healthy and beautiful life.

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