Merriam Webster defines a “father” as a male parent or a man who begets a child. But today, being a father is about so much more. Today, fatherhood, especially Black fatherhood, is less about vicinity and relation, and more about influence, presence, and selfless acts of acceptance and love. For this Father’s Day, BET.com wants to share the stories of three different father relationships, in their own words, to provide a more expanded view of modern-day Black fatherhood.
On June 2, 2019, Tony Brown, 49, of Atlanta, Georgia, publicly acknowledged his transgender daughter via a Facebook post. As he and his wife, Lesley, informed family and friends of the legal name change of their oldest to Ivana Fischer, Brown, the father of three also declared that while their journey had not been easy, “when all is said and done, this is our child. We love Iv no matter what and we are going to support, provide for, and protect our own.”
For Ivana, who goes by Iv, it was an important moment in her five-year transition. “It means that my father has been able to view the world in a way different from how he was brought up,” said the 21-year old. “It is important for Black queer people to have the self-efficacy to feel like they can see their lives and dreams past the age of 32 or 35, which is the average age a Black trans women lives to be. What my father did, what my family has done, is awe inspiring.”
In his own words, here is Tony Brown’s explanation of what it takes to be a Black father today.
Fatherhood means responsibility. Fatherhood means doing everything necessary to ensure the safety, shelter, food and clothing — all of the nurturing things that your child needs. And it never ends. From birth to adulthood, your work, your role as a father never ends. If my parents, who are both now deceased, were still here, they would say the same thing. It never ends.
While much of what I know and believe about parenthood was influenced by both of my parents, I must credit my mother with teaching me the most. Since my parents were divorced, I spent the majority of my time growing up with her. But I was able to be nurtured by and learned many lessons from my father.
My mother was a pillar of strength, dedication, commitment and everything that goes along with being a parent — whether a mother or father.
Becoming parents was something we, my wife and I, welcomed and embraced easily. Each of our children were planned and expected. When we were 25 and 26, we were ready. I can’t explain that feeling of joy. When we were pregnant with our eldest, Iv, I used to carry the ultrasound picture in my coat jacket for the first five months.
What led to the Facebook post? Things changed for me when the psychologist explained gender dysphoria and how it can cause panic attacks, anxiety, depression. As a father, it did not sit right with me knowing my child was having this struggle. I knew I needed to support my child. Even though I had my own struggles, I accepted quickly that none of what was going on with Iv had anything to do with how I felt. This is about and what my child needed. That was two years ago.
As a father, as a Black father, nothing has changed about how much I love all of my children. Yes, as parents we have dreams and desires for our children, but there has to be a divide between what you ultimately wanted and what is actually necessary.
Photo courtesy of Tony Brown.