Fathers. Many would agree that this strong figure in their life helped shape their badass tomboy attitude. Sure, we love to highlight amazing women every day, but where would we be without dad? One of those incredible examples is Patch Avery; partner and father of three. He has spent his life overcoming, showing love, and breaking down barriers.
Patch, tell me about your family.
There are five of us. We have a set of 11-year-old twins, Oakley and Fischer. They are super nerdy. They were the start of a our family. Oakley, he is super into Greek mythology. Both are heavy readers. They like building things, trying to figure out how things work. They're also pretty content with their face in a book. My daughter, Darwin, is 7. She's a handful. She's kind of a wild animal (laughs). My partner and I have been together for 17 years.
Twins! I can't imagine. What was that like?
I've always been a full time, stay at home dad. Learning about two kids was great. We were like, "we don't have to do this again." And they were easy. They were actually easier than Darwin. The boys always had each other, talking to each other. I was really lucky. She was also a really good little baby. But when she got mobile, you couldn't take your eyes off her for a second. She doesn't nap. She is always hungry. Painting things with lotion. I would clean one thing up, turnaround and there were a thousand crayons everywhere. She moves every moment from dawn to dusk. But with all that energy you get greatness; she is super creative, always planning parties in her bedroom. Her brothers are the oldest, but she is in charge, and they know that.
Are you looking forward to the teenage years?
Yes, I am enjoying the people they are growing into.
As an LGBT family, have you faced challenges?
Where we live is not very progressive. Our kids did not even learn I was a trans man until about 3 years ago. We did not hide this from them, but also didn't want to make a big deal of it. They go to Camp Ten Trees. They kept trying to invite all of their friends because they didn't understand it was a camp for LGBT youth and families. We sat them down and I came out to them. Having to explain to them that this is our family's business and our close friends. We don't need for you to be at risk. That was what we went through with them.
I transitioned 16 years ago, not long after I married my partner. I was in Seattle and one of the few, young people trying to access care. No one wanted to treat me because I was too young. The only job I could get was at a queer non-profit. I found my place there. Once I was a couple years into my transition, things quieted down... until we tried to have a kids. It was hard to find a mixed race donor and people, even queer people, questioned our decisions. But this was my best decision. I grew up in foster care and didn't have the normative family experience. Having a family is now my priority. I am baking cookies and folding laundry. I love being home with my kids.
Do you think things have changed?
I think there is less animosity. People use more inclusive language. I think it gets more complex inside the community. Only in the last couple of years, people started to understand the difference between white trans people and trans people of color. My poetry was about race, class and gender. I wrote about not having access to things that most of my white friends had access to, just based on county lines.
Tell me about your poetry.
I had a friend who was taking a poetry class. It was not the hot and popular thing to do yet. I was a pretty reserved person then. The idea was terrifying. I tried it and I really enjoyed it and the community. It was a good way to connect with other queers who maybe were more connected to me, folks who were living on the fringe. This is where I found my people. My big topic was intersectionality. It was clear I was different from a very young age. I didn't know other people of color and this drove me to dive into a lot of topics on racism. I was oblivious to the way I was being treated by the world. I didn't know how to communicate with other people of color. I expressed internal struggles around ethnic makeup. Then, I started to write about gender in that way, too. Then, I was writing about being trans. It was like me growing up all over again and seeing my identity markers. Now, the community wants to stop and listen about these different parts of identity. It's great to have these conversations with my friends. I want people to think more about where they are from.
What would be the perfect Father's Day for you this year?
Not having to work on a lot of projects, but just getting to hang out. Go skateboarding with the kids or another fun activity. Usually kids make me breakfast in bed. And there's always candy.
As a queer, deaf, Jewish, Asian, transgender artist, activist and model, Chella Man has become a leading voice of inclusivity and representation. Whether sharing his struggles with gender dysphoria on his YouTube channel or inspiring young people to vote, Chella is a positive force for change.