It had been six years since I’ve traveled out of the U.S., nearly 16 since I’d been in Europe.

Back in 2008, we moved to Munich for my wife to pursue an opportunity to play in an Afro-pop band. My son was 12 at the time. He enrolled in a German high school and after a year was pretty fluent in German. I did not get a German work visa, so my options were limited. I was also homesick for Maine and missed our friends. I came home and my marriage fell apart.

My son graduated with honors and still lives in Munich. For him, languages were relatively easy. The only thing that still vexes is the three-way gendering of the German nouns. While English does just fine without any noun gendering, and most Romance languages have only male and female nouns, German has masculine, feminine and “neuter” nouns. Unlike Spanish, where the final vowel in a noun suggests its orientation, the noun genders in German have to be learned.

My child has recently traversed quite a gauntlet of changes. As of this year, my son has become my daughter, Cady.

My kid has always been bisexual, a fact that causes me little consternation. I have no problem with earrings or nail polish, or other forms of adornment and self-expression. But this shift in dress and pronouns will take some getting used to. Maybe in her case, the German nouns have somewhat normalized gender fluidity.

We have a visit every year, except for last year, which was complicated (like everything) by the pandemic. These visits have always taken place here in Maine, so it was high time for me to make the trans-Atlantic trip. Munich is only five hours from Prague, and that jewel of central Europe has been on my bucket list ever since I lived in Bavaria. So I flew to Munich, met my daughter, and we took a train to Prague to celebrate her 29th birthday.


On the way, I worried about all kinds of things, including the awful architecture of Newark International Airport, her fashion choices, whether she would need extra time in the bathroom. I also worried about how we would be perceived. We arrived in the evening and decided to walk to our rental apartment, only a half-mile from the station. I was acutely aware of the second glances and the stares from others on the street. Cady was wearing leggings, a skirt and a floral top beneath her coat.

Prague is a city best experienced by walking. There are thousands of other tourists from all over the globe also walking the beautifully cobbled streets, staring up at the copper domes and lofty church spires. They also stared at Cady, and at me. She was the only openly queer person on the streets that week; everyone else seemed to be ducking under the gaydar. My own rather metrosexual presentation, with my periwinkle sweater, man-bag, pashmina scarf and black beret, was probably the second-gayest look in town. We caught a lot of glances, as well as sniggers. On our first day out, we walked across the bridge to the St. Vitus Cathedral, the most popular destination in the city.

My default setting in public is to make eye contact and smile at everyone I meet. This became uncomfortable as I met the querying gazes of those trying to figure us out. I asked Cady if she thought others thought we were a couple. “No, Dad,” she replied. “I think we look enough alike that it’s obvious I’m your daughter.” I was not so sure.

Even so, after a few days wandering the winding streets of Prague, I began to relax. I was too busy enjoying my daughter’s company to worry about what anyone thought. I met their gazes with a smile that communicated: “This is my kid, and I love her.” That’s all anyone needs to know.

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