She got a ‘Mr. Incredible’ shirt for Father’s Day. It secretly broke her heart.

Penny Sterling of Rochester, New York, recently shared photos of herself online rocking new shoes and a "Mr. Incredible" shirt.

Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"Casual Monday look, with my new cute Chucks!!!" she wrote on Twitter. But the cute selfies carried a much deeper message, too.


"Cool story about the shirt," Sterling continued in a series of tweets following the photos. "I got this shirt for Father's Day 2014."

That was a particularly pivotal Father's Day for her: The holiday marked seven weeks since she'd truly accepted herself as a trans woman — but it took six months before she was able to come out to her children.

Sterling (right) and two of her children, Fred and Zoe, apple picking in 2017. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"They were so excited about giving me this shirt," Sterling wrote. "'The Incredibles' has long been one of my family's favorite films."

"Drop any notable line from the movie in front of my kids, and if they're in the mood for it, you'll get the next five minutes of dialogue delivered to you. Or more," she continued.

But for Sterling, the lovely and well-intentioned gift also reflected a heartbreaking reality in how her kids saw her. "I was their Mr. Incredible," she wrote. "The strong, flawed father who would stop at nothing to help them."

She wore the shirt many times — but it secretly tore her apart to do it.  

"I put it away and it migrated to the bottom of my dresser," Sterling wrote. "It just wasn't me. It would be a lie to wear it."

Sterling's gift shows how Father's Day or Mother's Day can come with complicated feelings and experiences for many trans parents.

The day can feel especially worth celebrating to some — a moment when they finally feel seen by loved ones as the person they truly are.

Sam, a trans dad, told The Advocate in 2014 that the first Father's Day he celebrated after coming out sparked a powerful moment. "My own mother made a point of saying to me, 'This is your first Dad's Day,' with a smile," he noted. "That seemed to make a big difference. I kind of like [Father's Day], as it makes me feel special."

Sterling (left) at her son Fred's graduation in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

But Mother's or Father's Day can also highlight how our society still grapples with (and fails at) understanding the nuance and complexities of gender and identity.

"Every year since [transitioning] has made Father’s Day a source of discomfort," Brynn Tannehill wrote for Salon. She's a trans woman whose kids decided to refer to her as "maddy" — a combination of "mom" and "daddy" — after she came out.

To her, a day like Father's Day reflects our world's failure to recognize the experiences associated with being a parent who's trans: "I continue to exist in a gray space where our language and culture just can’t wrap itself around the whole notion of being transgender."

For trans moms, dads, "maddies," and everyone else, Mother's or Father's Day may be a day like any other. Or it could mean a morning they get to eat breakfast in bed. Or it could bring about painful reminders of why they're seen as different by our world.

We need to get better at seeing and respecting transgender people and the range of their unique experiences for what they are.

When Sterling came across her "Mr. Incredible" shirt again — about four years after first receiving it as a gift — she felt comfortable putting it on.

"I thought, what the hell," she wrote.

"I may not be MISTER Incredible, but I'm still fairly spectacular," she continued. "And I've got incredible kids."

Sterling and her daughter, Zoe, in Zoe's dorm in September 2017. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"The thing to remember about life-altering decisions is that not everything gets altered. Even things you have to give up will come back, if they're important enough," she said. "The T-shirt's not really an important thing. The love that comes with it is. Love always comes back."

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

Acts of kindness and compassion are always inspiring. A veterinarian gave a different spin on the phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

The poor little pup in this video walked into this shelter with a history of being abused. He was so traumatized that he wasn't eating. The vet treating him wasn't sure what to do, so he decided to book a table for two: a the dog's place. It is not clear whether he got an official invite from the canine in question, but he felt pretty safe about showing up unannounced. He walked into the cage and sat down next to the dog. With his back up against the corner of his new (and hopefully temporary) domain, the rescue stared apprehensively at his human guest. The vet presented a dog dish with food and put it in front of the dog. The frightened pup just looked at the dish and made no attempt to eat. Then he broke out another dog dish identical to the one he just gave to his four-legged patient and started eating out of that bowl. And then came the turning point.


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True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

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First off, Jake understands what everyone should realize. The customer service representative doesn't own the cable company either, so yelling at someone who is just trying to make a living like all of us is not the answer. Their job is hard enough as it is so give them a break. Jake gave them more than a break. He gave them a song.


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