2014-THANKSgiving

Raising a Transgendered Child

105 Comments

Eight months ago, my nine year old son tearfully shared with me that “his whole life, he had wanted to be a girl”. Pressed by the therapist (who, thank G-d, was in the room with us) to clarify whether he wants to be a girl or is a girl, George immediately replied that he is a girl. And so began a crazy-ass adventure that I never, in a million years, expected to find my child or, frankly, myself, on.

To be clear, my husband Rich and I always knew that George (who is now Jessie) was different from not only our older son, but from other kids – male and female alike. With sparkling eyes and a wildly observant and funny personality, he was known by everyone everywhere we went. Never one to shy away from a conversation or situation (particularly if it involved dolls, dresses, wigs or mermaid tails) he captured the attention of anyone he came into contact with. When behaviors that concerned us in preschool and kindergarten – including, but by no means limited to his self portraits (a frequent drawing assignment) consistently depicting a girl in a dress with long, flowing hair – continued with even greater vigor in first-, second- and third-grades we concluded that he was probably going to grow up to be gay, yet didn’t quite buy it ourselves. He was a boy who greatly appreciated a beautiful girl and what she was wearing. He never met a doll, wig, dress or mermaid tail that he didn’t feel a total compulsion to own – no matter how strongly he had to fight for it. And despite the fact that he was not even slightly effeminate, there were several occasions that he harassed and harangued me for hours on end requesting everything from hair extensions to wigs to dolls. It never added up. And then he asked for (and by “asked for” I mean “demanded”) a pierced ear.

Our initial reaction to the earring request was that “little boys don’t wear earrings”, but he was having none of it. As he obsessively pursued this request it became increasingly clear that it was not a desire, but a need. Since growing out his traditional little boy haircut was going to take some serious time (we had agreed to allow him to grow his hair – anything to stop hearing about hair extensions or wigs) a single pierced ear seemed an easy enough allowance in hopes of placating him. Of significant note was, just prior (and I mean as the alcohol was being rubbed across his lobe)to the piercing, he implored the piercer to be sure to do it in the ear that doesn’t mean “gay”…clearly he was building up the courage to tell us something, we just didn’t know it yet.

It was not long after the newly pierced ear that our confusion was put to rest and we were told of George’s truth. It took me about a minute and a half to absorb what he was saying and to give myself a virtual whack upside the head. It all started to make sense now, except for the part when I told myself that this happens to other families – not mine. Wrong.

We continued along with our “if-it-was-ever-normal-it-isn’t-now” lives for a few weeks, noticing a huge change in our child’s mood and temperament. Clearly an enormous weight had been lifted and a skin had been shed. And then there came what we refer to as “the article”. It was a Sunday in December which also happened to be George’s tenth birthday. On the front page of “The Boston Globe” there was an article about identical twin boys, one of whom had identified as transgender and was now living fully as a girl. I, not surprisingly, was raptly reading the story when George came up behind me, noticed the photo and asked who they were. Upon telling him he responded, with his mouth agape, “You mean I’m not the only one?” It was at that moment that Jessie was born, moved in and has since made herself comfortable in my house.

The following day, I dropped George off at school and told him to be cool; we would come up with a plan. He was cool. Until 11 a.m. (not bad considering the school day starts at 8 a.m.) when he simply could not keep the truth to himself and, without fanfare or drama, told one of his teachers about his “secret”. The cat, ladies and gentlemen, was out of the bag. The next day, as it happened, was pajama day and, after a hasty, late night trip to Target, I successfully outfitted my “son” in head-to-toe pink, purple and green polka dotted pajamas in which he ran (not walked) into school with zero hesitation and without so much as a glance over his shoulder for support. Jessie had been waiting her whole life for this day. I almost wonder if that was why she felt the need to share when she did…just to ensure the perfect little girl pajama ensemble for what will likely (hopefully) be her last school sanctioned pajama day ever.

Since those first crazy days, we have had her second ear pierced and have had countless meetings, discussions, questions, plans and concerns hurled in our direction. At times we have laid low: mostly at the beginning when we were nearly immobilized by the mere thought of what it meant to have a transgender child. Other times we have been “out there”: when, for example, we announced on Facebook (with her encouragement) “George becoming Jessie”, complete with a photo of her in her inaugural dress. This was a means of survival for us and done mainly so that we weren’t forced to explain the situation to everyone, everywhere, every time we left the house. But no matter how people learned of Jessie having identified as transgender, the response has been consistent: total acceptance with a healthy and appropriate dose of trepidation: both for us and, frankly, themselves.

Our family has been lucky. We know that we are just getting started, but are grateful that Jessie’s social transition, thus far, has been as seamless as we ever could have hoped for. She has that sparkle in her eye and a new confidence which is the envy of many an adult. We take each day as it comes and have as little an idea as to where this will land as we did eight months ago…but at least now her self-portraits make more sense.

P.S. At this point, it is noteworthy to tell you that it felt strange to refer to my child as George or to call her a “he”. New normal surprises me every day…

Comments

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  1. 1

    Jennifer Rustgi says

    I give you a lot of credit for being so accepting. It takes a lot of courage to listen to the needs of your child when what he or she needs goes against what is considered “normal”.

    I wish you and your family well!

    -Jennifer

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  2. 2

    Kristin Shaw says

    Julie, your strength is incredible, inspiring, and amazing. Thank God Jessie got you as a mom to be so supportive, encouraging, and understanding. *Standing ovation*

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  3. 5

    Not a Perfect Mom says

    wow…what an amazing child you have…you must be fantastic parents for her to be so open and honest, and to not have any fear of what the ramifications in school would be with her peers…
    I am simply in awe….

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  4. 6

    Amanda says

    This gave me goose bumps!! You are a wonderful mother and so great that Jessie has so much support!! My wish is that more parents could be so understanding and supportive of their children!! I second the standing ovation!!!!

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  5. 9

    Rebecca @ Unexplained x2 says

    Amazing parents equal amazing kids. I’m sure she’s so happy that you are who you are and allow her to do the same. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. 10

    Jayme (The Random Blogette) says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Jesse is so lucky to have such amazing parents. This actually made me tear up a bit. =)

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  7. 12

    Shar says

    This touched me. I applaud your complete acceptance. I firmly believe that my child is my child is my child regardless of whether they are gay, straight, or transgendered. A child needs love and acceptance and to be free to be who they were born to be. I love that your family gives Jessie that.

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  8. 13

    Leigh Ann says

    Wow, what a story. I think this is a perfect example of the child and parent being perfectly matched. Although I’m sure it hasn’t been easy, you guys have handled it with dignity and grace, seeming to never having skipped a beat. I wish you the best!

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  9. 14

    Kate in Ohio says

    I have wondered what it would feel like to have a child tell me he was gay. I think and hope I would be accepting and loving about it. I am sure that a transgender announcement would not go as well as it went with you. Jessie is a lucky child indeed. To be able to know who I am and what I want is something I am still looking for, and I am 41.

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  10. 15

    Doni says

    Everyone should love their kids for who they are, not what they want them to be. I hope your ferociousness of love and acceptance becomes the shining example of “that’s how it’s done.” I know that none of this can be easy. Jessie sounds like an incredible strong child who will grow into a well-adjusted woman. Good on ya, Mom!

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  11. 16

    Chantelle says

    I love this. What an amazing mom, amazing story, and amazing little girl. I am so, so, so grateful Jessie is being raised by such an exceptionally supportive family. I shudder to think of other children like her, who may not be so fortunate. Bless you guys.

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  12. 18

    Cristina says

    That is beautiful. She is so lucky to have you as parents. She will be a great motivation for kids who aren’t accepted, and I bet she will help a lot of people.

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  13. 20

    Jenn says

    Wow. This woman….this whole family is incredible! I try to put myself in their shoes and I can’t. No idea how I’d handle it. But they seem to have made a decision that wasn’t about them…it was about their child, and that’s probably quite hard…especially with Jessie’s relatively young age. I think it’s amazing that they trust Jessie and what her needs are….GREAT story to share today. Thanks!

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  14. 21

    Sandy says

    This made me cry tears of joy. I grew up with a transgender cousin who loved playing barbies with us, who fought against baseball for fashion shows, who was so desperate for long hair that she’d spend days with pinned towels to her head. It was never an issue of “gay” vs straight, it was an issue of her living her truth vs having to forever pretend to be something she wasn’t. This led to pain, pressure, alchohol and drug abuse, and suicide attempts.
    Today she is a beautiful woman, she’s undergoing hormone treatments, and she’s first in her class at beauty school. She is happy.
    Loving our children for who they are should NEVER be a question, it should be a fact.

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