Conflicted Conflict

I am feeling conflicted.  On one hand, I am touched, honored and moved by the outpouring of support that has resulted from my blog.  On the other hand, I do grapple over whether I am somehow exploiting (damn, I hate that word) the situation of my ten year old child.  I know in my heart that the benefits (thus far, anyway) have far outweighed the shockingly small number of negative response I have received, yet I cannot help but wonder.

When I consider the many people from far and wide who have expressed support of not only me and my family while  describing themselves as having been Jessie thirty, forty, even fifty years ago I am humbled by their stories of shame, secrecy and marginalization.   While most of them eventually found the courage and voice to be true to themselves, only some have found the unbridled support that they craved.  Many have told me that my going wide with our story has helped them to find greater peace.  That right there, is, as far as I am concerned, a terrific benefit to both them and to my family.  No conflict there.

Jessie knows about the blog, but, to my mind, only as much as she (being a ten year old kid) needs to.  She has seen many entries.  Others, while not kept “secret” per say, have been written, posted and commented upon without her explicit knowledge.  There are anecdotes which I have censored and others which she has specifically requested I not write about – all of which I have, and will continue to, honor.  That said, I have not lost sight of the fact that she is the main character and, as such, perhaps deserves a greater editorial role.  But, then again, she is a ten year old kid.  Now you see my conflict?!

On the occasions when my blog has blown up (the first was when there was an article in The Phoenix: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/134795-telling-jessies-story/ , the second was immediately following my guest post on www.scarymommy.com and, I suspect the third will be now that it is on www.huffingtonpost.com ) my level of internal conflict has risen exponentially.  It would be less than honest (I am nothing if not honest) to say that the accolades (while they still make me bristle) manage to serve as a huge boon to my ever suffering self esteem and anxiety levels.  At the same time, I live with constant worry over what it means not only to Jessie, but the rest of my family as well.  Overtly, they are nothing but supportive, but this is complicated, loaded stuff which every one of us is facing down for the first time.  Each time things heat up I (half-) joke about putting more money in the “therapy fund” since I am acutely aware that their expressed nonchalance is not necessarily a true reflection of their psyche.   I know that I, for example, manage to project a far greater sense of confidence in living this reality than I necessarily feel at any given moment.  This is pure speculation, but I would be willing to bet that everyone in my inner circle feels the same way.  And there it is again: conflict.

Armed with the knowledge that prepubescent children who have identified as transgender have been known to change their minds, I have often commented (to anyone who would listen) that I don’t know if I am more fearful that she will or that she will not continue on this path.   Right now it seems highly unlikely to me that she will change course, but I am (just barely) wise enough to know that I, in fact, know nothing.  Add that uncertainty to the ever growing list of conflicts I have rattling around in my head and we’ve got, yep, more conflict.

I’m not gonna lie – it is very exciting to be published in places like Scary Mommy (a site that enjoys something insane like a gazillion unique users per month) and Huffington Post (ditto on the stats) – but I sometimes feel, well, conflicted, that my main line of conversation is about my kid, even though she is (supposedly, anyway) down with it.  In my heart I don’t feel that I am exploiting (crap, there’s that word again!) her but what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t feel guilty about something?

So, on we go with this real time adventure, my anxiety be damned.

Advertisements

100 thoughts on “Conflicted Conflict

  1. I cannot comment on your personal situation, as I am not in it. You know your situation and your daughter better than anyone. Don’t let the negative comments get you down, stopping and questioning what you are doing is healthy, taking a step back can be positive. Hope you have a really good day!

    • Agreed!!! Also, though Jessie is, as you point out, the main character of your story, you are doing much more than conveying her story… you are conveying YOUR story, that you as a straight, cisgendered parent who never really had any reason to be involved with these issues before, can be loving, accepting, and open to and respectful of your child’s needs and feelings, no matter how foreign, stressful, or inconvenient the concepts may be or might have been to you. I tell my straight friends all the time that straight allies are some of the most powerful advocates the GLBT community can have… because it lends credibility to our struggle from someone on the outside, and makes others on the “outside” see that they could do this too. You’re showing other parents of kids – trans, gay, or just plain different – that there is a positive and loving way to be your child’s biggest ally, advocate, and protector. And that is something very powerful, that many people need to hear.

  2. It’s really great that despite your inner conflict, you’re continuing on with your mission. I’m pretty familiar with what your talking about, though on a very different subject. I recently started speaking out publicly about being a suicide survivor and spreading awareness about the topic of suicide. When I did my first assembly (you can read about it here: http://kristenkimball.me/suicide-awareness-morning-assembly/), I got a huge outpouring of support and so many people contacted me (and still do) as a resource and a support, which is wonderful. But I also was inundated with comments like, “You are so amazing” or “You’re so brave”. I don’t feel either of those things, and I, too, started feeling like I was exploiting my brother’s death for attention, even though I know I’m not. Deep down, I’m sure people don’t think that, but it’s an uncomfortable feeling to experience and deal with. I’m still fighting through it, but am pushing on, regardless, continuing to spread the message. So kudos to you for doing the same. Yours is another situation that it is so important to raise awareness and acceptance about, and you’re doing a fantastic job of it! And Jessie sounds so well-adjusted; I think above all she will just feel proud of you for supporting her in such an important way, and she’ll know how loved she is. I love reading your blog. It’s one of the few I read every time a new one pops up in my inbox. Carry on, Julie!

    • Thank you so much – I think you get exactly what I am struggling with. My heart goes out to you and your family, too.

  3. I LOVE what you are doing! You are spreading the word about trangendered people and (I suspect) getting in a bit of therapy for yourself. The only people you should ever worry about are the people you write about. As long as you have their permission, then all is good. It seems as though the lines of communication are open. Unless your family has an about face, I say keep it up!!

  4. This is my first time coming across your blog, and after reading your post on Scary mommy… Well let me say I’m a pansy and cried like the little baby that I am… I want to commend you for being so accepting of Jessie because we all know that many families out there wouldn’t have been. I don’t know your personal story or struggles but I hope you and your husband have taking the time to truly give yourselves a big ol’ pat on the back (or a few cocktails in celebration if that’s your thing) because had Jessie not have known she would’ve been loved and accepted no matter what, who knows how long she would have had to suffer in silence. Your not exploiting her (yeah that word does sound a little cringe-worthy)- I feel you are sharing not just her story but YOUR story and will help other mothers to face and deal with issues that might be right in front of their eyes you know?

  5. Julie, I’ve been following your blog with a lot of interest for a couple of months now. Let me give you a little feedback you possibly won’t get elsewhere, as I teach a course in love, sexuality, and relationships to teens at my church (Unitarian Universalist).

    What you are doing is contributing exponentially to the social knowledge that we have of transgendered people. We sponsor panels for our teens nearly every year of LGBTI folks (and I mean intersex by that I), which they absolutely hunger for. They are enrapt every time we hold one and the questions and comments show that they are more than just curious… they want to understand the experience so they can process their own. I think we need to know more about the process of gender and sexual identity that we all go through — all flavors of it — but since our society has marginalized the T and the I even more than LGB, it’s hard to come by.

    Plus none of us get anywhere in our lives alone, so you’re helping us understand what it’s like for the loved ones, because it’s not an easy path for anyone. Thankfully it’s becoming far less difficult than it was, but we’re all learning. By being open to your experience, to Jessie’s, and by openly treating her wishes with respect (and I think that’s important for you to publicize), you teach us all what kind of a journey it is and that we are all as a community learning how to support our differences.

    Thank you for being a resource for me and the other teachers of OWL (Our Whole Lives — the name of the lifelong sexuality curriculum we teach). I’ve been recommending your blog to other teachers, because we never know when we’ll meet another Julie who is searching for answers to how to raise her Jessie.

    • Sue,
      Let me first thank you for the wonderful work you are doing before I get just a bit bitchy about one thing: Nobody is transgenderED. This word (which is not really a word at all) implies that some process or action has taken place. We are transgender people; transgender women or transgender men. This is a (partial) definition of WHO we are, but not WHAT we do or HOW we express our gender identity. I am confident that you understand this, but my concern is that, when people who have authority on the subject misuse the word, confusion may be perpetuated. “Transgender” is an umbrella term, which includes everything from fetishists to post-operative transsexuals. For this reason, the term itself can be misleading, let alone with the (grammatically improper) addition of the”ed” suffix. Please know that I am not pointing this out as an act of admonishment. but. rather as to take the opportunity to educate (not only you, but anyone who may read this). There are many transgender women and men who make the same mistake, and I once heard even Oprah say “transgendered” in place of the word “transitioned”. A transgender person may, or may not, transition to various degrees, but it does not cause him or her to be more or less a transgender person by doing so. *end of rant* 🙂

      • Thank you, Constance. I found myself constantly pointing out the same error, but just gave up as it did not seem to make a difference: people just keep on saying it and in our own community too.

      • I’m sorry, Constance, you’re absolutely right and I wasn’t watching my language. The problem comes with “gender” being part of it, and we seem to be making it into a verb, which it isn’t. And being a writer and language geek, I OUGHT to know that and speak correctly… oops!

      • I would just as soon see the word disappear from the lexicon. The preferred term, currently, is “gender variant”. Except that it sounds awfully close to “gender deviant”, I think that it is better as a general term than is “transgender”. Personally, I see myself to be a woman – period (despite the fact that it is impossible for me to ever have a period). Any adjective that may be attached by the medical/psychological community is done so in order to categorize me or to explain my “condition”, I believe. Jessie, herself, described it best when she said that it comes from the soul (see the article in The Boston Phoenix. To that, I can attest, and so I have just determined that the new term should be “Soul Sister” (or soul brother, as the case may be).

        Julie, I knew that you had not written the title on the Scary Mommy blog. 🙂

        I remain,
        “Soul Sister” LexiConnie

  6. You are very brave. I can totally appreciate why you are conflicted, but I think it’s healthy for you to do so. We all need an outlet to talk about our feelings, and this is yours. Someday Jessie, or perhaps George, will read this blog and know without a doubt just how much you loved her, no matter what. That’s a gift. 🙂

  7. Hi Julie, I understand that you feel a little conflicted about sharing your family’s story. When I began my transition I was contacted by local media for an interview and just couldn’t bring myself to do it, I just wasn’t ready, but I was also worried that it might be seen as a grab for attention. But it’s a good thing there are strong people out there like you, who are comfortable enough to share their stories. You are helping in more ways than you know. You are helping to create an environment where transgender people, and transgender kids in particular, are not some obscure concept.
    I’ll never forget what my Dad said when I came out to him in 2009, “I’m glad you waited until now to do this. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it if you tried to do this as a child.” He loves and accepts me now, which is awesome, but I knew in my heart he was right. He would have disowned me if I had told him as an 8 year old that I was a girl in the mid 80’s. Now that there are people like you, who are sharing their stories, trans kids will have a better chance to gain the support and understanding of their loved ones.
    Keep up the great posts!

  8. This is an amazing organization that provides support and resources for families raising a trans* child – Trans Youth Family Allies (www.imatyfa.org).

  9. I spent the morning going back through your blog and it was a fantastic way to spend the morning. My daughter is being bullied at school and I would give anything to have a school as wise and supportive as yours has been. I wish You and your family the best.

    • I hate to hear of schools not being supportive. Our principal has knocked this out of the park and I am forever appreciative of that. Stay strong and go kick some ass if you need to!

  10. You must be famous, because I had a dream about you last nigh. I haven’t been doing much blogging or blog reading lately, but the blogs I read pop up on my phone, and so I guess the title ‘”George. Jessie. Love.” is floating through my mind regardless of my blog neglect. Anyway, in the dream you had a restaurant called “George. Jessie. Mom” right near my house. After I drove by the restaurant, I went to your house and met your family. How weird. I haven’t even read your blog for a while, but there you are, smack dab in my subconcious.

  11. Having a like experience, I understand where you are with this, and can assure you that you are doing everything right. You are already doing everything there is by being loving and supporting. Trust me…the rest will fall into place. Have faith in your family as a whole and in yourself.. what will be will be. It will all work out fine. Support and love for each other will be all that you each need. You are not obligated to change the world or affirm any one else’s experiences… your family is your only responsibility, we are merely your cheerleaders on the sidelines. Good job!!

  12. I think it is safe to say that having you and Rich as an example, Jessie will be as supportive of you, as you have both been of her. She knows that every thing that you do comes from a good place. Have confidence. You are making your new “normal” everyone else’s new normal. What a great legacy.

  13. Julie, it does not surprise me at all that your writings are spreading across the internet. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that “Good Morning America” or, Lord forbid, a reality show producer may have contacted you by now. There are those who would want to exploit, without guilt or conflict. You, however, have been so beautifully articulating Jessie’s, yours, and your family’s journey from your heart; I see no reason for feeling guilty for that.

    As one of the “even fifty years ago” “Jessies”, I have been conflicted, as well. I have used (exploited?) your situation as part of my never-ending attempt to explain my “condition” to others. I had given up on finding an explanation for myself (to myself) a few years ago. Still, while I no longer feel I need to make excuses for myself to anyone, I am so wanting to have people understand that the very essence of my being has always been female. This has been no easy task, and, ultimately, impossible. Then, because of you, along comes Jessie. I can point to her, a 10-year-old prepubescent who knows herself just as I did at that age (and, in many ways, still do now). If nothing else, this helps to explain that gender identity has little to do with sexuality, which seems to be a gender variant person’s biggest obstacle of stigma. Because you have been telling your story with love, honesty, and sensitivity (add humor, no less importantly), people are able to relate as they could no other way. It would be so easy to sensationalize Jessie, and to do so would be cause for real guilt. So, yes, keep on with this real life adventure in just the way you have thus far. Of course, there will always be that conflict and guilt cloud looming overhead, but that’s only because you are such a caring and loving mother (which is the sunshine that can always show through the cloud).

    xo,
    Connie

  14. Your self-awareness as a mother is exemplary to us all as we reflect on the various aspects of our lives, evaluating the benefits versus challenges. Discussing your deepest thoughts will always feel a bit ‘naked’ in having to expose yourself to others. But that’s the thing, without sharing your deepest thoughts with others, it would mean bottling it up within. And as you may have found, our immediate social and familial circles, at times, are often quite limited in how far they are willing to reach with us. As such, blogging offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded people, a chance to not face this alone. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and I would say even more to support the mother. I think we often forget that.

    I hope you know that this forum is more for you, which of course, provides direct and indirect benefits to Jessie as well. And as for the future, Grey’s Anatomy has taught me, (yes, love McDreamy), that we really don’t know when a lion, falling hole, or any other catastrophe comes our way, so let’s just enjoy who we are, with what we know, using whatever we have for now. 😀

    Much hugs and love to you and your family,

    Pink.

  15. Trying to protect Jessie should be a main concern; not everyone out there is loving and understanding and theres always the chance of exploitation by the hands of others. But I do hope you can find a way to at least continue with your story and perspective My son’s friend came out in jr. high and was treated horribly by his father….he could only take it so long before he felt he needed to end his pain. Stories like yours really will help other families.

    • I agree on all counts. I shudder to think of the pain that your son’s friend has to endure…at the hand of his father no less. Heartbreaking.

  16. As I’m sure many people have, I came here from HuffPost. I wept reading your story and this post here and just wanted to say I think you are a tremendous parent (and the rest of your family, Jessie’s school etc. are also incredible). I once dated a transgender man (FTM) and, while he was perfectly comfortable with himself, his parents – more specifically, mother – were not. His mother still often used female pronouns and kept a large portrait of my friend as a toddler, in a fluffy pink dress, on the wall of their living room. He felt that she would never stop wanting her little girl back and could not fully accept a son instead…which I understand, it must have been very difficult, especially for fairly conservative people thirty years ago (when he first told them). They never stopped loving him, but he could not be himself around them for a long, long time.
    I’m literally joyous that Jessie is having such a different experience, that she is so loved and supported by her family and community. I think your concerns about oversharing or “exploiting” her story are understandable but self-regulating, and I’m sure that if Jessie said “Mom, I don’t want to share my life right now,” you’d respect it.
    Whether this is Jessie’s final identity or if she decides to change in the future, I have total faith in your ability to handle it with love and compassion and support.
    It breaks my heart to know some people will say hateful and ignorant things to you and by proxy to Jessie, but the tide is changing. They are the minority, and they’re operating out of fear and ignorance…and people like you are what’s changing that. Thank you for sharing your family’s story, thank you for being a fantastic parent, thank you for raising loving, self-accepting children.
    (I never comment on anything, but this was so moving I just had to say something! Your family will be in my heart.)

    • Thank you for such a kind, thoughtful and beautiful message, Heather. I so appreciate the “virtual” pat on the back…

  17. I have had some great conversations about Jessie and your blog with other Unitarian Church members after the service. You are raising awareness through your blog.Jessie is showing people that gender is inside of us,not always what the world wants to see and believe as normal.Jessie knows what is right for her because it is in her,other humans have not influenced her feelings.You are doing a great job of “riding shotgun” with her.Like others have said,WE need that the world knows more and the timing is right.

  18. I can’t comment on your feelings of possible exploitation as a parent. But what you are doing is necessary for our culture to understand transgender. I know nothing about being trans and don’t quite understand it. But reading this helps. I feel that with all the over the top publicity (miss universe?) we need real people to explain the process to make us (sorry for us, uninitiated(?) maybe) understand. You and your daughter will regret this at times but you will also know that you have changed perceptions and appreciate it. I hope that that didn’t sound preachy. Thank you

    • That’t just it – for the most part, no one knows about it until they find themselves in the midst of it and then it is totally overwhelming. Trust me, I know. It is a rollercoaster for sure, but maybe us telling our story will make for a little less motion sickness for others.

  19. Hey Julie! I read this post on Huffington Post, and just had to come here and chime in.

    First of all, I want to assure you that you are doing the right thing. This is an issue that cannot be reasoned with, negotiated with or turned off no matter how much you try. I should know, I was one of these kids myself. So far in my life, I’ve had five friends of mine die from this, most frequently by suicide. By helping Jessie transition now, you are giving her the best possible shot at a successful life after this.

    I have many thoughts for you, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing. First of all, I hope you understand, the trauma from so many years in the wrong gender causes us to inevitably act out. Usually, the GID is not the only psychological issue we’re facing. There are probably anger issues, jealousy issues, self-esteem issues. As a friend of mine once put it, “Ordinary girls feel so insecure about their looks. Of course, it’s that much worse for us!” I’d encourage you to be very patient.

    Secondly, socialization is so important. I was reading about the incident at the gym, and memories just came flooding back. Being a girl is tough – there are so many rules, phrases and subtleties that just take time to learn. There’s also the issue of being yourself and not a cartoon characture of a stereotyped woman. It takes a while to find a middle ground.

    Thirdly, I would ask you to consider the following. Do you know what “stealth” is? I only mention this, because I really believe it’s the best philosophy. It’s been my experience that people that can pass and don’t mention their past are people that move ahead in life, get married, find successful employment and make their life about something more than crippling GID. Making it to “the other side” and not ending up somewhere in between is so important. People that end up somewhere in between are people that have employment issues, use self-delusion as a shield from an abusive world and just end up deeply unhappy people.

    I only mention this because, with you blogging about this so publicly – stealth might be harder for Jessie eventually. Without stealth, she’ll never just be a normal woman, which is tough enough. I realize that, as a parent you probably need support – but I’d ask you to consider the long-term ramifications. It’s good to help the community, but ultimately your first responsibility is to yourself.

    Jessie will develop an amazing strength over this time period. One that will make her more patient, more thoughtful, more determined and more compassionate than other people. I respect you so much for standing by her.

    • I know and think about the “stealth” concept often. I guess a part of me hopes that even in the next ten years or twenty years the world will be more open and aware of transgender to the point that it will be less of an issue and that Jessie will just be Jessie. I appreciate your thoughts on this, particularly from your unique perspective. Thanks for “chiming in”.

      • I agree it’s getting better, but we’ve still got a long ways to go. The fact that she’s going be able to get on Spironolacetone and avoid the detrimental effects of testosterone is going to be a huge, priceless advantage for her. The choice is, of course, yours. I honestly see advantages either way. I simply moved after college, and it’s never come up.

        I gather you live close to Boston. I would recommend that you look into some of the really excellent specialists we have in the area.

        I also don’t want to make you feel panic or worry – and please forgive me if this is inappropriate. But, I would really encourage you to make sure she has access to therapy for the first few years. Despite all your love, all your understanding as a parent – there are some things she’s just not going to share with you. I certainly did that with my parents, and I’m sure that you did it with yours.

        I say this because one of my closest friends in the community committed suicide two years ago. From my perspective, she had it all. Gorgeous looks, a supportive family and transitioned so early in life. But, the fact is, this is a road that damages you. I have wished so frequently that I had talked more openly with her mother about the dangers, so that’s why I’m doing it with you. I hope it’s not upsetting.

        Best of luck. Jessie might not understand it yet, but you are the biggest blessing she could have gotten in life – a supportive parent.

      • Brianna – we are all over the therapy part. Thanks for pointing it out though, as I know others who are not and I often worry about how that may or may not effect their children.

    • Gosh, Brianna. You started out telling Julie she was doing the right thing, and then went on to caution her about long-term ramifications. Of course, Julie was already aware of them, which is why she is conflicted. I believe that you meant that the love and support for Jessie is the right thing. I’m not sure that the other stuff – the bad stuff – necessarily applies here, however. If she continues to do the right thing by Jessie (and there is really no “if” about it), Jessie will be fine -stealthiness be damned.

      The “coming out” of a 10-year-old is so much different than it is for an adult. Is it easier, though? We who waited until later in life may think
      so. Most of us have probably fantasized about it, in fact. Jessie has the support of her family, the schools, and local community. They all knew George, and now they are getting to know Jessie (the same great kid with a different appearance). Assuming she continues to live in the same community as she matures, how could she possibly be stealth? With the help and guidance of her family and professionals, however, Jessie will have options available to her, such as hormone therapy and “corrective” surgeries, which could very well lead to an ability to be stealth in the future (should that be her desire). These options, when considered before the onset of puberty, may be the same as those for an adult, but with different (hopefully better) effect. I believe that the ravages of testosterone on both the body and the mind are what lead to many of the negatives you describe above. Of course, the ravages of estrogen create their own problems, but are not the same as they may be for one who has not first experienced those of testosterone. Beyond that, the ability Jessie has been afforded to freely express herself in the gender she identifies, at such a young age, should eliminate much of the internal struggle that many of us have had. For these reasons, I feel that we can’t assume that Jessie’s journey will be the same as for those of us who have waited (or even are waiting) until later in life to begin transitioning. Being stealth, as a concept, should not be overlooked, but should be far from the concern of all involved at this stage in Jessie’s development.

      I think that following Jessie’s lead, as Julie has done (and often has been exhausted by attempting to keep up with her) will, ultimately, end with fantastic results. We can only pray – and I do! 🙂

      • As if you need rescuing. I’ll keep my white horse at the ready, though. I’m afraid that I will have to substitute shiny earrings and shoes for the shiny armor, however. 😉

      • I actually transitioned very early. So, I do have more than an inkling of what is going to come up. I could write a novel on how awful high school boys are going to be in a few years. They will be simultaneously extremely interested while also being extremely disdainful.

        Look, I get what you’re saying. I just also feel like being honest about the situation isn’t simply being a cheerleader. This is a complex situation. Complex discussion is simply living up to the truth of the matter.

      • Got it — as it happens, Constance is one of my most ardent (and honest) supporters. It is all good!

      • Brianna,
        Honesty is a good thing. (“You want the truth?….”) The truth, here, is that Jule is already aware of the cautions you have brought forth. So, I wonder, to whom are you really speaking? Certainly, it is not to those like ourselves, either. I’m afraid, though, that the vast majority of readers may not be able to “handle the truth”, at least not in the way that you have presented it.

        A cheerleader? Regrettably, I never have been one. You see, in my attempt to hide my gender identity from the world, I was one of those “awful teenage boys” who played football – not the cheerleader I truly identified with. My overcompensation was the real game I played, though, and I did well at both. What I learned from playing with the boys is that teenage boys can be awful to ANY girl, and even to each other. I graduated from high school 43 years ago, but my daughters suffered at the hands of teenage boys 15 years ago, and I have a 10-year-old granddaughter who gets picked on at times now (mainly because she is the prettiest girl in school – stupid boys and their ideas on how to get a girl’s attention). So, naturally, Jessie should beware, just as any girl should. Of course, being a transgender girl comes with its own set of problems, but it will be how she deals with them that matters. Do you have advice on that point? Honestly, it sounds more like you are trying to “scare the girl out” of Jessie with talk of disdain by others, suicide, and such. I know that is not your intention, and although your points are certainly valid, I see them as being not-so-constructive, as they have been put. Perhaps it may serve Jessie, Julie, and the rest of the readers better if you added a touch of cheerleader to your approach. In other words, it’s OK to add a little “Rah Rah” to the “Raw Raw (truth)”.

        BTW, I’m not so sure that, by coming to know and express my true gender in the way I have, I have caused any less harm for my daughters than I would have for myself had I come out at an early age instead (No, I am sure that I have, and we’ve all been suffering for it). I could write a novel, as well, on that subject. There’s no good way, or right way to deal with this issue; just individual ways.

        Take care.
        Connie

      • See, Connie, I’m trying to keep my own experience out of it, because it’s not about me. I only mention it because I do think it speaks to my credibility here.

        You asked if I had more advice for being a teenage girl and transitioning? Sure, I’d have a lot of it. My main advice is continued therapy, and getting socialized by girlfriends ASAP, meaning age peers.

        Also,
        1. Don’t let it take over her life. There is a world outside of GID, which is hard enough to prepare for. Find a skill, a hobby, and learn all you can about it.
        2. Encourage her to dress conservatively. You’ll fit in better with girls your age if you err on the side of least attention. I think many of us overcompensate due to insecurities – I certainly did. Understanding what’s appropriate takes experience. That’s up to you as mom to help with. ^^
        3. Don’t just embrace everything girly like a stereotype. I, myself, loved video games as a child. As an adult, it led to a career I truly love making them. I got pushback on this hobby as a child because it “wasn’t something girls do.” Well, the idea is to be more true to yourself, not less.
        4. It’s a mistake to assume that because someone is gay, they are your ally. They deal with totally different issues, and sometimes have jealousy. For that matter, just because someone is a girl, it does not make them your ally. I like women, but when you’ve wanted to be one for so long, you can romanticize them in a way that’s unrealistic. Girl friendships can be dramarama.

        Regarding boys in a few years.
        1. Guys are great. Who knows which way her sexuality will go, but for me I’m really glad I was able to date relatively normally, particularly in college. Being sought by them for dating really helped my self esteem. That’s why it will also hurt so terribly for her when some of them will attack her for her past.

        Remember, teenage guys are jerks for all girls. I think, for a teenage boy, the worst thing to be called is “gay.” So, if they are attracted to you, they will attack you to feel better about themselves. It’s AWFUL.

        We moved, which was a clean slate. Looking back, it was probably a bit dangerous not telling boys about my past while also going out with them. Every option has pitfalls.

        Sorry to write a novel. I thought you might find my experiences useful, though. ^^

        Best,
        Brianna

    • I agree with Brianna on the stealth part..but I think you have a year or two before Jessie becomes known to the whole world!

      • Right? Plus, her personality is not one the necessarily lends itself to stealth anything! Oh my.

  20. God bless you for encouraging and supporting your child to be the best person she can be. You and Jessie are an inspiration to everyone… or should be, I think.

  21. Your story is very compelling. What I relate to is your struggle to stay on your feet as a parent after being thrown this left hook. However, because I write about my children occasionally including a piece that was published in the New York Times – a wonderful experience but one that really called the question for me in terms of how far I could go with stories related to my children – I truly understand your quandary. My children are adults now and though there are very many stories I would like to write about them growing up, they are off limits mainly because they cross the line of writing about my life to writing about theirs. And I think they are entitled to own their own stories. It is complicated, though, and it is to your credit that you are wrestling with this.It is an occasion for caution and care.

    • Well said. I have noticed in my blogs that they often (usually) morph into what is happening for me, using only the issue of the day as a springboard. There is so much more to my kids than the transgender issue…most of which i do not share. That said, it is another ever complicated piece of my life.

      • Thanks, Jan. Many people have told me that there is actually a universality with these issues that one would not expect…who knew that there were parallels between identifying as transgender and about a million other parenting/growing up issues?

  22. I’ve spent the last hour and 15 minutes reading your blog. It’s so wonderful to read about how supportive and loving you are toward your child. Wondering where the name of Jessie came from? I would’ve thought Georgia might have been nice, but maybe she needed a complete change for the name to feel right? If only all children were so blessed to have such understanding and open-minded parents!

  23. Mom’s in day to day regular situations are conflicted and guilt ridden daily! You are doing the best thing for your child- supporting her. You will continue to support her if she decides to become a he again because you are an amazing mom! Your in a difficult situation and am dealing with it the way you know how. You also need support and this is allowing you to tell your families story and get the support you need. You are in a unique situation- I hope you find comfort in sharing rather than being conflicted over it.

  24. You and your family are an absolute inspiration. Reading your blog brings tears to my eyes, and I can only hope to be such a great mother when that day comes. Keep up the good work and never forget what a positive impact you are making!

  25. Its ok if you don’t post this publicly, but to all the Trans-Girls. Give her a break. She doesn’t need a dissertation on literally everything about everything about being trans. Seriously. She is doing amazing with trying to grasp all of this so fast. The comments about she needs to do this and that and she got this wrong and got that wrong. Hell the other day I called MYself by my old name and I havent uttered that name in over 10 years!

    Julie, like I said, you dont have to post this publicly, I just wanted you to know that you are doing amazing!!! 🙂 Jessie is so lucky to have you. This is why I dont id as trans anything. Because who we are has nothing to do with whats between our legs. Period,. Im a woman. just born a little differently and special – like Jessie

    • I have yet to receive a comment that I was not comfortable posting publicly. I actually love that you called yourself by your old name…and even moreso that you didn’t consider it the end of the world.

  26. Julie,

    First of all, this is neither here nor there but Jessie is absolutely gorgeous and lovely in every way. And as a mom (with a 6-year old daughter) to another mom, I so admire your and your husband’s absolute dedication to meeting the needs of your daughter with support and love, even when it took you down a road you least expected. I wish Jessie joy, love, and support in every aspect of her life. She will always know that her parents were brave and courageous, loved her deeply enough to let the “George” part of her go, and supported her throughout her journey with sensitivity and grace. What more can a child ask of parents than that? And what more can a parent ask of their child than to live life honestly and compassionately in a way that honors who they are?

    Sending hugs your way.

    Lynne
    Oregon Mama

    • Thanks, Lynne. We are on this adventure with her – only she is the one leading the charge. I would argue that we have learned any bravery and courage from her!

  27. I read the post on Huffington and am truly glad there are parents like you in the world. My husband and I had a friend who transitioned late in life and was completely miserable. We know that if she had had the support from her family at an early age she would have been much better off emotionally. Thank you for sharing and giving others an insight into how the world should work. Love one another.
    Mike in Las Vegas

  28. At the risk of sounding like (or being) a complete insensitive jerk… I’ve read through several pages of this blog and HuffPo comments. I will admit that I don’t understand how changing superficial societal constructs can “fix” a gender identity problem. But apparently it does. But as I read through here, it strikes me that you have embraced this in the way that some parents embrace trying to make their kids tv stars or other parents embrace beauty pageants. I wouldn’t say that you are exploiting this (being too hard on yourself there) but without knowing anything about you, your family, etc. it does just jump out at me… I do find myself wondering why George was seeing a therapist (not my business, and maybe I just didn’t read far enough). Sorry to be a jerk, I couldn’t imagine going through what you are. Love and acceptance are good things I don’t think you can be faulted for that.

    • You raise a fair question. Like many kids with gender identity issues, my child was having a great deal of difficulty in a lot of areas of “his” life which is what prompted us to seek out help from a therapist. The idea of being transgender was far from our minds as we assumed “he” was in a phase and would “outgrow” it. Many of those issues disappeared once “she” shared with us the internal struggle that she had been waging. It made it very clear to us how deeply this kid was struggling with something that most of us take for granted. Make sense?

    • Ian,
      Perhaps you are being too hard on yourself, as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you are a complete insensitive jerk. You admit that you don’t understand, and that’s a good start for “fixing” a human identity problem. The second step toward understanding lies in the question: Do you WANT to understand? Of course, there are 10 more steps that you will have to go through, like in any good 12 step program.
      I’m sorry if I sound like a complete, oversensitive bitch (are either of us REALLY sorry when we put things that way?). The fact is that JESSIE is the one who has recognized her own gender identity (this is not a PROBLEM), and Julie is doing everything she can to be sure that her child can be the happy, wonderful person she has every right to be. You are correct about one thing, however. Love and acceptance are good things. I truly hope that you find them in your own life.
      Peace and love,
      Connie

  29. You are raising awareness and lending a voice to other kids like Jessie who don’t have the support she has. I think your blog is wonderful! I’ve seen a few others with the same topic. Sarah Hoffman is a woman who writes about her TG son. Raising My Rainbow is another blog written by a mother of a 6yo TG boy. Both amazingly supportive mothers and great blogs. Check them out if you haven’t already. 🙂
    Keep writing, mama!

  30. I think you are a remarkable and courageous family. If ever you doubt whether it is appropriate to post about your daughter’s experience, simply pause and check in with yourself about your intentions. Your instinct will guide you. Wishing you and your family the best as you navigate the path ahead.

  31. I don’t feel you are exploiting Jessie or her situation at all. What your blog does is help. It helps parents who may be going through the same situation. It helps you as a way of talk therapy. You get your feelings out to us, your readers, and that has to help! You help educate those of us who know nothing about what it is like to have a child that identifies with the opposite gender.
    You are handling this with such grace and strength, that I can’t help but think other children in Jessie’s situation and how this blog could be benefiting them. Their parents can look toward you and Rich, and Harrison, as a shining example of how to accept, love, and support their own child. I think when Jessie is old enough to read and fully understand this blog, she will be grateful that your struggles and triumphs were documented and shared. It will give her an adult insight as to how wonderful her Mom is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s