Why (And for Whom) I Am Defensive

Note: I wrote this specifically for Huffington Post…it may appear on there at which point I will be slayed again, but I know I have support here. xo  jr


Over the past several months I have been venturesome (or perhaps stupid?) enough to publicly share my interpretation and personal feelings from my front row seat as the parent of a child who has identified as transgender.  I have been equally supported and vilified by readers far and wide.  I have been told that I am an “incredible parent” only to be corrected by a different reader that I am actually a horrible parent and that G-d does not make mistakes, just I do.  Compliments for my honesty and style of writing are usurped by bashing for “rambling” and being a “horrible writer”.  I have been called “wonderful” and ”self-centered” in the same thread written (sometimes viciously) from the comfort of computers around the world that I will neither find nor seek to find.  And it all makes me wonder.

My child’s decision (yes, it was her decision) to socially transition from male to female is not one which my family and I approached lightly or with nonchalance.  It was years in the making and included working closely with therapists, teachers and school administrators.  Once she was finally able to “share her secret” with my us, my husband and I did what came naturally and seemed right; we would support her in any way she needed.  That is what parents are supposed to do.  The look of indisputable relief on her face spoke volumes as to just how tortured she had been.  Who am I to deny another living person the opportunity to seek out a situation which feels more tenable just because it is going to be hard on me, her father, brother and extended family?  And to those who argue that I am being bamboozled by a ten year old, perhaps you can explain why said child would opt to “bully” me (yes, that has been suggested, too) into submission over something so socially and emotionally difficult?  Believe me; there are plenty of other things that the average kid will choose to badger their parents over which are a hell of a lot easier for everyone involved.  All that said, I avow to be equally supportive should she decide at any point that living as a girl is not the solution to her fundamental discomfort; it could happen and it won’t be easy, either.

In (foolishly) reading the extensive commentary (note: written mostly anonymously) I am amazed at the breadth of readers who made the decision to read my story but then, consciously (or not) opted to not dig further in an attempt to ascertain what might have lead to our decision to allow her (yes, I refer to my male born child as “her”) to live as she saw fit and how she felt comfortable in this world.  It begs the question: why on earth would a child do this unless she felt like she absolutely had to?  And, further, why does anyone object to her decision?  I am not so naïve as to think that there are not grand implications in this world to presenting oneself as a gender other than that for which you are ascribed particular body parts, but I am equally cognizant of the power of one’s feelings.

Do you think this has been easy for her or, for that matter, the rest of our family which includes my older son, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins who all live in the immediate vicinity? Imagine the strength it took to share her deepest secret with us and then to present to her peers in the sex opposite of the one they had known for nearly five years.  Can you think of anything in your life that propelled you to undertake such a frightening endeavor?  I cannot.  The stalwartness with which she dove into this shallow pool is staggering and deserving of commendation, not judgment or opinion, particularly by people, myself included, who are unqualified to even begin to know how she feels.

I know this sounds defensive.  That is my intention. I do not, however, feel compelled to defend myself in any way; I know that I am doing right by my child.  I hope that I am doing right by both my children, actually.  No, this is about defending and protecting my child from the big bad world out there that simply does not understand, or, I’d be so bold as to suggest, doesn’t want to understand, an identification that is different from their own.  And, yes, despite what you may think, being vocal and writing about it is indeed protecting my child from those who are unwilling to educate themselves and appreciate that the fact that someone feels and presents differently from them is not a threat against them, rather it is an assertion of great import to someone else.  It is not an easy lesson even for the most evolved, but perhaps this can start a discussion that doesn’t disintegrate into name calling, finger pointing and criticizing one solitary person who is only trying to feel less alone in the world.

All the best,

Jessie’s mom

82 thoughts on “Why (And for Whom) I Am Defensive

  1. Julie, I always love your posts but this one I thought was particularly great: so honest, humane, and rational. And your sign-off is really moving. I hope this changes peoples’ minds — I see how it could.
    Much love from Buenos Aires!

  2. Julie — You know I almost never comment on your columns or anyone else’s. I definitely prefer to just stalk them. But this is a wonderful and important piece. I always read online comments, mainly to be slack-jawed by all the anger, intolerance and vitriol out there, usually written anonymously. (Although, in a way it’s almost worse when someone proudly slaps their name on some outrageous piece of hatred.) Anyway, this is just great. You should be proud of it, as I am of you.

  3. Bravo! But from here on in, I’d recommend that you not deign to even respond to the petty, small responses of the ignorant many. You are in better company with the (perhaps) few who recognize the truths you speak of with such sensitivity and candor… just keep telling your and Jessie’s stories as you are, and her life, and yours, will speak for itself. You can be bigger than these tiny, wretched people who think that anyone’s life but their own is subject to their scrutiny and judgement.

  4. I feel badly, Julie, that you have had to experience those foolish derisive comments when all one needs to do is search the internet for the medical explanation for this issue. If you google “brain of transgender” you will see that male and female brains differ, with a certain nerve being larger in the male than the female brain. When transgender brains of male to female are examined, they closely resemble the female brain. Further, don’t blame G-d for the multitude of ” mistakes” children suffer. They are born without limbs, with autistism, with cerelbal palsy, etc etc. and their parents are not responsible, unless you want to blame the anomalies of their DNA.

  5. Bravo Julie!!!! You and Rich are wonderful parents are your children are truly blessed to have you. My heart goes out to others in Jessie’s situation who are not as blessed with caring parents dedicated to providing the unconditional love and support the two of you do.

  6. How fast can you get to Charlotte? I am sure you have a dress as beautiful as Michelle’s. This needs to be uttered across the world, I’d like to see you on the podium tonight! (Certainly as important as anything Bill Clinton has to say).

  7. Hi! You know how the internet is – you click around and wind up on someone’s blog and get sucked in. That is how I found your story the other week. I think that I have caught up on almost all of your entries. I’m not sure how anyone can tell you that your writing isn’t good. It’s part of what made me stay to read! I’m just an average 20-something girl, in Los Angeles, who has nothing to do with the transgender world, but Jessie’s story, through your words, is really fascinating. In a way that when I read about her I just want her to win! Anyway, I thought I’d just drop a note saying that what you are doing is great. You ARE educating people who read your daughter’s story and you ARE making a difference. 🙂

    • Wow – I love that you are “just an average 20 something girl” and still find meaning and worth in what I am saying. That means the world to me. And thanks for the words of support, too!

    • That’s why I’m here too – I’m a 21 year old girl in the UK who also has nothing to do with the transgender world, but I follow Julie’s blog because I love her writing and, like you, I also just want Jessie to win, goddammit! I’m being educated every time I come here to read a new post. Well done Julie!

  8. YES! Stand tall and be proud — you have reason to do both. You are supporting and loving your child in the best way possible, while at the same time setting an incredible example for your family. You are an amazing parent and an inspiration!

  9. Regardless of what the future holds for Jessie, you and your husband have given her the greatest gift a parent can give – true unconditional love and acceptance. And for this I say, you are awesome. really.

  10. Well said. Bravo! I have two comments. When trying to explain the unexplainable to the noncomprehending mind, I’ve been known to say, “When did you know your gender? When did you know what sex you were attracted to? And you’re sure about your gender? Well just as surely as you know YOUR gender, transgender people know theirs. You’re lucky enough to have your brain match your body. Just as surely as you can’t imagine living as a (male/female), transgendered people can’t imagine living as (female/male). Just as deeply as you know your “innate” gender, they know theirs as being different from the one assigned at birth. Gender is between your ears, not your legs.” People have no idea how many transgender people there are in the world. How many they actually encounter in a day, week or month. They are amongst us, stealth and living true to themselves, as so many non-trans people are privileged to do every day. No big deal. It doesn’t impact others life style. WHY must people insist on judging? Embrace them. Get over your phobias. My favorite quote on the G-d argument: “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott Isn’t God – whatever the religion – supposed to be love? Hugs, Julie. See you soon.

  11. Hi, I don’t usually comment- not really for any specific reason, I’m just a quiet person on and off the web. However, I found your blog through one of the articles on I believe it was ‘Huffington Post’ (?) and have been reading ever since. I am in no way part of the transgender world but I really like reading about your family’s and Jessie’s journey through all of this. I really wish that the people writing the negative comments would be more open towards learning more rather than fighting against what they don’t understand. Because I think that is what a lot of it is.

    All my best,


  12. Hi Julie,
    I found your blog through a friend’s “share” on Facebook. I’ve gone through your blog from the beginning and I think you are absolutely amazing! How wonderful that you are sharing your family’s story and doing so in a way that is so full of love and caring with a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. I admire you and your husband for all that you are doing for your children and can only imagine that, as you inspire me, you are inspiring thousands of others. Your family’s courage, and especially Jessie’s courage, are touching others more than you will ever know.

  13. hang in there sweetheart. you are an amazing person and are doing what any good, loving, caring soul should do. this journey is difficult enough without the added torture of anonymous writers. for every ounce of hatred in this world, there is a two-fold amount of love for you and your family. i believe in that and i know you do too — even if you were brought to your knees for a minute by said hatred. you will conquer even on the days you dont believe you will. *hugs* -april

  14. Hi Julie,

    First of all, please know that your story has helped me and our family. Words cannot express how much comfort your words have brought and (needed) laughter.

    What we are faced with as parent\’s of gender non-confirming children is not an easy road to travel and certainly one that we did not choose. This is not a choice, it is an eventuality that will occur regardless of what we as parents do. We can either bring up children who are not ashamed of who they are and feel proud and loved, or a child who is filled with self-loathing, doubt, sadness. I don\’t see a choice.

    I pass along articles frequently to family and friends and they always ask if I read the comments, quickly followed up with a plea that I don\’t read the comments. Of course, I do (read them), and wind up filled with much sorrow and sadness. However this quickly fades as I look at my child who is thriving and happy and I think about all the support and love that I so have, this far outweighs any negative words an ignorant and fearful person might write.

    As far as the God angle, when my 5 year old child is asked how come they are now a girl, she will answer, \”because that is how God made me\”.

    YOU have made a difference in my life.

  15. Julie,

    I have been following your blog for a few months for two primary reasons. First, I am the mother of a child with special needs and desperately cling to the writings of awesome mothers meeting parenting challenges head-on and with love, grace, strength, and dignity. Your blog fits this need of mine perfectly and is helping me become a better mother myself.

    Second, I am a high school educator and have worked with one student who identified himself to me as transgendered. He was a fabulous person who made my world a better place just by being himself. You write about a girl who, I’m sure, has given this feeling to her own teachers/school faculty. And in writing about Jessie, I think you are helping me have a bit more understanding so that the next time I know a student who identifies as transgender I can be even more supportive of his or her needs.

    Thanks for putting it all out there for people like me. I appreciate your efforts to educate others, but I really, really admire your love and support for your daughter.


    • My thanks to you, Rachel, for taking on the job of teaching our kids. And, further, thank you for accepting the kids in whatever package they arrive. All the best of luck with your own child…I am quite sure you are rockin’ it.

  16. Hi Julie,
    As I read this tears filled my eyes and I got goosebumps at the same time. It is so true that we need to be open and educate people in order to protect our children. You do an amazing job at this. THANK YOU!!!!

  17. Dear Julie,

    I have only recently started to follow your journey. You are a courageous loving mother who is doing the very best for your child and family. Let others say what they will, you are a champion.

  18. I will say it again and again. We are all G-d’s children. Jessie is so blessed to have the love and support of you and Rich….and of course, your entire network of family and friends. Sharing her journey with the world is a gift you have given all of us. Thank you.

  19. I have never felt compelled to comment, but today I simply must. I stumbled upon your blog while researching support for a boy in my class, who identifies as a girl. This child is amazing, although her family was less supportive of her identity than your family was. I was relieved to read your blog, and is was so heartening to learn of a family whose love transcends society’s ideas of “normal”. I hope that others’ ignorance doesn’t discourage you from sharing your journey! You are providing a source of validation and comfort to others in similar situations. Kudos to you!

    • Thanks, Kelly — so glad to hear that you are finding it helpful. I understand that those parents are struggling – this is tough stuff. I hope (for everyone’s sake) that they come around and are able to reconcile it all in their heads and hearts.

  20. Hi, I’m a college kid and aspiring teacher and have been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now. I just wanted to chime in here and say that I agree that the world can be a scarily unaccepting place. However, as I’m sure you have found, there are also wonderful communities in which people couldn’t care less. I first thought about this when you first wrote about the camp Jessie went to with other transgender children. You mentioned that you loved that the bathroom was labeled everyone’s. Ever since that I’ve been wanting to tell you that the bathrooms in every dormitory at Vassar College are co-ed. We have a ton of classes about the complexity of gender. We have at several transgender students (and I’m sure, as you pointed out, some which I just have no idea about). Anyway, I guess there are two reasons I wrote all this. The first is to thank you reminding me that I’m lucky to be living in such an accepting community. The second is too reassure you that these accepting communities are definitely out there and I’m sure Jessie (and you) will continue to find them!

    • Great to hear from you, Rebecca. I love to hear of the accepting community at Vassar…my fabulous nephew is there, too! Thank you, too, for going into teaching. It is the teachers in Jessie’s life that have taken the lead in all of this acceptance.

  21. Julie,
    I jumped to the end here so I could leave a reply before I became too emotional…
    I know I come to these discussions from different direction from the majority of people and so I have a bias, but every time I applaud you, Jessie and your family for your steadfast refusal to bow to the pressure society puts on you. I understand what you do is nothing more than what you must, yet it takes more strength then your average anonymous bigot could ever hope to muster. I want to thank you, what you are doing helps all of us more than we can say with words.
    Just so you know, if it were possible to choose our parents, I would have sold my soul to have a mother like you.

  22. Brava!

    I mean seriously, it is perfectly said, to the point, and completely justified.
    Children have better things to do than to make up for fun wanting to be the opposite sex, I agree with that statement, if she says it, she means it. Case closed. And our world needs to be more educated. A lot of people preach it is against their religion, yet it’s those same religions that preach love thy neighbor (so forth and so on). Of course God has a plan. And God knows best. But maybe God’s purpose is to teach us kindness, understanding, and to stop being judging jerkfaces? Of course Jesse is part of Gods plan, as we all are. We all have something to learn, and something to teach during our short stay in this world. Our world needs more love, more understanding, and more people to do what their mama’s taught them! “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” ❤ Much love to you & yours, always and forever!!! ❤ amy

  23. Dear Julie:

    I sat and read your entire blog one day last month after seeing your Huffington Post article…and now find myself checking in periodically to see how things are going. (Kinda stalkerish…hope you don’t mind!)

    You are an incredible mom and a wonderful writer! If ever faced with such a difficult situation, I could only wish to have the strength and courage you’ve shown.

    Don’t let the nasty people and their hurtful comments get you down. Nobody has the right to suggest that you’ve done anything but what’s best for your child. Clearly, their mother’s didn’t teach them that if they didn’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all!

    Jessie is one lucky girl to have such a loving family…as you are one lucky family to have such a beautiful child!

    Stay strong and defend your heart out!
    🙂 Maggie

  24. Julie,

    I can tell you having been THAT child, the worst part of being trans was having no one I could go to, no one to talk to about it. Not even at home which is the one place a child is supposed to be able to go for unconditional support. If for no other reason than providing that safe harbor for Jessie you are definitely doing the right thing!

    Much love to you and your family,

  25. I am trying to think of something eloquent to write here. I loved this piece and all I have to say is this, Julie you ROCK as a parent! And Jessie is one courageous gal! Screw the haters out there with their narrow mindedness in thinking that they know what is best for your child. You are teaching your kids, and most people who read your blog, about love, support and understanding. And that is what makes the works a better place.

  26. Julie,

    As others have said I normally do not write just read and stalk but this post begged me to write something. I do not find your writting “rambling” I think it is just fine. You shouldn’t listen to the ones that don’t believe hopfully they will someday but I don’t hold my breath on it only hope that their children will grow up believing ot at least have a more open mind . For the ones that can’t or won’t belive I like to think that what it omes down to is that it is hard to believe something that you haven’t or can’t experiance. After reading your first Huffingfton Post article I saw my ownlife in Jesse and now wish that I had the courage that Jesse has to tell my parents or someone else what I was feeling. So you writting is making a difference.

  27. It is beautiful. It really is, I work on the issues of LGBTQI and this post is something I would love to share with the others. It is really inspiring and honest, I really really admire your daughter and yours.

  28. A strong and powerful post. But still don’t go and read the HuffPo comments afterwards because commenters are nuts (myself included! LOL). You will never be able to convince everyone but your putting it out there does a lot to humanize these issues and is a step in the right direction.

  29. Julie, I think you are an incredibly strong and loving mom and woman. It was reading your original HuffPost article that brought me to your blog and inspired me to start writing one myself! Please keep on sharing and educating as honestly and powerfully as you have been – it’s making a difference.

    ~ karyn

  30. When I first read your blog on Huff Post a couple/three weeks ago, I found myself reading them all the back to the first ones you show on here. I do wish I could have been privy to the original ones you first did when Jessie first came out so I would know better what you were going thru then and see all the emotions that first erupted as you, Rich and Harrison realized what was going on in front of your own eyes.

    As far as God making mistakes, my usual response is that He doen’t make mistakes but that He allows them to happen for His own purposes — and we will probably never know what that purpose was for. I just went back and re-read the end of the Book of Job where God says to Job, “I will question you and you shall answer Me”. If those who would argue with you and the rest of us here would instead just spend their time trying to answer those questions, this world would be a better place.

    Each time I read one of your blogs, it is like you and I are having a conversation across the kitchen table and I feel as though I want to respond. I imagine most who keep reading these blogs feel the same way and that is the proof that your way of writing is the way it should be. You are not writing a textbook or a finished biography but rather doing something which is a work in progress but will also stand the test of time.

  31. Julie,

    There will always be those who will object to anything they cannot understand or are so closed minded, they don’t want to. They will also feel the need to loudly voice their negative opinions because they feel obligated to do so. I’ll proudly take the happiness I enjoy in my new life over the unhappiness others may toss at me from time to time because as I see it I have a badge of courage no one can take away from me.

  32. I wish you and your family all the best. You truly are an amazing mother and a great example of what parental love really is.
    I have no kids myself, nor am I transgendered, but I know alot of LGBT people. Living life as yourself following your heart makes usually your road more rocky but still easier to travel. Jessie has even more bumps removed from her path having such great parents. Pardon my english, hope you got the point anyway! 🙂
    Greetings from Finland.

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