Congratulations! It’s a ….

Damn if it didn’t happen again.  There I was, preparing to cheer Harrison on at his swim meet (during which he collected two first place finishes) when another mom and I struck up a conversation.  It began when I noticed the opposing team’s swim caps and questioned aloud which “W” team we were swimming against as there are two “W” towns nearby.  The woman sitting next to me clarified for me, as she was the mom of a swimmer from said “W” town.  As tends to happen (to me, in particular) in situations such as this, we began to chat: about swimming, the time commitment, the pros of swimming (there are no cons) and whether my son was planning on swimming at college (undecided).

Since the only captivating part of any swim meet are the races that your child is in, there is plenty of downtime during which all that happens is you become acutely aware of not only how damned hot it is in the pool area but also the probability that your hair is curling from the humidity.  As such, it is always a bonus to be seated next to someone who is not face down in their iPhone or wrapped up in whatever is on their Kindle.  (Disclosure: I did have my Kindle with me on the off-chance that there was no one to chat with.)

“W” mom and I were discussing how kids who swim tend to be a nice group and she, for some reason that I cannot recall, mentioned something about the Temple they belong to. (Random, I know.) Nothing like handing me an instant opening for a conversation!  We played a little Jewish geography (for the uninformed, this is the Semitic version of “Six Degrees of Separation.”  Put any two or more Jewish people together and they are guaranteed to know folks in common.  In fact, there is a great likelihood that you are somehow related or used to be related or some such.)  We went back and forth, establishing a few commonalities and then came a pause.  It was for no reason, really, just a lull in the conversation…or one of our kids was in the pool.

After our respective cheering duties had passed, she turned to me and asked if Harrison was my only child.  I knew right then what was coming next; by all accounts a fair and reasonable question: “is your other child a boy or a girl?”  Damn.  Saw it coming, but still, over a year into the process, I never quite know how to answer.  I gave birth to and saw through for the first ten years, two boys.  I’ve been through two circumcisions, on the receiving end (more than once) of a shower of urine from the changing table, bought countless superman underpants and boxer shorts and been informed by both of my children of the joys of being able to pee outside.  Despite the year of longer hair, ear piercings and shoe shopping, I still hesitate to say I have a daughter.


I am aware that admitting this is probably going to sound as though I am not on-board. (I am.)  Or perhaps it will come across as my being mean. (I’m not.) It may even compel some of you to no longer “admire” my approach to parenting my transgender child. (Up to you.) I get that.  But I, perhaps more importantly, appreciate the need to be honest not only with the general you, but with myself.  While I do not think of Jessie as my daughter, I don’t think of her as my son, either.  I just think of her as my child; my second born, my wonderful, quirky, artistic, creative, hysterically funny and challenging child.  Whether she is my son or my daughter matters little.  What matters more is that I know how she ticks.  I know that there is no point in buying her decent mittens as she is sure to lose them somewhere between the kitchen and the car.  I know that unless I viciously and repeatedly flush the toilet in the bathroom, she isn’t going to get out of the shower until she has been asked a minimum of seven times.   I know that she needs a snack in the car on the ride home from school – not when she arrives at the house.  I know that she is capable of making me laugh and cry within the same hour.  And I know that I wouldn’t trade her…most of the time.

When “W” mom posed her query, I smiled and said, “Well, I sort of have both” and went on to tell her the Reader’s Digest version of the George/Jessie transformation.  To her credit, she did not visibly react in any way.  She didn’t even look at me as though I had two heads.  Her response made it clear to me (having answered this question innumerable times over the past year) that this was not the first transgender kid she knew of.  With nary a pause she remarked that she knew of a kid at her temple, although hesitated as to whether they were MtF (male to female) or FtM (female to male, duh).  I, in turn, knowing which Temple and, likewise, knowing many other parents of transgender kids, knew precisely who she was referring to and finished her thinking for her by telling her the child was FtM and doing great.  Now there’s a round of Jewish geography that I am fairly certain my parents never had!

I truly appreciated not only the ease with which she accepted my disclosure, but also the fact that this time around, another family paved the way for me.*  I have been doing plenty of my own paving which, truthfully, is difficult, isolating work.  This simple (and fair) question, which has, historically, brought me not-quite-to-my-knees was just that much easier this time.  So, too, is watching Jessie walk out the door bedecked in head to toe pink, head held high, confidence squarely in place at a time when, honestly, her mother’s is not.  It’s a process for me and for my child(ren) – boys and girls alike.  I am wise enough to know that this exchange was more the exception than the rule and wise enough to appreciate it having happened.

So, the next time you meet someone and ask them about their children know that you might not get the answer you were expecting.  Trust me when I tell you…it isn’t the answer they were expecting to give, either.

*Thanks, JP

34 thoughts on “Congratulations! It’s a ….

  1. Parents who have a child who has died also have trouble with “How many children do you have?” so I try to be careful about the questions I ask of people I’ve just met. Easier said than done, though!

  2. So many kind people ask innocent questions that can bring on anxiety, or sorrow, or dread, or confusion, or… whatever other negative emotion there is. After my husband and I found out that we were infertile, it seemed everyone I met asked me when we were going to start a family…. There is no way to censor our questions enough to avoid causing someone else pain – but our response to their answer can make a world of difference in how quickly they recover.

  3. I’ve learned also to never ask a child (one of my campers or new friend of one of my kids, etc…) about their mom and dad. You have to be SO careful of all of the different scenarios…raised by 2 moms, 2 dads, one parent, grandparents, etc…We can’t assume anything.

  4. Love Jewish Geography, played a good game of it the other day and it doesn’t often happen down here in my neck of the woods.
    I so appreciate your honesty in this adventure (not journey).
    Oh, I gave a presentation last night at our temple about teens and depression and the LGBQT community was part of it prepared curriculum and I got to talk about trans kids being more common these days, that I know some and have worked with some. 🙂 (didn’t mention that I only know Jessie in the virtual sense. some day, I swear she and Sari would have fun together).

  5. Is there another game called Jewish Jeopardy? (I’ll take Gender for a thousand, Alex) Transgender makes it a true “Daily Double”.

    I think, whether one is the parent of a transgender child or a transgender child herself (or himself, as the case may be), there will always be that feeling of need to find some explanation. Sometimes, trying to explain it to others is just a way of searching for the answers ourselves. I’ve decided (as a matter of self-survival) that there are no good answers, nor is there a good question. So, in my game, when it comes time for “Final Gender Jeopardy”, I’m hoping to bet it all on “What is ‘does it really matter?'” In the meantime, however, I feel like Lucy when Ricky says, “Ju got a lotta splainin’ to do.” Still, the name of that show is “I Love Lucy”. Ahh, that may just be the final answer, as well.

    • Yeah, but aren’t there some days when you just don’t feel like explaining? My father-in-law was old when my husband was born. When people would say things like “Out with your grandson today?” he would just answer “Yup” because he just didn’t have the energy to get into it.

      • As far as I’m concerned, I owe no explanation to anyone without whom I have (or have had) any relationship. For those people who are meeting me for the first time, it’s totally “what you see is what you get – take it or leave it”. So far, I’ve found that the vast majority of those people have been, at least, pleasant and respectful toward me; more so than in experiences I have had with some members of my own family. The day that I find myself out with my grandchildren and I get a comment like, “Grandma’s out with the grandchildren today” I will say little more than “yup”, other than the addition of “and loving itI”. The big smile on my face should be explanation enough.

  6. We are so much alike! First of all, I’m totally that person who would strike up an in depth conversation with a random woman at one of my kid’s athletic events. Secondly, I would answer honestly when posed with a question that may make me a bit uncomfortable. I admire that honesty in you when it comes to Jessie. It speaks volumes about your acceptance and your ability to not care what others think. Like you said, Jessie is simply (or at times not so simply), your child. Girl or boy (or both!), it makes no difference. You have two beautiful children (another similarity we have) who have different needs, abilities, strengths and weaknesses (yup, another similarity)!

  7. You, “not on board?????” Baloney!

    You are most certainly on board! You are giving Jessie the support she needs to figure herself out. I am lucky enough to have a spouse in that same position.

    “Jewish geography?” I’m afraid to ask what shul you belong to and risk revealing my secret identity! 🙂


  8. Love your point about it being more important that you, as Mom and supporter-in-chief, know how your beloved child ticks, than anything else. Your love for Jessie comes through so profoundly when you write. I appreciate it more and more every time I read your blog. Thanks!

  9. Interesting topic. Maybe because my child is younger (5), I always answer the gender she is now (MtF).

    I think it’s because I am concerned about a negative response if I were to answer honestly. However, I need to note that we have had nothing but support across the board, but I am still tentative nonetheless.

    Also, safety is still a big concern with me as well. Regardless, it’s never an easy answer is it:)

  10. Hi Julie, just wanted to tell you I have been following your blog for 8 months or so now, and I have SO much admiration and good feelings for you and your family, it’s ridiculous!
    I have a 2 year old daughter, and a little one on the way, and I really hope to end up being the kind of mom you are.
    It’s human nature to not always be perfect, have bad days (weeks? Months? Lol), and not always like who we are. I did want you to know, though, that I think you are an astounding example of love.
    Thank you!

    • Well, thanks, Mia! You just made my day. A two year old and one on the way…hoping you are getting some rest and wishing you all the best for an easy labor, delivery and parenting experience!

  11. Funny, honest, well written and, oy, so perfect an example of the “new normal”. Thanks to my sister, mother of the FtM temple youth, who passed this on to me. Can’t wait to read more of your posts.

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