Happy? 2nd Birthday

The following is raw, brutally honest and from the heart.  I suspect I will be criticized for my honesty, but that is a risk I am willing to take.  I cannot continue this blog in any other way…it would be unfair to you, to me, and most importantly, to Jess.   That said; feel free to comment, but try to be kind.

So.  Jess’s birthday is on Wednesday.  She is turning twelve.  In many ways it is really her second birthday, as she made her transition literally overnight on December 11, 2011. That was the day my son became my daughter, the boxer shorts were replaced with bikinis, the t-shirts with camisoles and the buzz cut with a ‘do.


I wish I could wax poetic about the how the whole experience (thus far) has made me a better person, or a smarter person or even a more tolerant person, but as I sit here and delete three, yes, three, entries all reminiscing about the transition, I realize that, in many ways, I am not necessarily on much more solid ground than I was back when it all began.

In the two years since George left and Jess came on the scene, much has changed yet much has remained the same.  George was always a challenge.  So, too, is Jess.  George was artistic.  So, too, is Jess.  George was unpredictable.  So, too, is Jess. George was funny.  So, too, is Jess.  George was complicated.  So, too, is Jess.  George was always pushing the envelope.  So, too, is Jess.  George was “all boy” (even with all the dolls and dress up).  So, too, in many ways, is Jess.  George had short hair.  Jess’s is long.  And has blond tips.  George had a pierced ear.  Jess has both ears pierced with two holes each.

I have, through various means, been in the company of many transgender kids over the course of these past two years.  They are, to a person, amazing folks.  (I am talking to you Jonah, Cameron and Aiden).  They are also entirely resolute, at peace and thriving.  Jess, however, is still a work in progress.

I was told (by a psychiatrist who specializes in gender issues) that a full eighty percent of children who identify as transgender while prepubescent change their minds.  I have always considered this statistic to be both a blessing and a curse.  I grapple with the joys that I associate with both seeing this through for a lifetime and aborting as puberty kicks in.  If I am being honest (which I always am), I sometimes do hope that it is a “phase” if for no other reason than the fact that I know it will be an easier life for my child if she proceeds on a more traditional trajectory.  I am sure I am going to be criticized for admitting that.  I am sure that I deserve to be.  I am also sure that you would feel the same way if you were in my shoes.

To be clear, I am not saying that I do not support Jess in whatever she wants and needs to do or be. Nor am I saying that she will not have a happy and fulfilling life, no matter what course she takes.  I guess what I am saying, on this, the beginning of the third year, is that I still am not sure where we are going to land.  I am still not sure how Jess feels, deep down, about the whole thing.  I fret as I watch her skin break out, her appetite soar and her voice deepen (just as Harrison’s did at her age) and the other changes that are not even around the corner, but within spitting distance.  I honestly often see a boy in a girl’s outfit about to change in ways that are going to have a profound effect on her.  On me.  On everyone.

As this third year begins, I feel less confident in my ability to manage this.  I feel more anxious about walking alongside my child, hoping for nothing other than her contentment.  I feel an utter lack of control.  But, and this is important, I also feel tremendous pride in her brute fortitude as a tween navigating the world.  She is, without competition, the most stalwart person I know.  I am one hundred percent certain that she is going to land on her feet and, it is safe to assume, will be the one walking alongside me.

18 thoughts on “Happy? 2nd Birthday

  1. Jules , you have all of us … Your friends, to walk beside you on whatever life path it is that you will be traveling on… Xoxo
    Thats what friends are for

  2. Your candid thoughts are beautifully stated. It is one thing to be an outside supporter of a “controversial’ platform; it is another matter entirely to be a parent with a stake in it. I fully understand how you can be 100% in your child’s corner and still have reservations about the uncertainty of it all. This gender fluidity stuff is tough. Just as you start to make piece with the new normal, the wind changes direction and you can be chartered on another course. I love the sense if humor you bring to light during these tough conversations. Laughing is the best medicine and it doesn’t leave the eyes puffy the way crying can. 😉

  3. WOW, just WOW!!! It’s hard enough to be a parent of a tween and/or teenager with all that entails (I have three adult daughters now), but to be in your situation not knowing at all what to expect…love the way you can talk about it. Always look forward to reading your blog. It has to be harder now as a single mom, without a mate’s support. Hang in there, and be happy…that’s all any of us can do.

  4. As always, I love reading your words. You have a gift which comes across to your readers. Your tween, wherever she may land, is lucky to have you as her mother.
    I imagine her fortitude has developed to the degree it has because of the support she has received from you. Thanks for your honesty. There is always something
    to learn from reading your blog.

  5. Follow Jess’s road and know that what you are doing proves that you are a superior parent. There’s no doubt that Jess will face obstacles in her life. So does everyone else. Just know that you are doing what’s right even when it feels lie, the whole world is against you.

    I know that you’ve created an open and safe environment where Jessie can express herself and be herself. If she regrets living as a girl, she WILL tell you. And if the onset of male puberty is bothering her, you can do something about it. Blockers are reversible, and she can continue her route any way she chooses after them.

    You are an amazing parent. If you were my mom, I’d be so happy. Jess is so lucky, and I know that because of you, she will live a happy and productive life. I applaud you on so many levels.
    Tell Jess that she has a fan in Portland,OR. Really, her artwork is stunning. She could make good money on that 🙂

    A 14 year old.

  6. You’re an amazing mom and the concern you express is genuine. Wishing these things for your child is not anti-trans. It is hoping your child does not go through the transgender struggle her whole life. You’re such a good mommy, Julie. This will work itself out in whichever way it is meant to.

  7. Hi there. Lurker and avid reader of 1.5 years. First, you’re amazing. Truly. Freaking. Amazing. Your writing is poignant, funny, and dead on. You have helped more people than you know, including me. So, thank you for your brutal honesty.

    This post really spoke to me. Why? Because it is how I feel at least for a fleeting second every day. For us, it’s only been a year. My daughter (née son) is not even 7. But she is so sure now, and is so adamant now, and it’s clear that it is something so essential to the core now, that I sometimes look back and laugh on how stupid and naive we were when our child was two and just saying “I’m a girl.” Our transition was much slower than yours, but I know the stats too, and I almost hope I am not pushing the girly thing too much in thay direction. I try to go with the flow, but the truth is that I have just as much difficulty keeping things nebulous as anyone else. I guess we all have to live with uncertainty. It’s not a type of uncertainty that most families even give a second thought to. But every day I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and be okay with not knowing what the future brings. Some days, ignorance feels like endless possibility. Some days, it just plain sucks.

    Hang in there. You are raising a tween who can trust in a parent having her back. And that is everything and enough.

    • I want to thank you, Sarah, for the comment on here as your comment actually spoke to ME 🙂
      My son is 4 and expresses he “wants to be a girl”. We are 100% supportive of him with whatever his choices are but of course as you say is it still a struggle and no matter how accepting we are sometimes it is still difficult to “go with the flow”.
      Thank you Julie for vocalizing your feelings so wonderfully and expressing how many of us feel.
      Though my son is still quite young it is nice to know that we are not alone in this… Nor are you 🙂

      Punky’s mommy


  8. You shouldn’t be criticized for admitting that you hope this is a phase. This is difficult stuff, and many of us know people who did change their mind. Heck, I know someone that I thought was transitioning M to F. Come to find out, she was born F, lived as a M for many years – very convincingly – and was now transitioning back. I say this not to scare you – and I apologize if I have – but because there will be people who say that transgender people KNOW, and in my experience that is not true always true. I believe a commenter on another post said the doubts were yours, not Jess’s, but to help Jess in the best way you can, you need to admit – as you are here – that the doubts may be Jess’s too.

  9. I see nothing to criticize here. You show amazing inner strength, which is what a mom is – has – needs. To me, both being artistic, unpredictable, challenging and funny makes sense because George / Jessie are one person and these are personality traits. The rest will come, with time. Jessie is her own person, and sounds like one of those individuals whose motto could be “I did it my way!” As for you hoping it will be a phase, it is understandable that a parent wants life to be the road less rocky for her child — and it is okay to say you wouldn’t mind a little bit for yourself, too, on occasion. There is no chance of “I’ll wake up tomorrow and this will all be sorted out” for you, so it makes sense that you question. My youngest has Aspergers and is 13 going on 16 intellectually, 9 or 10, socially. Sometimes I’m not sure I have a last nerve left, but I have realized my role is not to “fix” him, but to help him learn to adapt and make HIS way in this world, as he is supposed to, whatever that will be down the road. Am I good at it? Yeah, sometimes I am SO good, it’s unbelievable! but at other times, I fail, painfully, tearfully, hoping I am not leaving deep scars on him as I am on myself. As moms, as women, we are much harder on ourselves than we would ever dream of being on anyone else. You have opened a door for Jessie and given her wings to spread as she surveys the open space around her. How she launches will be her choice; you are a wonderful mom for giving that to her.

  10. Firstly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESSIE! Whether you celebrate it as your 12th or 2nd, I hope that you take just a minute, at least, to thank your mother for the love and sacrifice that she has given you on both occasions. She is awesome, in the true sense of the word.

    Julie, I’ve heard you use that 80% number a few times. I would like to know what it really means, though. This is a much-too-complex issue for that number to be taken as a yes/no answer. It may be the average, as determined by some survey or study, but I have to believe that the amount of support and acceptance – by both family and society, has a great effect on an individual basis. My mother attempted to beat and shame the “transgender” out of me, and I actually thought that I deserved it. However – except for the 15 years between the ages of 17 and 32, when I managed to use the shame to suppress my true self, I have always considered myself to be female (in spirit and mind, if not in body). So, I suppose one could have surmised, during that “suppression” period, that I had changed my mind I reject any notion that I have been living the past thirty years since in a state of “relapse”, though. I truly believe that whatever part of the brain that determines gender stays with us throughout our entire lives, and, on a more philosophical and/or mystical level, a spirit of gender is possessed by each of us – which may well have been there before birth, as well as lasting forever in time.

    As always, I can only speak for myself. However, I do know many transgender individuals, and I have read numerous accounts by others that provide much anecdotal evidence to support my theory. My question for your specialist, then, is, what becomes of the 80%? Are they the cross dressers (closeted or not), the drag queens, and female impersonators of the world?

    I have left out the importance of hormones and their effect on gender expression. I will say only that testosterone can do as much harm as can beatings and shame for the transgender girl. Take it from a girl with a baritone singing voice and the body of a former football player who could bench press 8 reps of 250 pounds. Yet, I continue to struggle to find myself among the “20%”, even if I had to become an old lady to realize it.

  11. Wow! Heavy stuff but your not alone. As my trams daughter nears her ‘second’ birthday I find myself just as conflicted and crushed when she told me Aròn, her boy name, was dead and NEVER coming back. I suppose as parents we never truly know what curves our children will throw our way and I take comfort in that fact. What, how or where our children may end up is anyone’s guess but what you and every parent knows is that your love and guidance will be held close in their hearts always.

    So I say, have your feelings. Feelings are not facts to base lifelong decisions on, they are your brains way of trying to figure out your surroundings.

    Thanks as always for keeping it real and Happy Birthday Jess!

  12. Our road as parents to transgender daughters is not easy, that’s for sure. I to struggle with that 80% statistic that is thrown around. I am always curious if the 80% who change their minds were actually presenting and living as a transgender child, or if they were more ambiguous/questioning their physical gender?

    All we can do is take it one day and one breath at a time, make sure that all of our children know that they are loved no matter what and keep them safe.

    Happy birthday to Jessie and Happy Birthday to you as I think the Mom’s need to be celebrated on our children’s birthdays as well:)

  13. What a wonderful and honest post. How could you NOT have all these complex and conflicting feelings wrapped up together? We all would. It doesn’t just have to do with what you “support” but watching people you love go thru struggles, and anticipating future struggles, and knowing that every one of those things is going to impact how you feel as well is a hard, hard thing. I think you do a lovely job as a parent, are funny as h*** in your writing, and articulate these things so beautifully. Remember too, that in this day and age, you and other parents with similar situations have no book of guidance to go to–you are WRITING the book that others will learn from. –Katy from Michigan

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