Blogger Profile: Gendermom

Gendermom and M.

Parenting blogs flourish on WordPress.com, and today, we’re pleased to introduce you to Gendermom, whose site tagline, A chronicle of fun and fear, or, daily life with my young trans daughter, says it all. Gendermom’s daughter M. was born a boy. He knew early on that he should have been born a girl. Gendermom writes anonymously about the challenges and joys of raising M. Her site is a great example of how bloggers can educate, inspire, and build supportive communities.

Gendermom and M.

Gendermom and M.

Your son approached you at age three to tell you he believed that he should have been born a girl. How did you come to terms with him as a transgender person?

Well, it’s taken time. As far as I knew, I’d never met a transgender person before my child came onto the scene, announcing shortly after his third birthday that he was actually a she. I spent many months resisting, offering alternatives (“Couldn’t you just be a boy who likes girl stuff?”). No dice. The idea of remaining a boy was intolerable to her, and she never once wavered in her insistence that she was a girl who had been born into the wrong body.

“I am the last word for this kid. I’m Mom. What I decide now will impact the entire course of his (her?) life. I can’t afford to get this wrong.”
–Gendermom

My ex-husband and most of my family, friends, and neighbors accepted it before I finally did. I dragged my feet for the better part of a year. Some of this resistance was born of grief — I had fallen in love with my baby boy and I didn’t want to let him go. But most of my reticence had another source: the knowledge that I was facing perhaps the most important decision of my life. I am the last word for this kid. I’m Mom. What I decide now will impact the entire course of his (her?) life. I can’t afford to get this wrong.

How did you embrace raising your son as a daughter?

I hedged and resisted for months and months. While my child went ahead and transformed into the girl she knew herself to be, I read books and consulted experts and found a support group and second-guessed myself a thousand times, until I was finally as sure as I was ever going to be that this was the right thing to do. When she was four years old, I got fully on board and I haven’t looked back.

It’s been almost two years since then. She is happy and confident and thriving, so I believe that we are on the right path. But it has been a long and difficult journey so far, and I know we are not out of the woods yet. She just started kindergarten at a new school where only her teachers and one other family “know.” I wonder every day when this will change, and what’s in store for us when it does. Life remains extremely interesting.

How have readers responded to your blog? How would you describe the support you’ve received?


The anonymity provided by the internet can be a dangerous thing (cyber-bullying comes to mind). But in my case, it has been such a gift. Through my anonymous blog, I’ve been able to connect (without exposing my child’s identity) with people around the country (and around the world) who understand me and my child in a way none of my cisgender friends (with their cisgender children) ever will (cisgender = not transgender).

Through the safety of our mutual anonymity, I’ve connected with transgender people I could never otherwise have found. This is particularly true in the case of older generations, who transitioned in an era when trans folks were required to hide their status completely, burying their pasts like participants in a witness protection program. One woman wrote to me:

When my age group transitioned more than 40 years ago, we were told…to blend into the woodwork. We were not to identify ourselves as transsexuals. I have only revealed myself to my family and a very few very close friends. Everyone else I know considers me as just like every other woman.

No questions asked. I admire the young transgender girls and women (and boys and men) of today who are bold and in your face and let the world know their situation. I admire that because that is really the only way things will ever change for the better.

Earlier generations of trans folks also lived in a time when a transgender childhood was simply not an option. Their stories frequently leave me humbled and heartbroken, as well as keenly aware of my child’s good fortune to have been born when she was:

I was born in 1960 and I was first spanked for wearing female clothes when I was four years old. All throughout my childhood I was beaten and humiliated for trying to dress or act female — because I was born with a male body. None of the beatings or humiliation tactics did any good — you ARE who you ARE and that cannot be changed!

Like most transsexual people born when I was, I transitioned late in life — at the age of 48. At this point, my transition is complete. Since I was NOT on hormone blockers as a child my body developed with male features.

Because of this I had to undergo years of very expensive, painful electrolysis. I have also had facial feminization surgery (FFS) where my entire face was basically removed so the doctor could reshape the bones in my face — bones that had been disfigured by testosterone.

To have parents like you and to be a trans kid today is the stuff my dreams were made of!

Self portrait by M.

Self portrait by M.

There’s a vein of envy running through many of these comments. They know all too well that my child will dodge many of the horrors they have endured. Early medical intervention to stave off the wrong puberty will mean she’ll never have to worry about being perceived as “a man in a dress.”

You might expect that they’d sound bitter, a little resentful of my child. But there has never been a hint of that. Rather, their words are uniformly supportive and kind. On dark days, I can rely on my anonymous cheering squad to get me through:

A parent as yourself is GOLDEN, cherish your daughter as you both are very special.

I see great things for your brave little girl. She knows she’s loved and supported, and with that she can conquer the world.

Have you encountered any negative reactions to you blog?


No, but I suspect this is largely due to the fact that my audience has thus far been composed mostly of transgender adults and parents of trans kids — people who believe, as I do, that transgender people are a naturally occurring and ever-present branch of the human family tree, found in all cultures and time periods. It’s a friendly audience and so far I haven’t had a single heckler.

But I am well aware that much of the world still believes trans people to be psychologically damaged, or worse. I do hope to eventually reach this wider, more mainstream audience. Some of them are going to say some awful things, and that’s going to be really hard. But if their minds are even half-way open, and they “meet” my child in the pages of my blog, I think there’s a very good chance that most people will come away with a new perspective about what it means to be transgender — one that’s based on real people and real lives, rather than fear and stereotypes. A mom can dream, anyway.

Have you been able to connect with other parents facing similar issues? What influence has that had, if any, on your blogging?


I hear fairly frequently from parents with gender-nonconforming or transgender kids. Their emails often express the same relief that I feel when I encounter other parents who have kids like mine. We might be strangers, but I know them. I know they’re just as lonely and scared as I am, just as exhausted by the well-meaning questions (“What if you just made her wear pants?”), the subtle (and not so subtle) jokes and smirks at our kids’ expense, and the ever-present (and not unfounded) terror that the world is going to hurt our children.

I love receiving emails from these other parents. And they all say pretty much the same thing: “You GET me.”

I have a transgirl too, and she’s five. Reading your blog is sometimes like reading about MY life.

Most of your entries bring tears to my eyes as I think “Yes, yes, yes! I get it!” It is such a gift to have people who really understand.

What’s your advice to others who might be thinking about blogging about (potentially) sensitive/highly personal issues?

“On top of this, I feel strongly that it’s not my secret to share. Someday my child may decide to live openly as a trans person, but that will be her call, not mine.”
–Gendermom

I take my anonymity seriously. I’ll never write anything or post an image that might expose my identity or that of my child. This is not because I’m ashamed of her or of us, but because the world still isn’t a very safe place for transgender folks. The statistics on violence against transgender people — especially women — are terrifying. On top of this, I feel strongly that it’s not my secret to share. Someday my child may decide to live openly as a trans person, but that will be her call, not mine.

I actually haven’t even shared my blog with any family or friends. All my readers are strangers. This allows me to feel free to write whatever I want to, without fearing I’ll upset or worry loved ones. I can openly complain about friends who, though well-intentioned, often say absolutely the wrong thing (“You should just keep things gender-neutral until he’s older.” “I’m so relieved my kid is…normal.”) When this happens, I go to my blog and tell sympathetic strangers about it. I write, without holding anything back, about how isolating and terrifying it can be to raise a child like mine. This freedom is fabulously therapeutic, and the supportive responses I receive from readers get me through the tough days.

How do you respond to the typical misconceptions about transgender people that you’ve encountered
?

I live in a very liberal area, so we’ve had a pretty easy time of it so far. People generally fall all over themselves to express their enthusiastic support, but that doesn’t mean that they have a clue about what it means to be transgender. Some people actually ask me if my kid has had a “sex change operation.” No, she has not. She’s five years old!

“My hope is that every speech I give will change the world just a tiny bit, and that each of my victims will tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends… and the world will be that much safer and friendlier for kids like mine.”
–Gendermom

More often, people assume that a five year old couldn’t possibly know what gender she is. If I’m feeling sassy, I might ask them if they’re sure they’ve got their kids’ genders right. “I mean, little Ella’s only six years old. Do you really think she can know that she’s a girl at such a young age?” That generally gets them thinking.

All sassiness aside, most of the time I try hard to be patient, knowing that I was in their shoes just a few years ago and would have likely asked many of the same questions. I give a lot of little informational “Transgender 101” speeches, explaining that transgender people have always been with us, but have been hidden and marginalized. (“You know, just like gays and lesbians were a few decades ago.”) My hope is that every speech I give will change the world just a tiny bit, and that each of my victims will tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends… and the world will be that much safer and friendlier for kids like mine.

Which resources would you recommend for parents and families raising non-genderconforming kids?


These organizations provide invaluable advice, resources, and support for parents of gender-nonconforming kiddos:


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Krista

48 Comments

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  1. Chocolate Covered Race Medals

    Love that first picture — touching! Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  2. docrob50

    Great post – excellent stuff. When I was young I sensed something different about me but it not be till I was 30ish I found out I have Kleinfelter’s syndrome – an extra X chromosome……had I been of that mind, changing from a he to a she would have been quite easy medically speaking.

    Like

  3. minuit262

    Thank you for sharing. I hope that I have the strength you have to accept my children for who they are where they are when it matters most!!!

    Like

  4. themrsmusic

    That’s amazing. M is so lucky to have such a supportive AMAZING family. I seriously want to cry. I’ve always let my children wear or do whatever they want and it’s been so easy because, aside from occasionally wearing nail polish or a tiara or dressing like Bat girl, my children have fallen nicely into traditional gender roles. Keep being great. One day your daughter will he old enough to read through all this stuff and realize what a journey it was. And she’ll be so grateful she had someone so strong and loving.

    Like

  5. Tana Silver

    Beautiful idea for a blog, and I love the picture too :)

    Like

  6. maureenjenner

    Brave and inspiring.

    Like

  7. danfoleywork

    Good for wordpress for promoting this blog. Inspiring.

    Like

  8. Clare Flourish

    Thank you for sharing. There are lots of trans blogs, and most of us are blogging around transition as adults. I carry on blogging ten years on, and find most people accepting and friendly.

    Like

  9. Galaxian

    “How do you respond to the typical misconceptions about transgender people that you’ve encountered
?” If it’s socially constructed to begin with, but “much of the world still believes trans people to be psychologically damaged, or worse,” as you say, then the problem really lies in the current belief system about gender. Since many of these beliefs are 18th or 19th century functional, perhaps you can help accelerate their modification or disposal today.

    Like

  10. imsupersaiyan

    This was such a great interview and Gendermom has an amazing blog. I loved the “My Penis Girl” post, I was so impressed with her writing – M is lucky to have Gendermom.

    Like

  11. Balsillie & Associates

    Thanks for sharing this

    Like

  12. mystereum

    Reblogged this on The Land of Mystereum and commented:
    This is important and ROCKIN’ parenting!

    Like

  13. byKrisB.

    This is great!

    Like

  14. mystereum

    Important and rockin’ parenting! Definitely reblogged this to share far and wide.

    I feel… All similar, each unique. And, this so resonantly embraces that. Thanks for posting.

    Like

  15. mtgtoday

    I think its great this mother loves her child so much. My concern is where did this thought or idea come from? Most children don’t say that they should have been born a girl or a boy (in my experience) at such a young age. I am not an expert but it seems that if you were born as a male or a female that that is what God or nature (depending on your leaning) intended. Why would you be born one way by accident? Curious to understand more about this topic since its becoming very mainstream.

    Like

  16. Vagilantes

    Thanks for sharing your love story with the world.

    Like

  17. benjaminlore

    To WordPress: I want to thank you for highlighting the blog of Gendermom and her daughter. As a transgender man, I am amazed to see the amount of recent support that the trans community has been receiving. Even so, the amount of adversity that we face is just as overwhelming. So thank you for the support that you offer and for letting others in the WordPress community know of the existence of such a blog.

    To Gendermom: Thank you for sharing your story. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to put yourself and your child out on the internet for all to see, even with the anonymity. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure to a number of other transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to see your strength in all that you do for your daughter, your daughters strength to be who she is, and love that you have for your daughter. So again, thank you.

    Like

  18. Team Oyeniyi

    Sometimes I wish I was blogging anonymously too, because not doing so does restrict what one can say.

    Like

  19. Mary

    We worry so much about the perils of the Internet. How great to see an awe inspiring example of what amazing benefits in can bring to people. And such great writing too! Looking forward to following.

    Like

  20. barb19

    You are a strong woman and I admire you so much for what you are doing for your daughter. Your blog will open the eyes of many people who will tell other people . . . and in the process, the world will be a much safer and friendlier place for kids like your daughter.

    Like

  21. theforestscribe

    Great post! I definately fall into the misunderstanding and misconception category. I always assumed such realization would mostly hit kids in their teenage years. I was shocked to realise that really young children are faced with such a huge process. I will have to educate myself further. Thanks for posting.

    Like

  22. donnamay504

    I am not a trans gender parent, in fact I never even knew what trans gender was until watching some episodes of SVU. So I have no wheelhouse of experience to comment on what you and your child have gone through. However I am a parent. Raising a boy and a girl along with my husband was difficult enough without going through the decisions you and your daughter have had to make. I salute you as a parent. You epitomize what a loving, caring, parent should be. You are there for your child no matter what outsiders, or even family say or think, you have always made her the center of your decision making. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  23. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I didn’t know parenting blogs were flourishing on WP!! Wow – that’s good really, that people are embracing, even if some just letting off steam re, parenting.

    This was a great interview. I am glad particularly no negative reactions. When I first was looking into blogging, I encountered very negative grounds. Then I discovered WP. It’s a great space, here. Wonderful post.

    Like

  24. annadevin03

    Wonderful story! I envy your young daughter’s courage and confidence! Without knowing you, I can tell how lovely of a person you are. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  25. GlindaTheGoodBitch

    A beautiful post and a beautiful blog! I don’t know Gendermom personally, but we are roughly the same age. My partner and I, neither of whom are are transgender, were among the first couples rallying for gay men and women to be afforded the right to adopt children many years ago. We won a landmark case setting precedence in the New York Family Courts and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show back then not to mention being interviewed for numerous magazines and newspapers. Being pioneers isn’t easy and can be painful at times due to the cold, harsh bigoted world we live in. But thanks to WordPress and the power of social media we have have the tools to help people rethink diversity more than ever, one voice at a time. Thank you Gendermom, and WordPress for this powerful post and blog! It’s times like this I believe WordPress’ tagline should be, “A ‘finest’ WordPress.com site”.

    Like

  26. vastlycurious.com

    Must have been so hard at first but MOM’ S LOVE does not waver in any case. I know some trans gender folk that waited their entire lives for the courage to become authentic. Your daughter began the process so much earlier that eventually maybe society will become more accepting. Hugs.

    Like

  27. Owls and Orchids

    Thank you for your raw honesty, for caring and sharing. Your child is very fortunate to have a Mom who will support her whichever way life goes. Blessings. Susan x

    Like

  28. thefolia

    The first quote by gender mom always resonates with me. May the force be with us all whenever we open our mouths!

    Like

  29. goatcadeaux

    God bless you for your acceptance of your little girl. You and your daughter are handling this with grace and dignity and are to be applauded. As we learn more about male and female sexuality, we come to realize that there is an infinite spectrum existing between the static definitions of “girl” and “boy,” “man” and “woman.” I can’t imagine the nightmare of looking in the mirror and seeing myself in the body of the wrong sex. It is most certainly NOT a choice, it is irrevocably real, and needs kindness and understanding, not scorn or bullying or cruelty. Because of what you and your daughter are doing, more people will be able to accept what they are and claim their authentic selves.

    Like

  30. Ned

    Wow moving and thought provoking this is some powerful stuff

    Like

  31. Rupert Eliot

    Second last question. These “typical misconceptions.” I had not known the science to have become so decided, to so clearly label misconceptions. It seems like an understudied area; I’d want to remain skeptical of many of the conceptions, typical or not.

    Like

  32. dglassme

    I was referred to your blog by a close facebook friend who shared your blog link. I was reluctant/ hesitant at first to follow the link. The way you softly describe this struggle is impressive. Makes me truly wonder how it all works. Early in life Tomboy, a term I hated, was written all over me. I wanted to wear boys clothes, I liked what boys did not girls. I begged for cowboy boots instead of leotards. I was caught wanting to pee standing up at a very young age but, don’t think it truly meant I thought I was a boy. Today I struggle for acceptance but, have learned not to try and fit in just enjoy who I am. I love who I am even if it’s not exactly what society would dictate. In no way am I questioning what you’ve done, there are several layers of complexity to it all.

    Like

  33. Peekiequeen

    I applaud your bravery!

    Like

  34. lildoh

    So cute!

    Like

  35. jorchid

    Thank you for sharing. Great post!

    Like

  36. Stef

    I can’t begin to image the complexities, questions, worries, concerns, etc. that Gendermom must have to work through. But her daughter sounds like one amazing little girl; I adore her confidence, and trust that she will grow up to be a fantastic woman – in no small part to her fantastic mom. :)

    Like

  37. ramiroestrada

    Congratulations in accepting reality. I wish every other parent would do the same!

    Like

  38. Beyond One's Self

    This is beautiful! I hope you’re daughter knows how lucky she is to have you as her mother. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    Like

  39. darkzephyr

    M’s such a lucky kid to have a Mom like you. Growing up in a deeply religious country, it’s hard to be the real you. People here are filled with so many misconceptions that it’s very difficult for them to understand the individuality that each person has.

    Like

  40. lgonse

    I am so glad to have found your blog and that you are generously sharing your thoughts and experiences about transgender. I can’t say why I am sincerely interested and need this information, but just know it is of great assistance. Thank you!

    Like

  41. navilarahman

    I have so much respect for you! Lovely post.

    Like

  42. theodorous

    Interesting post. Very brave.
    Made me remember when my sons were young and my own trepidation as they began to show distict personalities and traits, I know a number of trans and gay people from different countries and cultures, so the thought that a child, my child could suprise me in that respect was always on my mind. During each of their early months of puberty I spoke to them about what ‘gay’ means and told them that I would still be dad and love them no matter what choices they made. So far there have been no hard choices.
    Salam.

    Like

  43. bythe20something

    When blogs make a difference; when they provoke thought; that is when it is worth blogging. What a great example!

    Like

  44. mecp74

    This is an amazing blog! Thank you for sharing your story and your are a wonderful mom. Your daughter will have a long road but she’ll be a happy little girl!

    Like

  45. lotc22

    Touching, and inspiring. When M drew himself as a girl really touched my heart. It’s hard to be who you are already, and although Id love to say I understand – I wouldn’t dare. But I get it – be who you are , whomever you are. Be proud of who you are. And live life. Beautiful story told, told well

    Like

  46. Ilse ten Have

    Wauw, really suprising M was three by the time he first said that. I don’t know what I would do if she was my kid. I guess I’d try to think it was a phase. But I also can (sort of) imagine that you would support M. I guess that’s for the best, really. Living as a transgender is hard enough, I guess. I could never really imagine how it would be like. After all I’m just a cisgender. But I couldn’t just leave this blogpost without letting you know I think you are doiing a great job. =) And that picture is just really cute.

    Like

  47. ciscovive

    Thanks for your unique POV. I am just an average dad of a 21 y.o. man, trying to keep it together daily. My hats off to you. Best of luck.

    Like

  48. Brie Stoll

    Please do not ever judge yourself for your initial fear. There is a moment that you just can’t help, disbelief is natural. There is a part of every parent that thinks that all the odd strange different things that we read about will never touch us and when they do there is a time that your mind needs to catch up. I have a gay child and I know that , while I was able to accept it as a simple part of her, there was that single moment of ” what did I do wrong?”. I think , like me , you thought of all the ugly ways that the world would be harder for your child now. Then you did this fantastic thing. :) Bravo!

    Like

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