Jesse’s piece goes a long way to covering all aspects of it. It’s very impressive, and it will enlighten people, I hope. The part about detransitioning, something I feared early on with Jake before his top surgery, was hard to read. But I did not, as I’ve written before, do anything precipitously. I was, like some parents Jesse describes, in denial for a long time. But when I became unblinkered, I knew the truth. I knew what Jake wanted. I knew who HE really was.
I hope Jesse’s piece opens other eyes. So many families are affected by this, and they may not know it yet. I have had prominent members of the community reach out to me about their kids since my piece was published. It is not simple; there are many nuances. I wish I had embraced Jake’s path earlier—I thought he was a lesbian, thought it was a phase. But our bond was so strong, our connection so deep, that when I saw it … I saw it.
I wish I had read Jesse’s piece before Jake came out. I might have come around sooner. But it’s also possible I would have been more hesitant because, as his story describes, there are so many complicating factors.
Every one of these cases is sui generis. Parents just need to be patient and try to understand. The problem is when they don’t, when they succumb to the fear and ignorance, and shun their kids. I had nightmares of Jake committing suicide. I just wanted him to always know he was loved. That’s really all you can do.
Las Vegas, Nev.
I’m disappointed The Atlantic is featuring this unhelpful article on the cover. As the mother of a trans child—though in their childhood we didn’t have words for what they were experiencing—I had a terrible time wading through the opening example of “Claire, Heather, and Mike” and figuring out what the article hoped to offer to families. There are bits and pieces of useful information, but they’re very hard to find and interpret.
The big piece that’s missing is the damage done by thinking in, and reinforcing for kids, a rigid gender binary. I’m grateful that the piece introduced readers to the University of Minnesota Medical School’s new National Center for Gender Spectrum Health, but it was only the briefest of quotes, with no attention at all paid to the word “spectrum” that makes this developing program unique. When I tracked the NCGSH down, I found a statement that could have been a big help to Claire and to readers facing Claire’s and her parents’ dilemma today:
Normative gender and sexual binaries pathologize nonconformity and limit the full range of healthy gender identity and expression for everyone. Moving beyond the binary to a spectrum/continuum approach allows for the inclusion and affirmation of the range of gender identities and gender expressions for all people.
If Claire had not been told she had only two choices, with more rigidity in social roles than in physical features and functions, she might never have thought she was trans. While the other programs and resources cited are certainly helpful to those confronting the binary dilemma, they’re always going to be playing catch-up. And unless they help kids know about what my child calls being a “spork,” those kids will never figure out who they are or how to reach comfort in their bodies. The problem, as my child put it on a t-shirt, is, “Nice gender. Your mom pick it out for you?”—to which the healthiest answer, for all of us, is, “Nope. Making it up as I go along.”