The mother of a gender creative child reflects on the unique path of his development from childhood to adulthood.
Tarney’s son Harry was just 2 years old when he told her, “inside my head I’m a girl.” Uncertain what to make of her son’s statement or how to interpret his fondness for dolls and dressing up in girl’s clothes, the author looked for answers in the work of child experts like Benjamin Spock. However, no one could help her figure out how to keep her son psychologically healthy on one hand and free from peer teasing on the other. Terrified that she would become like her own controlling mother, Tarney tried to find or create environments that offered Harry a maximum of personal expressive freedom. Rather than send him to a uniform-mandatory school, she chose one where children could wear what they liked. At home, she gave Harry full freedom to dress up in wigs, skirts, dresses, and high-heeled shoes and indulge in his penchant for performance. As he approached his middle school years, Harry began to face the inevitable hurtful comments of classmates who called him “needle dick” and “faggot.” But he learned to cope with homophobia, first by excelling academically and then by learning how to channel his dramatic abilities and love of the outrageous in ways that eventually made him one of the most popular people in high school. Harry’s own development into a confident, self-loving person inspired Tarney to follow her own dreams away from Milwaukee to live the life of a free spirit in Brooklyn. Not only does the book chronicle an especially memorable mother-son relationship. It also suggests that the best parenting is the kind that does not forcibly mold a child into what he/she “should” be but lovingly allows him/her the freedom to follow his/her own special path.A fearlessly open and frank memoir.