A transgender rights advocate’s account of how breaking with Orthodox Judaism helped her come to terms with her gender dysphoric daughter’s wish to transition.
When Lemay learned she was pregnant for the second time, she took an IntelliGender test that revealed she was carrying a boy. However, the child was born a girl, and the author and her husband named her Em. Stubborn and strong-willed, by age 2, her tantrums became as “epic” as her demands; she was, the author writes, a “force of nature.” Em later developed an obsession with a dog sweater, which became the only thing she wanted to wear to preschool. For a time, Lemay believed that Em, who insisted she was male, had entered into a tomboy rebel phase. Yet her odd behavior, which included barking like a dog when people tried to talk to her, also persisted. It was only after consulting with a social worker friend that Lemay began to consider the possibility that her child was actually showing signs of gender dysphoria. In the author’s parallel story about growing up in an Orthodox Jewish household, she recalls how her patriarchal faith sometimes left her longing to be free from the constraints of tradition. Her years at a female Orthodox seminary only confirmed that she could not willingly settle into a life where she would always be subservient to men and their ambitions. Empathizing with Em’s identity crisis, Lemay allowed her daughter to choose a boy’s name she could use around the house and present herself as a brother to two sisters on a family trip. Not long afterward, she and her husband allowed Em—who now went by the name Jacob—to transition into a happy, well-adjusted little boy. Compassionate, wise, and sensitively told, Lemay’s narrative offers moving portraits of a mother and family willing to embrace radical change in order to unconditionally support their child. It will be helpful to any parent experiencing a similar situation.
An intimate and clearly heartfelt memoir.