A stark, important anthology of essays by mothers of transgender and gender variant children.
Pepper (co-author: The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, 2008, etc.) collects more than 30 accounts written by a wide variety of mothers of a wide variety of children. These short vignettes outline the oftentimes heart-wrenching social, psychological and physical trials faced by variant gender individuals and their families. For those who assume transgender issues manifest sometime around puberty or only when sexual desire arises, these stories demonstrate quite powerfully that the sex one is attracted to and the gender one feels oneself to be are vastly different subjects. Whether born female and identifying as male, the reverse, or somewhere in between, a remarkable commonality among these mothers’ observations is how young their children were when they began identifying with the other sex—many as early as 2 or 3. One mother describes her preschool-age male-identified daughter asking, “Mom, when is my penis going to grow in?” Many of the mothers show the often-conflicting impulse to protect their children from bullying and ostracism while simultaneously wishing to encourage them to self-express and grow. A number of mothers depict their own transitioning of sorts from denial or guilt and initially “protecting” their “family, friends, and acquaintances from” their “kid’s gender identity” to later “ ‘coming out’ as the parent of a transgender child.”
Each of these intimate tales of self-discovery are so brief as to be nearly indistinguishable, but the collection’s overall effect gives voice to the desperate need for language to cope with one of the most socially challenging states of being.