Motherhood

‘My Child Is Transgender’

My Child is Transgender

Grace always felt her daughter was different from other girls. She refused to wear dresses, insisted on short hair and played with what people considered ‘boys’ toys.’ But one evening, she put her toothbrush down in the bathroom and turned to her mother. “Mom,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I’m a boy and everyone thinks I’m a girl.” Here, Grace shares the inspiring journey of her son, Eli, who is transgender…


Early Years

Ever since he was a baby, my child rejected anything “girly.” He played with what people think of as boys’ toys and played sports with boys in the neighborhood. If he did imaginative play, he was always the brother or the dog — basically anything but the mom or sister. When he first starting talking, he would say, “Call me snowman.” And we’d say, that’s quirky and weird, but now we look back and see that he was telling us from such a young age that he was a boy. He just didn’t have the language around it.

By the time he was two or three, if I tried to put him in a dress, he would lose his mind. He would scream and go bananas, as if we were actually hurting him. It was beyond a normal tantrum. My husband and I would talk and say, what is going on? We knew something was up. From then on, we dressed him in more gender-neutral clothes from the girls’ department.

Our First Talk

When he was eight, we were in the bathroom together; he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. We were talking about getting older; I started talking about how he would develop like a girl and what that would feel like for him. And he turned to me and said, “I don’t know what to do. I’m a boy and everyone thinks I’m a girl.”

The gist of my reply was, I don’t know what we’re going to do about this, but we’re going to figure it out. He said, “Are you ever going to make me wear a dress again?’ and I said, “No, I won’t.” He said, “It was Uncle Anthony’s birthday party.” He was remembering a time when he was four — four years prior. I realized what an impression that must have made; it must have been so painful for him. And he said, “Can I wear boys’ clothes and boxers from the boy’s department? Can I cut my hair shorter?” He had always had short hair but not an actual boy’s cut from the barber. We changed all that.

Back when he was about five or six, I had gone through a phase — I called it my “girl power campaign.” Because I was like, what am I doing wrong that I’m not making this child happy to be a girl? I’m obviously not getting the message across that girls can be and do anything. So, I’d buy books about powerful women and girls being president. I was like, come on, get on board here! I’d say, you can be the kind of girl who wears boys’ clothes, and that’s fine; and you can like girls and marry a girl, and that’s fine. And when he was eight, he was like, I know I could be that way, but that’s not me.

Parents’ Perspective

My husband came to terms with it more quickly, but I had a harder time. I had a few months of really being so sad, where I felt like there was a mountain to climb that I didn’t know how to climb. You don’t even realize how gendered your thoughts are about your kids until something like this happens. I wasn’t the girl dreaming of a white wedding and going to the mall for a mani/pedi, but I had a daughter and loved having a daughter and had thoughts and feelings about that. It felt like I was losing something. You pick a name for your child and that goes away. What I would do is look at him and think, it’s the same kid. My child is still there. Nothing about this kid is going to change. We’re going to be okay with this.

Identifying as a Boy

After the conversation when he was eight, we didn’t socially transition him right away — he continued using his girl name and female pronouns — but he essentially lived as a boy. If we were out at a restaurant or store, he’d use the boy’s room because everyone thought of him as a boy. I found a therapist for him because he was eight and he was little. This was all pre-anyone talking about transgender stuff. I was trying to figure it out and making sure it wasn’t just, “I want to be like my brother,” or a phase. Was this something he’d grow out of? But in my heart of hearts, it all made sense.

When he was nine or so, I remember thinking, puberty is coming and I need to figure this out. So, I found a support group in New York City called the Gender & Family Project. What’s good about the way they do their program is that parents meet together in one room and the kids meet together in another room. He was able to be “he” in a space, and he could try on the name “Eli” and see how it felt, and he met other kids who had transitioned. They were regular, happy kids who had a life and were just trans kids. Those two factors really helped him to feel like he was ready to transition.

Now that I know a lot of trans kids and families, I’ve noticed something: When you’re assigned female at birth but you wear boy’s clothes, it’s okay. People not only accept it, they actually think it’s cool — he was celebrated as a little girl who hung with the boys and played ice hockey. But for children who are assigned male at birth who want to identify as female, it seems harder for them in those early times. I think it may result in them transitioning earlier.

Transitioning

One day, when he was 10, he told us, “I’m ready to transition.” To choose a new name, he asked which boys’ names we had considered when I was pregnant. From that list, he picked Elias and we call him Eli.

He wanted to flip a switch and be called “Eli” and “he” and have everybody know. But our suburban town is politically mixed, and we didn’t know how it would go. I actually thought we might have to move. We picked a date on the calendar, and I worked very closely with his school in the weeks leading up. The school hired the Gender & Family Project to train their staff — his teachers, his gym teacher, the nurse, etc.; it was awesome. They also prepared a lesson for all the fifth graders. It was about identity in general (what are the components of you, how we are similar and different from each other, etc.) and at the end, they led into talking about Eli. We invited the parents of Eli’s friends and his hockey coaches and key people in our lives to our house and had the Gender & Family Project answer questions. Our approach was to try to get the grownups on board, and we were less worried about the kids since kids tend to be more naturally open.

We also sent out a Q&A sheet — to the fifth-grade families, our family, everybody. We tried to anticipate what kids and adults would ask. How does he know he’s a boy? Why does he feel this way? “He was born this way; Just like you were born knowing that you were a boy or girl, he just knew he was a boy.” Will he date or marry? Will he ever go back to being a girl? What about his body? “What is underneath our underwear for all people is something that is private. But you should know that being a boy or girl is really something that comes from your brain, not your body.”

I’m so glad to say that it worked out really well. His friends accepted him, he was never bullied. It’s actually unprecedented. These are families who might otherwise not have been so accepting, but they knew Eli from the time he was a baby. When you know someone, it changes your mind about things. People can see, he’s a regular kid! These are just normal children!

Body Changes

The thing that people still ask most about is Eli’s body. That seems to be the biggest fascination. He’s on a hormone blocker, which is a really nice option for a lot of trans kids. It’s like a pause button. It’s absolutely reversible. If we took him of the blocker, he would begin a healthy puberty as a girl. It just gives the kids a little more time to settle into themselves. Nowadays they do it with an implant in your arm. He’s had his for a year and a half. Eli says that he’d like to take male hormones; we’ll explore that in a few years.

Life Now

Eli was definitely happier after transitioning. His teachers would say to me, wow, he’s like a different kid. He’s so much more lighthearted and relaxed. I think he finally feels like he can be himself.

Our older son was 14 when we first started all these conversations with Eli. He said, that’s fine if she wants to be a boy, but she’s not going to be my brother or anything. But by the time Eli was ready to transition, his brother was super supportive. Some families struggle with how the trans kid ends up getting so much attention and focus, while the other kid gets lost in the shuffle. But we were lucky — my oldest son is an independent spirit and came through unscathed.

I wish people would know, the transgender community is not something to be scared of. It might not look the way we’ve always thought about people in terms of their gender and gender expression, but trans people and gender nonconforming people are just people — like you and your children and your friends. They are trying to live life in truth and happiness. Sometimes I think people miss out on understanding that.

My Biggest Surprise

What’s most surprising is how we’ve ended up feeling so lucky. We started out feeling like, this is kind of a disaster but we’ll manage it and figure it out. And now we feel so grateful. People say, oh, he’s so lucky to have you; but we feel so lucky to have him. We celebrate his trans identity. He’s changed our lives and community. He has opened up all our minds and hearts.

My Child is Transgender


Thank you so much for sharing your story, Grace and Eli! If you’d like to hear more from parents of transgender children, this podcast — How to Be a Girl — is great, and I loved this Moth episode.

P.S. How to talk to little girls, and teaching kids about sex.

(Top photo by Boris Jovanovic from Stocksy.)

  1. Amanda says...

    You are lucky to have each other. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  2. Kimberly Jewel says...

    Thank you so much for featuring this amazing family. ❤

  3. Mel says...

    Fantastic story! Thank you so much for sharing. It’s literally the best thing I’ve read in forever. Just ❤️!

  4. Alison says...

    Wow, I’ve never felt THE NEED to post a comment (although I’ve been a loyal reader for years).

    This story really moved me. The world needs more Grace’s.

  5. Cazmina says...

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing :)

  6. Barbara says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you — to the writer, to the readers who have commented, and to Cup of Jo for running this piece. As the mother of a transgender son, I appreciate the love, acceptance, understanding, and honest curiosity expressed here. I frequently worry about how others will react to my son’s story and I’m careful about when I share it, so it is reassuring to find a blog full of strangers being so kind and open in their response. While I still have more questions than answers about the topic of gender, I want to offer a perspective on the question of how a young child can know they are transgender. I think they know the same way that I know that I am a morning person with an optimistic outlook. It is simply part of who I am and how I function best. I believe that gender exists on a spectrum and is largely a social construct requiring the context of a particular time and place and culture. Perhaps a transgender person born in another time or place or culture would not think of themselves as being incorrectly identified, but they were born when and where they were, and gender identity needs to fit their truth.

    • MFree says...

      Thank you Barbara for explaining this so eloquently. I’m also the mother of a transgender child and it’s incredibly difficult to explain to someone who simply can’t comprehend the unknown.

    • Eliza says...

      This is a beautiful comment. Best wishes to you and your son

    • Aimee says...

      First and foremost, I do believe that human beings deserve and have a right to respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual or gender orientation. I may not understand transgender as a concept or accept it 100%, but I do firmly believe that a person has a fundamental right to dignity and compassion; to just “be.” What I struggle to understand, to be honest, is when people declare that they “know” they’re in the body of the wrong sex.

      What does that mean? When I think about how I “know” I’m female–setting aside biology–what is it that so deeply affirms my female-ness? When you also strip away the artifice of clothing, makeup, or learned behaviors or affectations, what remains to deeply affirm me as female? This is what I don’t understand about being transgender, and why I keep coming back to wonder if it’s mainly an issue of how we view gender, and gender norms, rather than truly denying ones biological sex. I DO believe that gender is fluid, that we need to grow beyond viewing it as just two discrete things, and instead accept it as a spectrum. If a biological female finds traditionally feminine things abhorrent, then ok–pursue an identity that’s less feminine– but why does it mean denying the biology of your birth?

      Perhaps it’s not possible for me to ever completely comprehend this, because I’ve never questioned my own identity in this way.

      I also write all of this with sincerity and no judgement. In the context of Eli’s story, I’m torn: I have a very hard time with the idea of encouraging a very young child to pursue an transgender path. When an eight year old states that they wish they were the opposite gender, I wonder if they’re reacting to the way they’ve been boxed into the traditional masculine/feminine ways we view girls and boys, rather than truly denying their biological sex. I believe they’re simply too young to really grasp the biology of the issue–they’re just rejecting the “norms” of their gender. But at the same time, forcing the child to suppress what they truly may be feeling–if it extends beyond gender identity–could yield very damaging results later on. Such a difficult thing to navigate, and Eli is so very fortunate to have an open and accepting family and community around him.

  7. Hannah says...

    What a beautiful story. So truly inspiring. I wish all trans kids would be so fortunate to have such accepting and loving parents!

  8. Karen T. says...

    Wow–so amazing that an 8 year is living his truth. So many adults can’t even get themselves to that place. Such bravery and love in one family. Bravo!

  9. Erica H. says...

    Inspiring and beautiful! Thank you for sharing. XO

  10. Eve says...

    I’m moved to tears. Thank you for sharing your story and your “how-to” approach that others may emulate. Thank you so much.

  11. Helena says...

    Thank you for this, Grace, Eli, and CoJ team.

  12. Anne says...

    Thank you so much for publishing this story and to Eli’s family for sharing their journey. I feel like it is so relevant and something people are often afraid to ask questions about. I also feel like now, more than ever, we need to focus on loving each other and being as kind as we can.

  13. susan says...

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

  14. Meredith says...

    Thanks so much for this story, and for all of your thoughtful, in-depth content. CupofJo is a haven on the internet. I’m so glad that Grace, Eli, and their family were able to lovingly and supportively make this change, and that they’re in such a great place. Heartwarming!

  15. Melissa says...

    Since this topic is of such intrigue for so many, I urge everyone to watch The Gender Revolution tonight at 9pm on National Geographic Channel. I had the opportunity to see a screening last week in NYC with host Katie Couric. I went in with one opinion and came out with a very different view on the trans world. As the mother of a little boy that has said on several occasions he wishes he was a girl and not a boy, it’s something that more parents struggle with than you can imagine.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      I have been wanting to watch this, Melissa! Thank you for sharing the details.

      Stella xo

  16. Kattia says...

    Incredible family, and such a moving story!
    Thank you for sharing!

  17. Jessica says...

    Thank you for sharing! I really appreciate this rave and honest account. I teach high school psychology and am gearing up for my unit on gender and sexual orientation. I am excited to add this piece to my curriculum!

  18. Lindsay says...

    As a veteran teacher I have had a number of children who have gradually self-identified at age 7 through age 15 as being transgender. I have also had a fair number of students confess that they bisexual or gay. The take away learnings I’ve had from my experiences supporting all children is that a) the world is hyper gendered and yet gender is so tremendously misunderstood, b) gender is a spectrum (sexuality too) c) gender is something that comes from your brain (sexuality too).

    I hope, for everyone’s sake, that we will all work toward opening our minds and commit to learning about the complexity of gender (sexuality too).

  19. B says...

    While I’m a very open-minded and accepting person, the topic of transgender had always confused me until recently. I found out my wonderful friend was engaged to a man (who was once a woman) and I was so surprised! I had no idea and met him many times and always enjoyed his company. At the end of the day, it’s all about love <3 Loving and accepting everyone with no judgment. Love is all we need.

  20. Wow, what a moving story. Such an amazing family and community. Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. Carrie says...

    I’m really glad I read this! Such a lovely and well written story that’s helping me to understand a little better a topic that is hard for me to imagine. I appreciate that! It also sounds like this family has got a great community to call home!

  22. Sasha says...

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/

    This film, “growing up trans” from frontline on pbs is wonderful, it will break your heart wide open. And if there are aspects of what it’s like to be a trans gender child that you don’t understand, there are so many answers here too. I highly recommend it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, sasha!

  23. Em says...

    I’m so happy I read this, thanks for sharing!

  24. Alana says...

    A beautiful family. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Sasha says...

    One of your best posts ever on COJ, thank you.

    • Jenn says...

      I agree!

  26. Belinda says...

    What an amazing mom! Thanks for sharing x

  27. Lauren E. says...

    Yes, your child is lucky to have you and you him. But the part that resonated with me most about this piece is the welcoming attitudes of your community. You’re always waiting for that one person or one family to be outspoken and cruel and to hear that it didn’t happen in your case, just makes me feel optimistic about humanity. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Jeanne says...

      I thought the same thing too!! What an incredible support group this child has. How blessed.

  28. London Calling says...

    Thank you for sharing your and your son’s stories – this was beautifully written and I really admire your dedication to your son’s truth and feelings and the way you have supported him in managing his transition to-date. I found this such an uplifting and inspiring essay and wish you and your family the very best as Eli continues on his journey. Greetings from London xxx

    • Carrie says...

      Well said!

  29. Jenny says...

    Thank you so much for this post. It was really touching, encouraging and eye-opening. Much love to Eli and family.

  30. He’s very lucky to have you, you’ve handled it so beautiful. Best of luck to you all!

  31. Caroline says...

    How moving and informative this is! Many thanks to Grace for so beautifully sharing her family’s story. If only all children (and adults!) facing this challenge could encounter the same love and acceptance that Eli does.

  32. Kathyrn says...

    What a beautiful story. I know it’s a very large/complex field of study – gender and identity – but I am for the most part pretty uneducated on it. What I wonder is … what is gender identity, and how much of it is socially constructed vs biological? For instance, Eli rejected dresses and girls’ toys, and pink, and “girly” things at a young age, but aren’t all those socially constructed ideas of what a “girl” is? Having short hair doesn’t necessarily equate to being a boy, or wearing a dress to being a girl, yet at a young age, he seemed to embrace the social construction of what a “boy” was, vs what a “girl” was. I mean, in what other ways can you feel or think that you are a gender, besides the roles and characteristics that have already been established by culture and society? I guess I’m wondering what would happen if an anatomical male and an anatomical female were born on an island with no previous established expectation of either male or female, would they eventually assume the role of female and male? And in what capacity, besides the obvious natural ones like sex, childbirth, physical strength, etc. Would transgender even exist if societal expectations of the male and female didn’t exist? I know practically it’s not possible for societal expectations to not exist, but it makes me wonder what makes them KNOW that it’s not their gender… is it their body and genitalia? It could be that, but these children seem to know at such a young age, before puberty hits even…so it just seems unlikely. I know there is a mental component, but I’m struggling to understand what it is. I can’t really tell you if I KNEW what being a girl was when I was a child. I played with dolls and wore dresses because that’s what my parents let me do, but I can’t imagine that if they dressed me in pants and gave me action figures and told me “this is what girls do”, I would be able to discern that anything was off… anyway, if anyone has a lot more knowledge about the science behind this, I would love to hear more.

    • Karen says...

      Excellent questions! I was wondering the same things while reading. It’s difficult for me to understand how such a decision can be made at such a young age.

    • All good questions. Fascinating stuff. The trans women I know all talk about how they always loved wearing dresses and doing “girly” stuff. As a woman, I can relate to none of this. I was never interested in what our society has labeled “girly”. I don’t feel that those things define womanhood. But I’d be hard pressed to tell you what does.

    • Liz says...

      Gender is 100% socially constructed. There is nothing inherently female about pink, dresses, Barbies, weakness, or submission.

    • Anna says...

      I’m fascinated by this too. I used to think that gender was completely socially constructed, and to some extent I still believe a lot of our preferences and the ways we act and think about ourselves are (particularly with things like colours and clothing styles, and you see this influence especially as kids get older and assimilate with friends at school, access media and interact with more adults – ever notice how girls often get comments about their clothing and appearance, but boys don’t?), but after having a child myself I do think now that there may be something very instinctual in us that concerns how we identify ourselves gender-wise, regardless of our bodies. Not sure I’m expressing myself property, but it’s a fascinating and complex topic and I’d love to know more.

    • Cam says...

      Without unscientifically drawing conclusions about humans from animals, I know that at least with farm animals, submission/dominance, nurturer/protector and so on, very much ARE tied to sex. Scare a pair of sibling goats–one male and one female–and see which one angrily jumps to the front and stamps its feet, and which one cowers behind and watches. Cows are usually very nurturing, whereas bulls don’t have interest in their calves. I could go on and on. There isn’t much of any culture to be ‘oppressive’ on a farm. Again, not to draw conclusions about humans, but sometimes it seems like the very POSSIBILITY of inborn gender traits repels people before they can even entertain the idea.

      Of course it’s impossible or difficult to raise a large group of experimental babies in a culture-free zone, so I guess we’ll never know for sure.

  33. Hillary says...

    I think it’s a major issue that people don’t understand that gender is a social construct. It’s not the same as biological sex. I think if most people realized that there are no such things as “boy” and “girl” toys, styles, clothes, then kids might be free to just be themselves instead of feeling like they need to fit in to arbitrary colors, interests, and styles.

    • Lisa says...

      Yes, yes, and yes!

    • Jane says...

      Wouldn’t that be the best – just toys/clothes/books etc for all kids, not gendered in any way. I wish it were more common.

  34. <3 Thank you for sharing your story with us all.

  35. Emmy says...

    “When you know someone, it changes your mind about things. ”

    Ain’t that the truth about so many things! Thanks for sharing.

  36. Jenna says...

    I’ve been wondering for a while at what age children can begin to understand this. For example, can a preschooler really be transgender? My son has preferred girls’ toys for years and often dresses in girly clothes (but only at home, for fun), but he considers himself a boy. When he was younger, he sometimes said that he was a girl. He is 6 now. When he was little, I brushed it off as him developing an understanding of what gender is, and it now looks like that’s exactly what it was. I’ve also heard from gay friends that some of his behaviors/preferences are what they experienced as children. I’d love to hear from a child psychologist or other expert more about this issue, specifically the ages when children can fully grasp what gender is.
    And thank you, Cup of Jo, for sharing this family’s story!

  37. Alice says...

    Completely inspiring, informative, and honestly written.
    The following sentence stopped me in my tracks:

    “They are trying to live life in truth and happiness.”

    Simple and beautiful. It’s devastating that so many people, worldwide, are prevented, or held in contempt, for doing so. Something to strive for.

    Thank you SO much Grace, Eli, and Cup of Jo for feeding our souls with this today.

  38. Katie says...

    Thank you, thank you for sharing your story.

  39. Elizabeth says...

    I just love this. Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful family you have!

  40. anonymous says...

    My father is trans, had gender re assignment surgery in the 80s. lived as a woman more than a decade, and has now transitioned back to male as best he can and says he regrets all of it. Very sad (his confusion) and I think very complicated, but definitely very real and not “all in their head”.

    • Liz says...

      That’s fascinating! I wonder what the numbers are of people who transition back to their birth sex/gender.

    • anonymous says...

      The thing is, in his case, and many others, they don’t feel 100% male or 100% female. There is confusion. Hence the ultimate transitioning BACK. I’ve read articles about high suicide rates and increased depression after surgery. Seldom talked about. Everyone is applauding letting children be who they “feel like being” – but with children parents should direct very carefully.

  41. Court says...

    Came for the story, stayed for the comments. Thanks for sharing this story on your wonderful blog…and thanks to the commenters for their thoughtfulness too!

  42. Cara says...

    This was wonderful. I think the most important takeaway here for us parents is to really, really listen to our kids and open to our hearts to what’s deep in theirs. I’m a parent of fraternal twin girls, and what’s always struck me is that I can parent one way for both children, and they naturally are very different in how they respond and the choices they make. So much of who we are is deeply hardwired into us, and the sooner we parents realize that we are simply guiding our children on their path (and hopefully helping them realize their best selves) instead of molding them into what we want, the better.

    • Jeannie says...

      Wonderful insight. Thank you!

  43. this is so beautifully informative. thank you.

  44. Lexie says...

    I have a non-binary student this year and understanding their experience of gender (at age 11!) has been fascinating. Basically I have learned that every child is totally unique and having supportive parents & community is vital!

  45. Marie says...

    Beautiful story, beautiful family. As others have said, this warmed my heart and lightened my day– I’ll do my best to pay it forward.

    Thank you for sharing, Grace, Eli, and CoJ team!

  46. Katherine says...

    Thank you CoJ!!! Please keep these types of posts coming. Sharing a personal story is such a great way to spread awareness, understanding and tolerance.

  47. Anna says...

    You’re so lucky to have each other. Sending love.

  48. Claudia says...

    What a heartening and eye-opening story. The idea of trans was more abstract to me, but the thoughtful and respectful way this story is told, indeed shows that it’s about people living their truth. Cup of Jo did it again!

  49. Cecilia says...

    Such a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  50. Rachel says...

    This is beautiful. So happy you have chosen to use this blog as a platform to educate people on a topic that isn’t widely discussed and many people aren’t educated on. <3

    • KM says...

      Agree!

  51. Sarah D. says...

    I think we all just want to feel like we belong to a community and know that we are loved. What incredible parenting by Eli’s parents and support from his community. As a parent of 3 kiddos under 6, I will keep Eli’s story in mind as my son or daughters explore their gender identity. So far, it seems relatively straightforward, but perhaps I’m not paying enough attention to the nuances.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I hope each and every one of us gets a chance to feel the enormity of love and that deep sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

  52. Elisha says...

    Really, really loved this piece – would love to see more posts talking about gender (or sexuality). This was such an amazing motherhood post and a perspective that is vastly left uncovered. Thanks for sharing Grace and thank you Jo for posting.

  53. Nicole says...

    And just like that my mind is a little more open to a perspective and situation I haven’t personally experienced. Thanks ladies of Cup of Jo for making us all smarter, kinder humans.

  54. Ingrid says...

    This piece is so important. Our small, red state community has at least two transgender children and it’s not going well. No one is handling it well, not the parents or community. Teachers don’t know exactly what to say and do (they want to be kind and understanding) but all responses seem to be criticized by someone. If a child is born male and goes into a girls’ bathroom in upper grades, the other parents aren’t happy. If she has to go into the boys’ room, that’s not right either. A neutral bathroom was made available, but the transgender child felt that was wrong. Grace was so wise to bring it all out into the open and let everyone know, so everyone feels they know the right things to say and do. Around here it’s treated as a rather shameful secret that no one wants to talk about. Even the child’s parents are not consistent in what information they share. Transgender children and their parents need to know that not everyone who does or says the wrong thing is doing it to hurt them. Sometimes it’s just that others don’t know what the right thing is. Raising happy, confident, kind children is hard under all circumstances. Thank you for speaking out!

  55. MBT says...

    As a parent, I often think of the line from the Dave Eggers book Hologram for the King: “The raising of a child is the building of a cathedral. You can’t cut corners.” This amazing mom (and dad) put so much thought and effort into how to parent, and they ended up with this beautiful story, and this beautiful boy! What an inspiring family!

    • Rachel says...

      I absolutely agree. That line applies here 100%. What committed parents, and a wonderful example for all of us.

  56. Mallory says...

    Thank you for this post! If anyone wants to hear more about raising transgendered children, the podcast How To Be a Girl is so moving: http://www.howtobeagirlpodcast.com/

    Gender identity has never been perfectly binary and trans people have been recorded in nearly every society from the beginning of human existence, so it’s nothing new. To those who struggle to understand transgender people, I’d encourage you to listen more from the transgender community to hear their stories and learn their perspective.

  57. Sara says...

    This is such a beautiful post. Thank you to Grace, Eli and their family for sharing their story. And kuddos to their school for such a fantastic, supportive response. I love that the school sought experts to help the school community support Eli. Amazing.

  58. Zywie says...

    We had a get together this weekend and had our friends & their kids over. An older boy was punching my son in the name of “boxing” and I could see my son silently taking it as he wanted to be part of the gang. It broke my heart. I later spoke to him about speaking up when he doesn’t want to do something but he kept insisting that he wanted to box too.
    I went to bed in tears worried about how this gentle boy is going to face the real world.

    I know my issue is not comparable to what Eli & grace went through, but this piece gave me strength and hope that I can be the warrior mama that I need to be, to better equip my little one. Grace – I am blown away by your steely courage and resourcefulness. Your approach is well researched and inclusive. My best wishes to Eli & you all.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a beautiful comment, zywie. i’ve had experiences like that, too, with my sons. you sound like a wonderful mother. sending a big hug and lots of love your way!

  59. Eli is lucky to have such loving parents who put his needs above their worries about “what will people think.”
    I was surprised to learn that my middle-school my kid knew all about what transgender was and knew several transgender kids. My kid was completely cool with it. A non-issue. As it should be, IMHO.

    • Sarah D. says...

      Same thing. I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a transgender child in my preschooler’s class last year. I think children who learn love, show love. Couldn’t have told you which child, as it was an absolute non-issue for my child and seemingly everyone else. I wish other trans children and their families and communities as much love as ours has shown.

  60. Amanda says...

    So moving and wonderful. Couldn’t come at a better time. Keep the wonderful motherhood stories coming, Joanna and Cup of Jo team!

    xo

  61. Christina H. says...

    Thank you for this beautiful story! Thank you for showing us that there is compassion in this world and love, especially now when there seems to be so much darkness. Thank you for always proving to me to be the best blog that is out there right now!

  62. Teree says...

    What a brave and loving family.

  63. Karen says...

    Stories like these are important to share, especially with the bathroom uproar that took place over the last year. No one told the other side of the story (or at least media did not share it) with a child identifying as a different gender than what they were born. Of course Eli would use the men’s restroom at school, and it’s hard to believe people could argue otherwise. Thank you for being a great parent and sharing your honest experience.

  64. Irena says...

    Someday, I suspect, we will find that there is a neuroscience reason to account for how one arrives in one “earth suit” but it does not fit one’s soul, spirit and mind. In the meantime, stories such as these help people to understand and accept (and not JUDGE!) this process and embrace the individuals, children or adults, making this challenging change in their lives.

    It does make some people really stop and face our gender and gender identity stereotypes. Yes, it must be hard for a mom to let go of the dreams for her “daughter” but her child is still here, albeit in a different “earth suit” for her to love.

    If only other families were as open. This christmas we received a card from friends whose own daughter had transitioned to a young man in the last year. I loved their honesty in sharing with their friends and family and applauded their acceptance. Do they still struggle? Of course, it’s not something that doesn’t require further thought as things come up.

    Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, one hopes that people will be fair and compassionate as they encounter individuals in life who are transgender. You don’t have to believe it is “OK” just treat people well. Because no matter how they gender identify, they are entitled to be treated well and with respect as we would anyone else of any gender.

    It’s easy for others to judge, criticize and imply that such things do not exist or it’s not “right” and something is wrong. But the reality is, we can never know. I remember how tough puberty was and I enjoyed being a girl. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of everyday life for someone who looks in the mirror and at their body and feels no connection to it. But it is real, and that kind of pain means we must take extra steps to help them and reassure them that they are still who they were in their soul and spirit and that we love and accept them regardless of a change in “earth suit.”

    • Lisa says...

      “Earth suit” – love it. :)

  65. Stacey says...

    Loved this piece. Thank you for sharing. We need more people to share stories like these so we can all be more woke on transgender issues.

    I went to a baby shower this past weekend for a mom & her little boy and, of course, all the gifts were blue & brown and dotted with trucks and cars. It’s interesting how early this classification starts for us and how we put these social norms onto our children before they are even born instead of allowing them to simply become who they are. Our society needs to really re-think our gender classifications.

  66. Amy says...

    So touching. Thanks for sharing.

  67. Jami-Lin says...

    This is wonderful. This is strange but…I am pregnant for the first time (your recently updated “What to Register for Your Baby” post seemed meant for me!) and while it is still too early to know the sex, I recently had a dream that I was mother to a darling baby boy who wore a fuschia, floral print dress. The dream opened my mind to the possibility of having a trans child, something we would welcome wholeheartedly in the abstract but which would undoubtedly feel foreign to us in many ways, and the need to prepare for how to love and nurture a child who defied binary gender categories. In light of that dream and the friends I have who now identify as trans adults but whose childhoods were marked by fear and shame, I am deeply grateful for this post. What a beautiful family!

    • Laura says...

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I applaud your open-mindedness regarding the gender of your child. This one of the reasons (aside from the fun surprise at the birth!) that I prefer when my patients choose not to find out the sex of their baby. When all you and your loved-ones know about your child is his/her biological sex, it’s difficult to not assign gender traits before the child is even born.

  68. Meghan says...

    *Trying not to cry at work.* Cup of Jo wins again! There’s nothing I need more right now than stories of people being free to live in the light.

    “They are trying to live life in truth and happiness. Sometimes I think people miss out on understanding that.”

  69. Really interesting and very heartening story to hear among everything else that’s going on. Thanks for opening up and sharing! I really believe that storytelling has the power to change so many things.

  70. Martina says...

    Thank you for sharing. Amazing.

  71. Rita says...

    Thank you for a beautiful, thoughtful and important post.

  72. clare says...

    awesome

  73. Sasha says...

    I am sorry to be in the minority here, but I do not think young teenagers necessarily understand the ramifications of choosing to transition, and should not be allowed to make that choice until they are older (26+). At a young age kids are trying on many different identities that may not be right for them. Hormone blockers are actually harmful to the body, and there are no long-term studies showing that they are safe to keep taking.

    I believe a lot of children are actually rebelling to social conditioning, i.e. being a girl means you wear a dress, act a certain . I know of a girl who when they were young were only interested in stereotypical boy toys, clothes, and activities. She grew up to be a rocket designer, who is now comfortable in her female body, and got married recently choosing not to wear a dress. I am worried that in today’s climate she would have thought that she has no choice but to transition. Please read the following eye-opening article of someone who transitioned when young and now regrets it that was recenty published in the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/03/experience-i-regret-transitioning

    • Irena says...

      This may be the case with some children. However, most children are not “trying on” gender identity. They are in genuine pain and confusion.

      Restricting someone to live a life they don’t believe is right for them, especially at puberty, is to put a child at risk of suicide and other painful consequences.

      People don’t generally choose, at any age, to be different in this way. This is NOT like trying on makeup, clothes, etc. to be different.

      Nobody forces these children, if anything it is they who have to work so hard in so many cases to get help from parents and others.

      I want you to try to imagine how it would feel if your body did not fit you. This is not a casual change and families and their children do not enter it without trepidation, whether over the emotional, mental or physical health and well-being of their child.

      Adults who have transitioned will tell you that they wish they had done it earlier. Many don’t even make it to adult hood because they are so unhappy that they do not want to live.

      Families do not enter this process lightly and generally without being educated on the risks, which they share with their child.

      This not about parental rebellion, which, I believe is something you perhaps need to believe. It’s not born out by those who have transitioned. There are plenty of other ways to rebel against parents.

      Should not be allowed until they are 26? Why 26? They are considered adults in most states at 18 or 21. Of course, they should get counseling before fully committing to the transition, and let the trained therapist make the decision if this is about “rebelling” / it’s not something you can even know.

      If someone later decides it was not for them, well, perhaps they did not fully comprehend or had false expectations about a change.

      It’s like people who are overweight, lose weight and then are amazed that they don’t all of sudden find themselves with better jobs, better friends and in a relationship. It’s not about the weight or the gender.

      “Would have no choice but to transition” / Really? We live in a society today where plenty of young women, who are straight, dress and act in ways that are associated with being a lesbian and/or boyish.

      So really I think it is about them being judged by folks who have narrow ideas about gender identity. Yes, I believe for some people gender is fluid and a transition may NOT be the most appropriate choice. But that is THEIR choice and our work is to help people make that decision in an informed matter.

      There are no guarantees in life, whether straight, gay, lesbian, transgender that we will find happiness.

    • Devon says...

      There are lots of studies on the long-term impacts of puberty blockers, which have been used for a very long time for girls who enter puberty too early. It’s true that using them on trans kids is a newer practice, but there’s no indication to say they are unsafe. Saying otherwise is just untrue.

    • Emily says...

      It makes sense to me to wait – the prefrontal cortex (which helps us balance or feelings and self-awareness among other things) isn’t fully developed until our early twenties. And I do agree that we (parents and other adults) need to be so, so careful to allow a lot of expression without labeling it due to our own fears and worries. I think the mom in this piece has shown a real caution and care in taking it slow, and asking a lot of questions. We will do kids a lot of damage if we jump to conclusions too quickly, and since most kids won’t be transgender, we do need to be so careful how we treat their new and growing gender awareness. (Anecdotally, I remember being around puberty age and telling myself “I am 80% girl and 20% boy” not bc I had some sophisticated gender awareness, but bc I knew that 1) I liked climbing trees and exploring and at the time those were socially “boy” things, and 2) I could see that boys were more highly regarded and didn’t want to be TOO girly for that reason. That’s not the experience written about here, but it is just to say that there is a lot to navigate – some internal and some external – when kids are growing up and navigating gender).

  74. Katie says...

    Thank you for sharing! What an incredible family. Grace and Eli, it warms my heart to see how your community responded. We are bombarded these days with constant news of hate — I am so happy you were able to experience the acceptance and love you deserve.

  75. Ashley says...

    This is a topic that I have struggled with for years. Every argument I see about transgenderism, I can switch “gender” with “race” and it suddenly becomes cultural appropriation. Even with arguments that say “No, they are completely different, let me tell you why” I can make the same switch with the same outcome. I have a hard time being asked to celebrate one and vilify the other, when fundamentally they seem very much the same to me.

    My other concern is that it tends to reinforce societal gender norms – boys behave and dress one way while girls need to behave and dress another. When we give messages to our kids that behavior and appearance is what makes you a boy or girl, no wonder it causes confusion and frustration!

    Like I said, I’m still struggling with this issue, but I have a great deal of compassion for families and individuals where it is a very real issue. My heart aches when I hear stories of people being abused or treated as less worthy of respect for being different.

    • Lisa says...

      I’ve been curious about this too!

    • Liz says...

      Agree with all of this!

    • Emily says...

      Same questions!

    • Liz says...

      Race, like gender, is socially constructed but has worked differently in our society. Race has historically been used to assign characteristics of inferiority to certain groups based on specious ideas about biological or cultural differences. Ruth Gilmore defines racism as the “state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” Since state racisms work to make groups of people more vulnerable to death, most people who are white don’t want to change their racial identity. They might appropriate, for example, black or Latinx culture, but they will maintain a white identity. There is, however, much literature on racial “passing” in African American fiction where passing as white is used to gain social, political, or economic opportunities historically denied blacks in the US. Even though race is socially constructed, it has also been claimed by racialized groups to resignify racial meaning (like Black Lives Matter). All this to say, since gender and race are not two equal identity categories that can be exchanged, it doesn’t make sense to substitute race for gender when thinking about transgender identities. It’s not all equal “appropriation.” As the writer mentioned, there are also different stakes to transitioning from female to male that are different from male to female. None of this has been ignored within trans communities.

  76. This is incredibly powerful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Love and light to you and your family.

  77. beth says...

    Thanks for this important perspective. People are afraid of what they don’t know and don’t understand. More stories like this will show people who transgender people and families are, reducing the fear of the unknown. What a great smile on Eli in the pic!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  78. Thank you! it’s so good to hear about transitioning from a personal point of view. It’s super interesting to read about the way they included the community in the change. Superb!

  79. bisbee says...

    I have read about a number of families who have transgender children and how they have handled it. Obviously, we don’t hear about those who do not respond to their children with support, understanding and love, and my heart hurts for those children. But, I am so impressed with stories like Grace and Eli’s! You epitomize what love and acceptance should be for our children.

  80. Sophia says...

    This was one of the best things I’ve read on CoJ. Thank you so much for featuring stories like this.

  81. Sheila says...

    My child transitioned from a girl to a boy last year at the age of 24. I wrote a letter at Christmas to the people who usually get our card (a most modern version of the family update that I always chuckle about). What I wrote was this, It is hard work rewiring an identity. But it turns out the identity crisis was mine. I gave birth to 5 girls. I love the identity that gave me. I was desperate to hold onto that identity- and in my desperation, I lost sight of whose identity was changing. It is a humbling process to be a part of parenting a trans gendered child.

    • Katie says...

      Beautiful, wise words. Thank you for sharing!

    • Irena says...

      Beautiful. Thank you for your honesty. The identity issue is often the friends and family who cling to the image they’ve had for years, and what else would they have had?

      When you truly love a person, it’s love in sickness, health, wealth, poverty, gender identity change, whatever.

      Love for the soul and heart does not vanish.

  82. Sara says...

    What a beautiful story – thank you for publishing this, and to Grace and Eli for sharing their lives in this way.

    I just want to highlight somethingthat jumped out at me:

    “I’ve noticed something: When you’re assigned female at birth but you wear boy’s clothes, it’s okay. People not only accept it, they actually think it’s cool — he was celebrated as a little girl who hung with the boys and played ice hockey. But for children who are assigned male at birth who want to identify as female, it seems harder for them in those early times. I think it may result in them transitioning earlier.”

    This is SO SO SO important to notice and name and discuss. All people who challenge gender norms have a hard road, but trans-women or trans-folks who present as female are subject to an incredible amount of violence, fetishization and hardship. Not that trans-men have it easy by any means, but gender inequality (and oppression of all women) doesn’t go away when you’re discussing trans issues.

  83. Thank you for sharing! The more personal stories are shared, the more open the world will be. I also really appreciate Grace’s honesty with her struggle. It really is amazing how much we associate gender with someone’s identity. When someone close to me transitioned from female to male, I intellectually and outwardly supported him 100%, but a part of me mourned a bit for the little girl I knew. Of course, that feeling passed, but as someone who considers herself very open to gender fluidity, my feelings of sadness caught me off guard.

  84. This is so timely, my son and I met a new kid at church this weekend and when his mom and I were chatting, I learned that he’s transgender. He’s 4 and his parents moved to a small town because small town schools don’t always ask for birth certificates with enrollment info the way big city school districts do.

  85. Tiffany says...

    Bravo!!

  86. Sara P says...

    Love this story. What a wonderful family.

  87. Kim L. says...

    Stories like this are how change happens. This is what the resistance looks like. Thank you for using this incredible platform you’very built for so much good <3

  88. jennifer says...

    you are an amazing mother. this story is beautiful.

  89. Celeste says...

    Thank you, Grace for sharing your story! I’ve thought about how I would handle a transgender child coming out and I’m glad to hear from a mother about it. It seems like you are so lucky to have Eli and that your family and community has handled this transition beautifully! We need more of these stories. <3

  90. Thank you so much for posting this story! What an honest, beautiful journey. Lots of love.

  91. To be honest, this is really challenging for me. There is so much difficulty in the realm of gender today. People throughout history have always been born male or female, and why we are starting to question that in the 21st century disturbs me. I believe that God creates people and chooses whether they are male or female at birth. To be a child who doesn’t feel like that makes sense for them is really saddening. My first thought when reading was, of course – a girl can wear boy clothes and act like a boy and hang out with the guys! That’s what a tomboy is. But the fact that Eli didn’t feel like that was enough makes me wonder what else was going on inside, to make him feel like being a girl wasn’t the right thing for him. I wonder about the psychology of it all. I appreciate you sharing this story to give a little more insight.

    • Lots of people are born with ambiguous genitals, so it’s not as simple as God choosing. The term is Intersex and it used to be that the doctor(s) and/or parents made that decision right then and there and would alter the genitals surgically to make them conform to the sex or gender that the parents wanted. These days it’s more common to wait it out and see what gender the child IDs as. Also, sometimes it looks pretty straightfoward on the outside, but a person with a penis might also actually have a uterus.
      There have also been eunuchs and third genders in lots of cultures throughout history.

    • Liz says...

      Hi Sydni-I come from a very conservative, Christian background and all of my family still subscribes to those beliefs and I’ve noticed they all express really similar feelings as what you’ve described here. For me, my opinions on transgenderism, and sexuality, and gender all changed back in a sociology class at a conservative college in Michigan. We had to read a piece written by a hermaphrodite-or intersex-person. The piece was totally heartbreaking because it really exposed our poverty of language. The author fit neither into the ‘male’ nor ‘the female’ categories and, naturally, their sexuality didn’t fit into the heterosexual or homosexual categories. But, that’s how the author was born. It was the first time that I realized how cruel our world must feel for those who don’t belong to a “normal” group. I think it’s important to remember that we, as people and as a civilization, are constantly learning new things-and being new doesn’t equal wrong. We can see it in the past-people used to believe it was heresy to say the earth revolves around the sun-now that’s just known and to call it heretical would be silly and ridiculous. I think we have to be open to new knowledge and be willing to sit with the discomfort of it without pronouncing it wrong or bad. By the way, I’m sure it can feel difficult to make a comment different from many others expressed here, and I thought you did it in a really kind and gracious way. Have a great day!

    • This is a beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Liz, this is a beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing.

    • Melissa says...

      Sydni, you might be surprised to find that all throughout history, from very early writings, there are indeed trans* people. This isn’t new at all.

    • Robin says...

      You know, I think the important thing is simply the fact that you are thinking about it at all. It’s hard to grapple with issues we can’t personally identify with, but I really applaud you for giving mind space and time to something that challenges you. This is how we evolve–one little step at a time!

    • Madeline says...

      Friendly women/gender historian here piping in. “Why we are starting to question that in the 21st century disturbs me” is a common concern – but the history of trans identity is actually quite long and complicated. The book Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman – set in 18th century France – is an excellent and accessible place to start, if you are interested in learning more.

    • @Madeline Or even “Roaring Girl” an early modern play about a gender-bending rebel, written in 1610 (!) by Dekker and Middleton.

    • M says...

      Just hear to say I appreciate how kind everyone is being considering this topic is still very taboo in some social circles. Understanding, love and kindness make way for more understanding, love and kindness. :)

  92. Alysha says...

    I think it’s great that you are sharing this family’s story however, I would ask that you consider changing the introduction. Unless specified by the trans person themself, when talking about trans people pre-transition, you still use their correct pronouns. You’ll notice in her writing, Grace refers to Eli throughout as he or him, even when talking about him as a baby and in the same story you use in your introduction. This way, you aren’t negating who they are now and who they knew they were then. I also caution against participating in the troupe of shock journalism as it relates to trans people – it’s very common in articles about trans people to reveal they are trans as a twist. While more subtle than most, your introduction still relies on this reveal of his transness to pique your readers interest.

    Again, I appreciate you sharing this story but I wish the introduction was less about shocking your readers and more about this child’s relationship with himself and his parents.

    • Jenna says...

      I’ve read CoJ for years and never commented, but I need to now to second your comment in hopes that Jo will see this and correct it. Exactly my sentiments. This is how the trans narrative gets changed. Thanks for saying something.

  93. Renée says...

    So moved by this. Thank you for publishing such a beautiful post.

    Also, this is still the kindest, most gracious comment section I’ve ever seen.

  94. Jessica says...

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. You guys are really knocking it out of the park lately!

    • Karine says...

      Yes, they do. I have reading the posts on CoJ for years but they have meant so much more lately. Also have been reading more and more the comments, real sense of an open community.

  95. Wow. Reading this piece filled me with warmth and hope. Thank you, Grace, Eli and Joanna for sharing this story of what it truly means to love and accept.

  96. Mallory says...

    Beautiful story. May I handle all the curve balls of parenting as beautifully as this family.

  97. Sena says...

    This is my favorite post by far. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  98. Kate says...

    Thank you for using this space to put real faces to the current political buzzwords. Short of meeting and talking with people who may have different life experiences than our own, this seems like the best way to break down negative stereotypes. I hope to read more!

  99. MFree says...

    Thank you Grace for having the courage to share this incredibly honest story and Joanna for sharing it with the world. As a mother of a trans child, I concur that they are just normal people like you or I that want and need our love. ❤️

  100. Catherine says...

    What a wonderful story. It’s always excellent to hear from parents who are champions for their children, listen to their needs, and support them on their life paths. There are too many parents who try to change their children or oppress or belittle them for being the way that they are.

    I am so thrilled that everyone in your school and area has embraced Eli and is allowing him to live as he is without admonishment or ridicule.

    The one piece that I often get stuck on with families who have children who are transgender, is there seems to be a deep-seeded desire to enforce the concept that the child is “actually” a boy/girl and isn’t “choosing” to live this way. I’m sure that’s true; I’m sure it isn’t a choice, but at some point, I think the message should be: “this is our son, Eli. He is a boy. We expect that you treat him with respect and acceptance. If you don’t consider him a boy, we don’t care, but you will not bully our child or speak about your beliefs in front of him.” Period. You cannot force everyone to agree with you, but you can be the strongest possible advocate for your son. There is a chromosomal difference in boys and girls. It’s not just about bodies, but there is a scientific difference. Does that mean that wires don’t get crossed or that people aren’t born in the “wrong” body? I’m sure it doesn’t mean that, but controlling other people’s interpretations and beliefs is a losing battle.

    Now if people are trying to stop your son from entering the men’s restrooms or are refusing to call him the name that your family has selected, that’s different. People should not interfere with others, but there seems to be a massive push in this country to enforce belief systems. I will be kind to born again evangelical Christians, but I don’t want to hear their spiel on the path to Heaven, and similarly, I want to love all of the children in this world and not necessarily be told that I have to think exactly like your family does in order to embrace Eli.

    At some point we all need to be more accepting, more “to each their own,” and less “my opinions are the right opinions and everyone must agree with me.” Everyone needs to treat one another with respect, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion… you name it. Everyone does not have to see each situation identically.

    That being said, I am truly happy that Eli has you for parents and a community that fully supports him. He sounds like a brave and amazing young man.

    • Diana says...

      This is exactly how I’ve always felt about the issue but I have found it hard to articulate — thank you for sharing.

    • Michelle says...

      Thank you for this extremely articulate and thoughtful comment. You make an excellent point that is not easy to make in the overly PC environment we currently live in.

  101. Laura says...

    Grace and Eli,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I learned so much by reading this and I have a much greater understanding of trans identity. You are strong individuals who should be very proud of the transition your whole family and community has made together.
    Lots of love and happiness to you.

  102. This piece is beautiful. And came at the right time for me. Thank you. We should all aspire to be so open and loving, supportive and graceful with our children. ❤️

  103. Jackie says...

    “They are trying to live life in truth and happiness.” What a lovely expression and a beautifully written story. Thank you for sharing, Joanna, Grace & Eli.

  104. Callie says...

    I loved reading this story so much. Every parent experiences turns in the road that never could have been expected–not every is able to handle it with the fortitude, honesty, and love Grace and her husband did. What a lovely family.

  105. Sara says...

    Beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing.

  106. ingrid says...

    Well done. What a wonderful family.

  107. Wow, I just cried my eyes out through this whole story! Thank you so much for sharing! The love of a parent, right?! I loved how her response was that she didn’t know what to do but that they would figure it out. And the depths that they went to to make sure the community received it well. So much love radiating through all of this – moved me to tears. :)

  108. Incredible. What an inspiration for all parents, Grace. Thank you to all who helped share this.

  109. Barb says...

    This is beautiful. What an amazing model of communication, mother to child and vice versa, and within a community! When I talk to my young daughter about gender issues, I emphasize that it’s helpful to consider how little information we actually learn from identifying someone’s gender (or various other info – like racial/ethnic background, religion, etc). It doesn’t tell us anything about what that individual is like as a person. So if we’re uncomfortable about not being able to ‘place’ someone, it’s really our assumptions about particular groups that need to be reconsidered. None of us wants to be characterized by our association with any one group, and in the end, we’re all non-conformists based on our own mishmash of genetic make up and experiences. Cheers to Eli and his fam for living their truth and inspiring the rest of us to do the same!

  110. Inbal says...

    Eli is a one lucky boy to you, Grace, as his mother.
    A very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.

  111. Jenny says...

    This is an amazing story on so many levels. As a parent, I can’t imagine how difficult this was be to process and overcome our inherent biases about gender and the way things “should” be. It’s inspiring to see how one family (and community!) was able to do this and celebrate what makes this boy so unique and special. Thanks for sharing this, Joanna. And major kudos to Grace and her awesome family.

  112. Annie says...

    What a wonderful story. Thank you so much to Grace and Eli for sharing.

    Having a trans child is a fear of mine – not because of the normal stigma, but like Laura mentioned, I just still feel so uneducated about it. It still seems “new” in society, you know? I’m so pleased that your story turned out as it did, and MAJOR props to that support group (and Grace for finding it)!

  113. Deeply moved by this piece, both in how the parents have raised Eli and how the community has banded together. Wishing them all joy.

  114. Carol says...

    Thank you for sharing…I am so glad that your community was so supportive and that you have resources to help you and your son on this journey. That is such a step forward for our society.

  115. VP says...

    Wow, what a beautiful story. Both Eli and his parents are lucky to have each other in this world.

  116. Sarah Z says...

    Doing motherhood right! <3

  117. Sarah says...

    As a millennial I think my generation is the first were being gay was always part of our lexicon. I remember in kindergarten having to explain to my father that my classmate had two moms. I understood and accepted it because it was introduced so early. I hope my my future children’s generation it is the same with being transgender. I hope I can help them understand and accept it early as another variation on the wonderful rainbow that is humanity. Beautiful story thank you for sharing Grace!

  118. Jessica says...

    Thank you Grace for sharing your beautiful story, and for Joanna for publishing this- it is so heartwarming to read about acceptance, love and communities rallying together, especially given recent events.

  119. Olivia says...

    Who knew Cup of Jo was so woke?! I used to come to this blog to escape my daily tasks and work and now it’s this beautiful blend of fun articles and thought-provoking, political, and (sometimes) risqué words. This is makes me so happy!

    • Amelia says...

      Haha took the words right outta my mouth!

  120. Diane says...

    Best post EVER!

  121. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story. I’m pregnant with my first kid, and I’m understanding more and more how it’ll be my role to provide shelter, food and love for this autonomous being, someone who will build and live a life totally separate from me. This is a great lesson in trusting children as their own beings.

  122. Sarah says...

    Thank you for publishing this.

  123. Kat says...

    My favorite part about this piece was that Grace acknowledged that it took her a little bit to come around, went through a period of doubt, but eventually found her way to the most important thing of all: love. I think that’s only human. I am also really moved by the effort Grace and her family went through to communicate with the school and the community. May you all have a life that brims with acceptance and strength.

    • Amelia says...

      Agreed – and it was really interesting and thoughtful that she included the period of questioning whether her child had not been exposed to a diverse set of possibilities about what it means to be a “girl,” before understanding that this wasn’t the issue.

  124. Really informative and wonderfully positive article! Thanks for sharing!!

  125. It must be so scary! What an inspirational story though, thanks for sharing x

  126. Katie says...

    What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing! <3

  127. Lana says...

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this.

  128. Laura G. says...

    this is beautiful, and it gives me hope that as a society we’ll continue to make progress on accepting all people as they are.

  129. Lisa Carver says...

    Thank you for sharing such an important story.

  130. Laura says...

    Amazing story. I feel like a fairly educated, feminist, liberal sort of person, but trans issues have always been kind of mysterious to me. I supported trans people, sure, but never felt like I totally understood on a personal level, if that makes sense. This helped a lot and was really moving. Thank you so much.

    • Alison says...

      I feel exactly the same, Laura. Thank you for sharing your family’s journey, Grace. And thank you, Joanna, for creating this safe space that encourages empathy and education.

    • Anne says...

      I feel the same way! Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I don’t attach much significance to my gender; When I describe myself, there are dozens of words that come to mind (stubborn, engineer, bookworm, analytical), but ‘woman’ feels kind of incidental. Like, sure I’m female, but all those other words are more important to me, and if I were male, I don’t think I’d be much different. I know that this is a blind spot of mine, and when someone transitions I totally believe that it was the right choice for them, but I’m definitely less able to empathize.

      Loved this article also!

  131. thank you for sharing your story. what lucky boys you have!

  132. Melanie says...

    What a beautiful, brave, eloquent essay. Thank you for publishing this, and thank you, Grace, for sharing your story.

  133. Meghan says...

    What a wonderful family <3

  134. Nicole says...

    Thank you for sharing your story! The more people who feel empowered to speak out about their experiences as being transgender or loving someone who is transgender, the more society will see that the community is nothing to be scared of, as you say.

  135. Rebecca says...

    Wow this made me cry. What an incredible family, with such bravery and courage to go through this journey and open up so many minds of those around them to acceptance and tolerance. Thank you for sharing it!

  136. Maria says...

    Truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing with us.

  137. Angela says...

    What a beautiful family!

  138. Laura C. says...

    Thank you very much for sharing. Surely Grace didn’t have a great time and it is very kind from her to share their story. I’m very happy to know that Eli wasn’t bullied at all.
    XOXO

  139. Laura says...

    Inspiring, moving and informative. What a great family story – one of your best posts.

  140. Rebecca says...

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about parenting a trans child, which is also about the one true test of all parenting: can we help our kids be themselves, love them just as they are, and teach them to love themselves? Everything else is secondary. Grace is an awesome example for all parents.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, what a beautiful comment. my mom always says kids are like different flowers, and your role as a parent is to figure out which exact things they each need to bloom. they’re all different with different personalities, hopes, dreams, needs… xoxo

    • Hillary says...

      This is so wise.

  141. Karen says...

    BEAUTIFUL.

    I am heartened (more than I can say) when I look forward at Eli’s generation. They are tenderhearted and open-minded and we will ALL benefit from their perspective.

    I truly think the only way through what we (as a nation) are going through now is love–and that idea of a beloved community and golly, talk about a community grounded in love.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Grace and Eli!

  142. Sarah says...

    What awesome parents you have Eli, I hope your life is full of that much love all the way through.

  143. Sarah Kang says...

    Thank you for this beautiful essay. Grace, you sound like a truly wonderful mother. My son only wants to wear dresses (he throws huge tantrums if not) but he is still just three years old so we are waiting to see how he will feel as he grows. Your story was very helpful and reassuring that all will work out, either way! Thank you very much.

    • Same here! ❤️

  144. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story!

  145. Miss Sarah says...

    Beautiful. Thank you!

  146. Ileana says...

    Wow. What a story. Thank you for sharing. :-)