“Transitions of the Heart is the first collection to ever invite mothers of transgender and gender variant children of all ages to tell their own stories about their child’s gender transition. Often “transitioning” socially and emotionally alongside their child but rarely given a voice in the experience, mothers hold the key to familial and societal understanding of gender difference. Sharing stories of love, struggle, and acceptance, this collection of mother’s voices, representing a diversity of backgrounds and sexual orientations, affirms the experience of those who have raised and are currently raising transgender and gender variant children between the ages of 5-50. Edited by Rachel Pepper, a gender specialist and co-author of the acclaimed book The Transgender Child, Transitions of the Heart will prove an invaluable resource for parents coming to terms with a child’s gender variance or transition.”
I picked this book up from the library because I needed a good cry. I expected comparing these wonderful mothers to my not-so-wonderful mother would help me out, but instead I found out I knew a few of the people being talked about (which was both funny and aggravating) and that what is seen as accepting may not always be accepting.
First, I knew a few of the people which was really funny at first until I got to a story that I knew really well from the child’s point of view. The mother didn’t seem distressed enough to fit some of the actions I know she has done to her child, but that may mean she has grown and is really trying to be there. I really hope that she is as adjusted and supportive as she said and sounds. Then there was one that I felt like throwing the book. The mother started out saying she doesn’t believe in gay rights and then she goes into saying she wishes her child never came out, but she would be there for her child. So in effect she is lying and doesn’t actually accept her child (this may be a harsh assessment of this mother, but over time this not actually being supportive of her child’s true identity will show if she isn’t able to jump on board). This hit really close to home and made me angry that this story was included in all these other wonderful stories about actually accepting your child even if that acceptance was hard to come by.
I really did appreciate that the mothers were being honest about how hard the journey was for them and how they felt when their child came out as trans*. It good to see that I wasn’t alone in my experiences of trying to raise my mother and educate her during my transition, but I am happier that these mothers actually came to accept their child (well, most of the mothers).
What this book lacked in technical writing skills it made up for with massive amounts of heart. I came close to crying a few times over these stories that were relatively short, but then I would get angry again about what one mother would say. The one theme that kept coming up was that the parent would mourn the loss of their child and they then said they loved their “new” child. I was getting really frustrated at this view, but then multiple mothers in a row at the end of the book flat out said “I didn’t lose my child, instead I finally saw my child happy” (not a direct quote, but pretty darn close). Most of these mothers I would praise, even the antagonistic one who was writing a letter who called out trans* people who were pushing her to help her child transition. No surprise that trans* people would understand her child’s wish to transition better than she did, it is not supposed to be on her schedule but instead on the child’s. Though the mother did point out that she only ask the child to wait for a safer area, but when you are trans* your whole life may feel wrapped up in your gender when you are told “no, wait until I say it is OK to be who you really are”. It is a tough situation and most of these mothers handled it perfectly from the very start. Some grew into handling the situation amazingly. Some, well one, will be taking longer roads to handling this situation.
I am very appreciative that these mothers have stepped up and told their stories, not their children’s stories. It was always about how they felt and how they handled things. They made sure to focus on their experiences. These mothers are brave and I wish them all of the happiness they can handle.
4.5 stars out of 5 (literally only because of that one mother who didn’t accept her child). I would recommend this book, but the people who really need the advice of these wonderful mothers will probably never read this book and the ones who do read it already know.
You can buy this book here.