What I Learned about Motherhood from the Mother of a Trans Child

{For the sake of continuity, I’ll be referring to the LGBTQIA+ community as the queer community in parts of this post. I realize it is not my place, but each of our own, to label ourselves as we see fit. I have written this article with the full support and blessing of my dear friend, who is the mother of a trans child. I have changed names for privacy.}A hand holding a sign with the text no labels in front of fabric with a rainbow.

Making mom friends is harder than dating.
I’m talking about the real, genuine, life-altering friendships.
And I want to tell you about one of mine.

A New Friendship

I’ll never forget meeting Shannon.
We met at one of the most difficult places to connect with another person:: a rowdy indoor play place.
Our older children were less than a year apart in age and hit it off instantly. Shannon had clear, kind, wise eyes and a laid back demeanor.
We immediately clicked on several levels:: surface and also far deeper. It felt natural to “go there” too.
I was downright giddy when she asked for my number and we made plans to meet up at a playground the next week. A new mom friend!
Our first solo play date went smoothly. Our kids played well together and left us to chat. Shannon’s calming presence would make anyone feel at ease. She is soft-spoken with just a slight hint of southern accent. We chatted as though we were old friends.
And then, she seemed a bit reserved. With trepidation, she quietly shared “We’re having some gender identity issues.”
I’d love to share with you the perfect response to this kind of statement. But::
A.} I do not remember what I said and
B.} I am absolutely certain it was not the perfect response.
It was likely something insightful and affirming, like “Oh.”
Yes, I have a way with words.
Beads spell the word Transgender.
In retrospect, I realize she had shared this private, personal struggle that her child and her family was going through on our first play date to make sure I wouldn’t run away from the friendship. And that honestly breaks my heart. Parents of LGBTQIA+ children should never have to vet their relationships. They should be met with support, like all parents deserve to be.
What I hope I said was something encouraging or positive but not intrusive. I hope I let her know that I’m a safe person to share with.
I do remember restraining myself from asking questions; I tried to listen to Shannon as she was ready to share.

Getting to Know You

As our friendship became closer, I got so much insight into how to show up for her and her family. And for us, that simply looked like supportive, genuine friendship. I offered a listening ear but never let us get bogged down discussing L’s gender identity.
Shannon helped me with advice about my children and I helped her with hers.
Shannon made the conscious choice to take an accepting and hands off approach to L’s gender. It was up to L. Over time, the playdates where L wanted us to call her “Princess Charlotte” or any other pretend name shifted to L arriving wearing a hair bow or sparkly leggings. Trying on a new name, for real.
Then one day, L was Ellie.
You could visibly see how much tension had left her small body.
She blushed and thanked me when I complimented her outfit. Her smile reached her eyes.
I am so proud of Ellie. And I am so, so proud of my friend Shannon.
Shannon showed Ellie that home is a safe space by living that acceptance for years before it became their reality. Shannon is the most incredible example on how to raise a young transgender child. My greatest wish would be that every child {and especially every trans child} could grow up so secure and loved.
For me, our friendship has been like a master class on parenting. As a lifelong ally to the queer community, I was able to witness with fresh eyes how critical it is that we support parents of LGBTQIA+ children. Here are some of the big lessons in a nutshell::

The Big Lessons

You don’t have to understand it to accept it {or be supportive}

I think this is a tough one. Accepting someone for who they are should be simpler than it is, and this is true about gender identity as well.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with empathy and love, and go from there. Just because you haven’t met a trans child doesn’t mean how those children feel and view themselves doesn’t matter.

Their childhood experience should be the same as every cisgender child:: full of acceptance, growth, and difficulties. It’s the beginning of a lifelong journey to self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Listen more than talk. Read or watch a video about gender identity. Use the right pronouns. And if you’re witnessing a transition, ask what they want to be called that day.

It’s ok to embrace gender fluidity. You don’t have to understand. Respect. Accept.

Have the Conversation Before You “Need” to

Seriously, talking about gender with small children {think:: preschool aged} doesn’t have to be taboo. I envisioned having these discussions far later in my children’s lives {likely closer to puberty}. In all things, knowledge is power and there’s no reason to put it off!  A great place to start is here with this book::

Book Cover: Red, A crayon's story by Michael Hall. Our friendships with Shannon and Ellie also sparked a lot of talk about how there are no such thing as “boy” or “girl” toys, tv shows, or even clothing. It’s all for everyone.

And when L was officially Ellie, I explained to my son that while we thought she was a boy, it turned out she was really a girl all along. Her heart was always a girl. My son understood.

Clear your expectations

We all have them for our children. Let them go. You’re only hurting yourself and them if you want to fit your children into a box of preconceived notions you had about who they might be someday. They get to live their lives. You get to watch.

Just go with the flow

Shannon is seriously wonderful. I admire how easily she adapted to her circumstances and managed to mom her way through these past few years. I know this will serve her as she continues to stand up for her trans child and make sure Ellie is given every opportunity she deserves to show up as completely herself in the world.

We don’t get to choose our challenges, for ourselves or our children. Be adaptable.

Choose Your Team Wisely

Surface friends are cool. We all need them. Someone to chit chat with at pick-ups or talk about what our kids are up to at school or their extracurriculars.

But those deep friendships– like the hokey pokey– that’s what it’s all about.

Life is meant to be lived together. Parents need a village. It may seem daunting, but you get to create it! That’s pretty awesome.

Shannon could have kept me at arms length. But she hugged me in close and let me in to share her in the journey of her trans child. And I am so grateful.L G B T Q I A plus spelled on a person's fingers.

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What I learned about Motherhood from the mother of a trans child. A photograph of a mother hugging a child. Logo: Houston moms.


  1. Thank you. As a parent who has an open question policy, I try to arm myself with information and advice to help as much as possible. The journey itself can be so hard, but tapping into the correct resources and befriending the right people can be helpful. I have a 20-year-old daughter who is bi-sexual, openly, and a younger daughter who has been questioning her identity. I have to set out each day with an open mind and a goal to learn something new.

  2. I stand corrected. My 20 year old is not bisexual, she is gay. 🤦🏻‍♀️ And since I can not edit my previous comment I will leave this correction right here. ❤️


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