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First Do No Harm


Editor’s note: This article is written by a dear friend who was our North Star when we initially came to understand our child’s needs. I’m so happy that she was able to provide her personal and professional perspective. -Melissa

First do no harm

All persons should have the opportunity to live naturally

Intervene only as much as necessary to reduce the distress to manageable levels

Jesse is a 14 year-old smart, funny, precocious girl who would rather be with friends than do homework (or do anything actually). She won’t eat anything green, is a night owl, spends too much time on her phone, and loves, absolutely adores, Taylor Swift and Lorde. She cries copious tears when she is hurt; cares very deeply about people, animals, and the earth; and is fiercely protective of her self, her friends, her family, and her puppy. She is mostly vegan, and all the way vegetarian. Oh, and she is transgender.

By the time Jesse was two years old, two profoundly meaningful events occurred that would eventually become catalysts for a long journey into a great unknown. One was her first haircut in which she told me that she wanted me to do it like “Cinder-lella.” Shortly afterwards, Jesse got into a large bag full of hand me downs intended for her newborn sister. As one might imagine, the bag was full of things pink, pretty, and sparkly. Jesse beamed in what she thought was her new wardrobe. Our approach was to gently try to help her ‘organize’ and manage her preferences, interests, needs, and identity.

Over the next several years, and despite our very exceptional ‘organizing’ skills, Jesse’s female identity continued to strengthen. Every shooting star and every birthday candle held the same wish, “Please, please…let me wake up a girl.” One night when we came into her room to say goodnight, we caught her praying. Her hands were held in prayer and she was repeating the same old wish, “Please, please, let me wake up a girl.” So, finally, we stopped managing and organizing, and right smack in the middle of second grade, we helped her make a social transition to all things feminine. We came to understand that, for her, in order to not hurt her, we would simply have to let her be who she was. So we did. We said a few prayers of our own and allowed her to be her.

Then the phone calls started. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, I had been providing therapy for a number of years. Of course, I researched treatment options for transgender children and found that at the time, the ‘best’ advise out there was to remove all things girly from the ‘boys’ life and help him be comfortable with his body. I knew, not thought or suspected, but knew for sure that this was not always going to be possible, and was rarely going to be ideal. I also knew for sure that it was going to be harmful. Especially for our Jesse and likely others like her. So I developed a treatment approach with three main tenets: First, do no harm. Second, all persons should have the opportunity to act naturally. Third, intervene as minimally as possible to get the distress down to manageable levels.

Through word of mouth, anxious parents began calling me after hearing of this unique approach to working with transgender children. Families came to me from all over the Midwest for treatment, for consultation, for advise.

While my treatment strategy was not typical for the times, it really was not ground breaking. I was simply applying sound evidence based therapy to what we thought was a new population of children. There is no approach in psychotherapy that states that it is better to “hurt them a little now to protect a better outcome later” (these words were actually said to me by a psychologist and educator in justifying the corrective approach to counseling transgender children). This statement stimulated several questions for me. First, by “hurt” how much would be OK? How much hurt in early childhood would be commensurate with the better outcome that one might envision? Does this ‘better outcome’ include trauma? Or are we specifically measuring for transgender identity? What exactly is this better outcome? All of these questions led me to develop the first tenet of my approach: First, do no harm. This is the first law of medicine and provides the basic scaffolding surrounding healing and competent care. And this applies to all persons, young and old, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. First do no harm. As I said, not ground breaking. This has been the Hippocratic Oath for many decades. I simply applied it to a very vulnerable and marginalized group: gender diverse children.

The second tenet of my treatment approach is that all persons should have the opportunity to act naturally. Lets be clear, I am not talking about people who think they are cats or people who identify as a toaster. I am talking about a typically functioning individual whose gender identity is something other than what we, in binary America, think that it should be. There is much we do not know about the brain, about gender, and identity. Cross cultural research, as well as observational studies done in the animal kingdom, suggests that a binary code, while fine for computers, is overly simplistic for gender, and, in fact, humans. Social, personality, and sexual development are complex processes and 0’s and 1’s do not really explain us very well.

In this state of not knowing, it becomes critical to approach diversity issues with regard. Especially for children. I remember a time early in my process when I had a boy bodied child dressed as a princess and another boy bodied child dressed as batman. It is horrifying to me now to recall how one had to change into more appropriate attire to go to grandmas house and the other one didn’t. I can’t help but consider the impact of traumatic experiencing that this type of situation is likely to facilitate. At the very least, a child learns to develop a false self in the face of an unaccepting, critical, and dangerous world. This is one of the fundamental goals of psychotherapy for a great many number of clients: to help in the development of a true self with the goal of living an authentic and personally meaningful life. Therefore, I felt that all persons should be able to act naturally. All of our clients should be met with positive regard. It is just not up to us to tell them who they are. Who we think they are. Or aren’t. It is not up to us as therapists. For my family, it isn’t up to parents either. It is up to parents to teach values, to get the children to bed at a reasonable, to try to get them to eat something green. It is up to us to help the child develop and learn routines and structure. It is up to us to be a cook, chauffeur, tutor, manager, housekeeper, cheerleader…. It is not going to be our decision whether the child is going to have intrinsic interest in dolls, trucks, or games. Whether they will excel in gymnastics or debate team. Whether they will pursue a career in medicine or education. We can protect and guide. But for the vast majority of children, it is just not up to us to decide about orientation or identity.

Research has shown that a large percentage of gender dysphoric children may desist in their transgender identities. In a nutshell, this research concluded that many will grow out of it. These ‘outcomes’ caused significant anxiety in parents of gender diverse and transgender children. With medical technology exploding, and cross sex interventions becoming a viable option, parent’s questions and concerns regarding best practice were well founded. How do I know if my child will grow out of it? How do I support without encouraging? How do I help but not hurt? How much do I intervene? These are all valid concerns. To really capture parental and clinical panic regarding these outcomes and corresponding questions, research has also shown that suicidality for transgender youth was disproportionately high. In other words, gender diverse and transgender children, as a group, was not doing well.

However, the terms ‘gender diverse’ and ‘transgender’ are not necessarily the same and research had not yet empirically operationalized them. This research, while informative, had its limitations. So far, people weren’t yet talking about distress level as a diagnostic feature at that time. As a therapist, of course, this factor is critical in assessment and diagnosis for any mental health issue. Symptoms that do not cause marked impairment or distress isn’t diagnosed. And so this third tenet was to help parents navigate these very difficult questions and concerns. In a world where we simply don’t know, let your child’s overall wellness be your guide. Is their anxiety manageable? Are they learning to read? Or are they so distracted with gender incongruity that they can’t learn? Are they aggressive with others? How are they developing socially? This enable parents to map unchartered waters in a uniquely idiosyncratic way. Broad brush strokes simply aren’t going to be effective with this community. Nurture does have an impact. Community does have an impact. There are just too many variables. At the end of the day, we want healthy children who are well and whole. And the least harm approach to get there is to assist in the development of a true, natural, psychologically fit, and physically well self.

Back in 2010, when Jesse was right smack in the middle of second grade, we made some crucial decisions. First, we just weren’t going to knowingly hurt her. No way were we going to hurt any of our three children on purpose. Second, we were going to treat her, and of course all of our children, with positive regard, and allow them to be natural. Finally we were going to look at her overall distress/wellness as the primary guide for intervention. When we computed this fairly basic and humanistic algorithm, all of our anxiety decreased.

Today, we have three healthy children who are otherwise preoccupied with the natural emergencies of teenage life. Jesse is a remarkable, insightful, and charming 14 year-old transgirl. Our next problem? How do we get her to turn off her phone and get to bed on time. Maybe even eat something green. All things considered, these are good problems to have.



In true Melissa fashion, I’m writing this post late into the evening when I should be headed to bed. But, I know that sleep won’t come until I untangle the knots of emotions that are holding my eyelids open.

We’ve hit the next stage in our journey raising a transgender child. Up until now, our choices and decisions did not require a medical intervention. Deciding if we would allow our child to wear clothing normally worn by females, using female pronouns, allowing our child to socially transition to a female, introducing our child to others as a female.  None of those decisions required a prescription.

Puberty always felt a long way off. I swear these children just came out of me yesterday, but this year they have lockers, a school dance, need deodorant, and drink an impossible amount of milk each week. Where did the time go? How have we gone from baby bottles and diapers to a first dance dress and a discussion about personal hygiene?

I was suspicious that we might be getting close to puberty when I saw that some of the kids who were boys last May were suddenly young men in September. And recent lab work confirmed that it is time to start puberty blockers.

Conner was so relieved that she started crying. It is exhausting to constantly be worrying that your body will betray you and that the doctors might miss it until it is too late. Since the labs had been drawn, she’d spent more than one day in bed, overcome by nausea as her anxiety climbed. When we told her that the prescription for blockers was being sent in, her relief was evident by the school bus wide smile she wore for the rest of the day.

What she didn’t see, was her mom break down in tears upon seeing the message from the doctor. Why all the tears from mom? Good question.

That’s maybe a little bit why I’m here tonight typing instead of playing Township on my phone as I wait for sleep to come.

I’ve had to sort out my mix of emotions and that involved reaching out to a few trusted moms who also have transgender kids.

“I’m a mess and I’m feeling too many things,” I cried.

“Yes, we did the same thing too,” they reassured me.

It has helped to list my emotions and I’m hoping this will help another parent in a similar hot mess of emotions.

First and foremost, I’m crazy happy for my child. She feels so validated that her parents and her medical providers recognize that she needs blockers. It confirms to her that we believe her and that she won’t have to go through a male puberty. Her happiness is infectious.

I’m beyond relieved that we can stop wondering when puberty will start. I keep watching her friends show the tell-tale signs of puberty and then I look at both my children to see if I can recognize any of these signals in them. I’ve pestered my husband and his mother about when puberty started for him (to no avail, it’s like he’s blocked it out of his mind). It has caused me so much stress that it only compounds my anxiety about what this has been like for her.

I’m sad. I’m sad that she has to have a medical intervention to be who she is. I’m sad that she carries so many burdens. I’m sad that she had to wonder if she would get the medical intervention she needed to block male puberty.

I’m also angry. Why couldn’t she have been born with a female body? Why does she have to go through this? Why does it have to be so hard for her?

I feel guilty. Did I do something wrong in my pregnancy that put her in the wrong body? Could I have somehow prevented the pain that she feels? Should I be more worried about the long-term effects of puberty blockers than I am?

I’m confused. Is it wrong to feel this way? Does it lessen her identity as a transgender female to wonder if I could have prevented this? Does it make me a bad ally to wish that she has been born into the body she identifies as? Is it normal and okay to feel guilty and confused?

I’m scared.

My children are identical twins. Even though one has long hair and a mole on her cheek they are otherwise identical. What will happen when her brother continues with male puberty and she doesn’t? How will they begin to look different? Will it be hard to watch one become what the other feared she would be? How will my identity change as feeling like a mother of identical twins even if it has been years since I told anyone they are identical? Will it be hard to watch one develop while the other waits? Will my relationship with them change as they begin to look different?

Will their relationship change? Will it hurt her relationship with him when she watches him become what she feared?

I don’t have the answers. But I do have the knowledge that we’ll take each day as it comes together as a family. I do know that we are strong and we love each other and we will get through whatever comes ahead.

And I do have the absolute conviction that we are making the best decision for her.

She slept most of the ride home from camp.

Summer ends

We had a great summer. It started with the Trans Philly Conference in June, jumped to the Columbus Pride Parade, took us to the North East for Camp Aranu’tiq, and culminated in a trip to the North Carolina beach. We were fairly ready to get book bags and school supplies ready after all of that!

If you are the parent of a transgender, gender nonconforming, agender, or non-binary kiddo, then I really hope you’ll check out the website for Camp Aranu’tiq. This is the second year that we’ve sent Conner and she always comes back pleasantly exhausted, looking like she had way too much fun, and floating on cloud nine. My favorite part about camp is that it’s just camp. There’s no planned discussion about being transgender. No counseling sessions. No agenda. It’s just kids being like every other kid at camp which is something that Conner only gets to experience for a few weeks out of the year.

Pro tip: Don’t send clothes that you don’t want getting filthy.


She slept most of the ride home. So did Misha.

Our trip to North Carolina caused us a lot of initial stress. When HB2 came out, I was convinced that we shouldn’t go. Mike was also convinced that we shouldn’t go. Conner was nervous because she didn’t want to break the law, but she also didn’t want to miss a beach vacation with our whole family. So, I contacted Emerald Isle Realty and asked their thoughts on HB2. I didn’t tell them that we were an LGBTQ family so I was very relieved when they shared how unhappy they were by such a terrible bill. They made a point to help us feel very welcome. We decided to go ahead with the vacation and we’re really happy we did.

Conner did ask me any time she went to the bathroom if she was breaking the law. Since we didn’t use any public facilities, I told her that she didn’t. We didn’t AVOID public bathrooms because I would have happily encouraged civil disobedience, but the opportunity never came up. It was a concern that weighed constantly at the back of our minds and so any family in a similar situation will need to weigh the risks and benefits. We were surrounded by family, had no need to use a public bathroom, with a daughter who firmly passes for her gender and it still caused us almost constant concern that week.

My heart truly goes out to those families in NC who are living under the stress of HB2. We had it easy during our one week in Emerald Isle but I know that your struggle is very different and I wish I could help. We’ve donated to Roy Cooper’s campaign and we’re planning an election night party to celebrate when McCrory loses his seat. I will welcome any and all tweets and FB updates about how the election results are going that night. Champagne at the ready.

We got back from vacation and had less than two weeks before school started. Middle school. That’s right. I said middle school. How did that even happen?? I just gave birth to them yesterday and suddenly they have lockers and schedules and after school clubs. And there’s lip gloss. And blush. And Daddy is not handling that well.

She did her hair today. If you’ve followed me for awhile then you know that I’ve had to practically wrestle my kids into the shower. So this sudden realization that bodies feel better when they are clean and hair looks better when it is brushed is a brand new concept. Even Murphy is using styling product in his hair. I’m flummoxed by these babies who are, clearly, no longer babies.

Oh, and we have chickens. Because, reasons.

We bought chicks this past March on a whim that actually started four years ago when we didn’t own a house. I blame our friends in St. Paul (that’s you, Amy and Kate). But, now we have a house and that house needed chicks. And those chicks also grew up this summer and started giving us eggs.

So, be warned about the occasional chicken post.


Sally enjoys an afternoon stroll through the gardens.


Happy chickens = better eggs.

Another summer in the life of the McLaren family is in the books. I hope your summer has gone well and that your schools are accepting. I look forward to what this year will bring for all of us.


New logo!

I’m so excited to launch the new logo for Nonconforming Mom today! When I started this website in the wee hours of the night 15 months ago, I slapped together an image with PicMonkey and off we went. Now, as both Conner and I are doing more public speaking, it seemed like the time to upgrade to something more professional.

Much thanks goes to Jonathon Wolfinger for his design and web work. What impressed me most about working with Jonathon is that he was able to take my (seriously) vague ideas and turn them into a beautiful logo. What I told him was that I wanted something clean, I wanted it to include the transgender colors, and I wanted it to look good on a business card. He sent 3 really awesome ideas, and this is the one that connected with our family.

If you are looking for someone to design a logo or other web work for you, then I heartily encourage you to reach out to Jonathon Wolfinger at



This is NOT about the safety of women and girls

There has been a total uproar over Target’s decision to make their bathrooms a safe place for transgender folks. I’ve heard more angry comments over the Target decision than over HB2 which was astonishing to me. The biggest concern raised in both cases over the bathroom bills is the safety of women and girls and the risk of cisgender men putting on a dress and coming into the bathroom to wage their assault.

If we were really worried about the safety of women and girls in bathrooms then we’d be introducing legislature to keep convicted sex offenders out of public bathrooms. We’d stop victim shaming women for getting assaulted and raped. We’d stop making women pay for rape kits in the hospital. We’d take women seriously when they say they’ve been assaulted. We’d start hearing our young girls when they share stories of assault and objectification. We’d never let a Republican State Representative, who is a threat to women, keep his job and just move him to a different building. The biggest story of the night wouldn’t be Target’s bathroom policy, it would be that the longest standing Speaker of the House molested boys.

This is NOT NOT NOT about the safety of women and girls. It is about lawmakers and others being uncomfortable around transgender individuals. Where do they think transgender individuals have been using the bathroom all these years? We’ve been sharing bathrooms with trans folks forever. 

Criminals are not waiting for the opportunity to put on a dress to go assault someone. They don’t need to wait for that opportunity. They know that women are unlikely to share the assault because they won’t be believed, they’ll be made to feel like they brought it on by what they wore or how they acted or how much alcohol they consumed, or they’ll be humiliated in front of others by having to repeat their story over and over as if they were the criminal. We have a LONG WAY TO GO to protect women and girls from cisgender men who don’t know how to behave but keeping transgender people from the bathroom is about the most ridiculous way to fix this problem that I’ve ever heard.


The Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness

The Twinadoes started fifth grade yesterday! It was with a 60/40 blend of trepidation and joy that I dropped them off at the door of another new school. While homeschooling was easier than I expected, I was pretty excited to have the house to myself for the first time in 6 months. The kids were both really pumped to spend the day making friends, having recess, checking out a new school, and oh yeah, maybe learning some stuff.

As it has been in every school, the Little Miss was the first transgender student they’d interacted with. Mike and I met with the principal almost two weeks prior to the start of school to share our story and meet with someone who would become an important part of our lives. We shared our journey and some of the concerns we had for the upcoming year. Our principal is a wonderful person and I’m really relieved to be with yet another understanding educator who is eager to learn and create a safe space for all children.

Unfortunately, for the first time in her school history, our daughter will have to use the unisex bathroom. The school system has a policy in place that dictates that all transgender kids will use a unisex bathroom. My heart sank when I was given this information, but it was paired with the statement that we would work together to get the right people the information they needed to make positive changes for this population of children.

I watched as Conner’s little shoulders, so high with expectation, slumped in shock when she heard that she wouldn’t be able to use the girl’s bathroom. For her, being forced to use the unisex bathroom indicated that the school didn’t believe her. It told her that the school thought she wasn’t really a girl as she would be denied the very basic right to use the bathroom with all the rest of the girls. By telling her to use a unisex bathroom, it set her up for questions from her peers, it put focus on an area of her body that already caused her distress, highlighted her difference from her peers, and set up the school as her largest source of stress instead of a safe haven for learning.

For a child who has always identified as female, this was both confusing and embarrassing. We explained how her hero, Jazz Jennings, went through similar struggles and helped pave the way for Conner to use the girl’s bathroom at her previous school in Florida. Though it will be hard, Conner now has the opportunity to help create change in her current school system.

I want to be positive and see the tremendous potential that Conner has to help create change here in our town. It was with mixed feelings that I gave her the positive spin of, “Go, be a trailblazer, young one.”

But, my heart hurts that the responsibility falls on her shoulders. It would have been wonderful to show up to a school system that was ready for a child like ours. I will say this, the hearts of the teachers in our school seem to be ready for Conner. It would be the expectation I guess, for the next line to say, “And the rest is just paperwork.”

But, it isn’t that simple. I foolishly thought that we’d be able to share our story, everyone would see how silly it is to keep Conner (and kids like her) out of the bathroom of their affirmed gender, that I might have to point out the Department of Justice’s opinion on the matter, and that would be the end of it. But, no. There will be meetings, and education, and calling in reinforcements to help with the education, and making ourselves available to answer questions, and these things take time.

If you don’t already know  this about me, I’m impatient on a good day. It’s not uncommon for my family to see me fuming at my computer as I wait for the little round spinning rainbow image to do what I’ve asked the computer to do.

I’m even more impatient when it involves a process change which is why my doctoral capstone project was such a trying event for me my family. When the issue causes my daughter to feel shame and makes her feel different, then the slow process of change is likely going to drive me insane.

I know that other families are going through this process too. So, I’m going to share the links to everything I had posted in the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness which I gave to the administration of our school district. I’m also going to be updating my resources link to include this information though that won’t happen for a day or two. And, because I write when I’m agitated, frustrated, happy, and bored, I’m sure I’ll be giving updates along the way. I won’t be sharing the name of our school system or the individuals involved out of respect and privacy for this process. There are some really great people trying to make positive changes and I want this to be as smooth as possible for the school system, our advocates, and the families as we all partner together.

Without further adieu, the contents of the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness: Rainbow-Unicorn-rainbows-37463952-358-358

Department of Justice Statements
Resolution Agreement between the Arcadia School District, the US DOE, and the US DOJ

Tooley vs Van Buren Public Schools Statement

Statements from the American Psychological Association
Fact Sheet: Gender Diversity and Transgender Identity in Adolescents

Fact Sheet: Gender Diversity and Transgender Identity in Children

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (I just gave a copy of the Executive Summary)

Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 schools (Every school needs this, every parent needs to read it. If you are a parent, print this out and physically hand it to your child’s principal).

Washington DC School District June 2015 Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Policy Guidance

Welcoming Schools Information
Welcoming Schools  Main Page
Research Basis for Safe and Welcoming Schools
Gender and Children: A Place to Begin
Gender Expansive Children: Books to Help Adults Understand
Be Prepared for Questions and Put-Downs about Gender
An Overview of Laws and Policies that Support Safe and Welcoming Schools







The best birthday gift

Today, my kids celebrate their 10th birthday! My son will be going with my husband and my dad this afternoon to run some errands, have lunch, and probably belly up to a bar for a quick root beer. There will be a family dinner out at a place of the birthday boy’s choosing. My daughter, however, isn’t with us to celebrate her birthday today. She won’t be joining us for dinner and I won’t get to see her open the small gift that I surreptitiously gave to someone else to give her. You see, this year, we gave my daughter the best birthday gift that we ever could have bestowed.

The chance to be a normal kid.

My daughter constantly feels different from her friends. Even when she is giggling with her besties in the yard or playing Minecraft with her brother, she knows that she is not quite the same as other children. To look at her, she appears to be exactly as a nine year old (ahem, TEN year old) girl should appear. We have a lot of the same conversations that many families have.

Yes, you can stay up a little bit later than you could a year ago.

No, you still can’t have a cell phone.

Yes, I realize that you are now a pre-teen since that distinction seems to be so important to you.

No, you can’t go to the mall alone with just your friends. (Though I’d consider walking about 50 feet behind them to give the semblance of privacy).

As a transgender girl, though she appears to be like everyone else, she doesn’t feel like everyone else. I see it in her eyes every now and then. One of her friends will say something and a look will flicker across her face because she knows she won’t get to experience it in the same way. Sometimes, she curls up beside me and asks me if I think her body is starting to look like a boy’s body. She gets concerned about imaginary hairs and wonders about the pitch of her voice. She asks if we need to see her pediatrician to start puberty blockers.

For her, growing up is a two-edged sword. She’s getting older with all the privileges that bestows, but each day brings her another step closer to puberty, and the next steps necessary to keep her from developing as a boy.

At this point, we have systems in place and ready to go. Her primary care provider can start puberty blockers at the appropriate stage. We have an endocrinologist in the wings ready to step in when necessary. We have a therapist working with her to give her the tools to manage her body dysphoria, fears of (and at times, acts of) bullying from both kids and adults, and to check in and make sure that this is still what she needs and that she still feels transgender.

But all the systems and all the tools we’ve arranged can’t give her the chance to be surrounded by peers who are just like her. That’s why this year we sent her to Camp Aranu’tiq. She gets to celebrate her birthday making new friends and getting to be with kids who have the same struggles she faces. Camp won’t be a place to hear stories from the camp counselors about being transgender because that’s not the focus of camp. Like it is for everyone else, camp is about playing games, getting dirty, doing arts and crafts, learning to canoe, trying out archery, learning to play Ga-ga, and hanging out with a bunch of kids.

Will she hear stories from other kids about what their life is like? Probably. But, I suspect that those conversations will take place over hotdogs, campfires, and waiting for lights out. It will happen organically as friendships are formed and memories created. Camp Aranu’tiq isn’t about counseling my child about being transgender. It’s about letting kids be kids without the stress they carry on a daily basis. It’s a chance to take the mask off, let the hair down (literally and figuratively), and spend 1-2 weeks just being.

It breaks me at times to know that it’s taken her ten years to find what I grew up having which is the chance to be just like the rest of the girls. I can’t hide her from people’s attitudes and their comments, though I try. I can’t promise that her new school will be better than her last. I can’t give her a girl’s body. But, I can give her time at camp which is probably the best birthday gift we’ve given her. And she’ll get it again next year, and the next. She’ll get the chance to go as long as she wants because it’s so very important.

I miss her terribly and it’s been a damp few days in our house.  Her poor brother has suffered through double the amount of hugs and kisses though he seems to be tolerating it with grace. Today, he gets to reign as the only birthday child in the house which is a new phenomenon for him. He’s requested Red Lobster for dinner and I already know that means shrimp AND crab legs in his immediate future.

And hopefully, my daughter has opened the card and the box of hair chalk that I snuck to her camp counselor. I hope she and her cabin mates are sporting multi-colored hair until they hit the showers, or go swimming, or get rained on, or fall out of the canoe. I hope she feels like a queen for the day. I can’t wait to hear about how her birthday went at camp and to hear about her new friends.

I can’t wait to see my baby girl as I find myself, once again, crying. But, I’m so thrilled that she’s had this chance. If you are the parent of a transgender child then you should check into Camp Aranu’tiq which is a part of a non-profit organization called Harbor Camps.  Their mission is to provide a welcome place for marginalized populations of kids and their families. They will be starting an overnight camp for kids with dwarfism in 2016 and plans are underway to create a camp for kids with craniofacial disorders.

I can’t always make her world a better place. I can’t wave a magic wand to change her DNA to what she wants it to be. But, I can give her Camp Aranu’tiq.


Let the people pee!

Just bathrooms

AHHH!!  I love this so much!!  Having a husband who works with artists really comes in handy when we see a cool sign and want somebody to do something creative with it. Because I feel like we’ve already established that I’m a Pinterest fail waiting to happen. I’m not creative. I’m sciency. I don’t think that’s a word. But, I’m using it.

I was OVERJOYED that my first attempt at a Pride Cake turned out so well. No, I didn’t make it from scratch. That is boxed goodness you see before you.

I did it!!

I did it!!

But, this is so awesome I can hardly stand it. Huge thank you to StudioVonAshley for the awesome window pane art. The Mister posted a photo of a bathroom sign on his Facebook wall and I made a random comment about doing it for our house. Suddenly, there were text messages and then boom-we’ve got super awesome art. I never would have thought to put it on a window pane. I want to have people over now and casually walk them past our cool art. Because, you know, we’re grown ups and have cool art now.

And, truly, like everyone else, my daughter just wants to use the bathroom. She doesn’t have a political agenda. She’s not trying to stare at anyone else’s parts. She’s not part of a vast left-wing conspiracy.

She just needs to pee.

This Kid

God, I love this kid.

He’s the spitting image of his dad which I love. And, he acts just like his dad which I love even though it also annoys the crap out of me.


I’ve accidentally called my husband by the name of Murphy when he employed an oft-used technique to get out of trouble. My husband thought that was hilarious. Me, not so much.

He’s loud, and he hates to take time for a bath or shower. He loves swords and Nerf guns, and Harry Potter.

And I adore him.

He’s sweet and sensitive. He came home in tears when someone made fun of me and I had to gently explain how “Your Momma” jokes are not really about his momma.

He’s wickedly smart. And, yes, while I’m a little biased, this kid makes child’s play out of the gifted and talented identification exams.

He loves chess, and Minecraft,  and Legend of Zelda, and the idea of being a nerd, just like his parents.

He sticks up for his sister, and the kid down the street with the funny hair, and those who are different. He cries over hurt animals and hurt people.

He drives me crazy, and I’m crazy about him.

He’s my Murphy.


An Open Letter to Christians from the Parents of a Transgender Child







Those are just some of the words I’ve heard used to describe my nine-year-old daughter and others like her. As her family, we’ve had our share of run-ins with those who disagree with us since her social transition five years ago. Some of the gentler conversations stemmed from a lack of understanding about what it meant to be transgender and how a young child could understand themselves in those terms. I welcomed those discussions because they were usually coming from a desire to be educated. I still enjoy having them as often as I can. However, my husband and I have had other conversations filled with intrusive questions filled with implications about my husband’s role in the family, why I wasn’t stepping up and “being the parent”, and if there was a history of sexual abuse. Without exception, those conversations came from people who called themselves Christians.

There’s been a lot of recent media attention on transgender individuals and I’ve seen some very ugly comments, many from those who quoted God’s love out of one side of their mouth while spewing hate out of the other. I realize that not all Christians use the Bible as a weapon against those most in need of love or use their faith as an excuse for hatred and bigotry. Our family has a very supportive group of believers who love us and interact with us on a near daily basis. I know some of them are supportive of LGBTQ issues but I suspect others are not. However, they’re so busy loving us and being our friends that it’s never come up.

First, to my affirming Christian friends and those who are like-minded, thank you. To be honest, before you came into our lives, we were quite content to keep most Christians far away from our family. But, here you are with your love, acceptance, and kindness, and you’ve made us reconsider that maybe all Christians aren’t out to wound our family and cast judgment on our decisions. I have a huge favor to ask of you. Please, speak louder. I appreciate that you believe in a New Testament God who loves over an Old Testament God who judges. I see that you place high value on the verses that talk about feeding and clothing the least of these. We had become accustomed to buffet-style Christians who would take small helpings of specific references from Deuteronomy to force feed us their interpretation of the Bible.

My young daughter already distrusts anyone who identifies as a Christian because she’s discovered on Google that Pope Francis compared trans folks to nuclear weapons. She’s already been approached by children at school whose parents have said that she’s wrong for being who she is because God doesn’t make mistakes. She’s seen the billboards against marriage equality and she’s read about the bills that would force her into a men’s room if she needs to use the bathroom.

My daughter is wary because she expects you to say hurtful things. When we visited your church, I heard a message about pruning unfruitful branches, but she heard that she was the branch because that’s what she’s come to expect. She needs your supportive voice to be louder than the competing voices of judgment and hate. So, please, speak up. Her risk for suicide is so much higher than the general population because of who she is and she could use all the love and support that you can show her.

To Christians who say they love others but refuse to use a transgender individual’s new name and affirmed pronoun, who say that God doesn’t make mistakes in regard to my daughter’s gender, who use the Bible as a weapon, I have this to say. I don’t hear you anymore; I stopped listening and you’re wasting your time. When you started by calling my child, and those like her, disgusting and perverted, I left the conversation. When you said that you loved all people, but called them trannies, I took note. When you told me that you loved my child, but disagreed with the choices my husband and I made to keep her alive, I cut you out of my life. When you started quoting scriptures at me, I tuned you out. I deleted your comments from my page. I skipped your blog post. I moved to the next article. I stopped listening because I’d heard it all before. Your message wasn’t new. It didn’t convince me of anything before, and it’s not going to convince me of anything now except that I want nothing to do with you or your brand of religion.

To Christians who don’t allow LGBTQ youth to participate in your church programs because of who they are, what message are you giving them about God’s love? It’s been a long time since I’ve called myself a Christian and my memory of scripture is admittedly dimmer than it used to be, but I’m pretty sure Jesus encouraged others to suffer the little children to come to Him. Some children are trying to get access to God’s love and you are denying them the opportunity.

When the AIDS epidemic first came onto the scene in the early 80s, you had an opportunity to extend love and support to a community that was frightened and alone. Instead of showing God’s love, you proclaimed God’s judgment. When the LGBTQ community was hungry and naked, you did not feed them, and you did not clothe them. And now, when the trans community has jumped into the headlines, you scream Bible versus at my family, you accuse us of child abuse, you tell us not to heed the advice of medical professionals, and you are quite clear that we aren’t welcome in your community.

If this is how you show God’s love, then you’re doing it wrong.

I can’t tell you if I will ever return to the church or if my daughter will ever attempt to have a relationship with God. While I realize that God is not the same as the church or a particular group of believers, I’m trying to figure out if I believe in God or if it’s just a habit from my childhood. But, I do know one thing. It’s won’t be a group of scripture screamers that will convince me to change. It won’t be the group that professes love with their mouths while their hearts are filled with judgment. It won’t be those who proclaim to love the LGBTQ community but disagree with their choices.

Maybe someday I will find my way back to God though today that seems unlikely. But, let me say this to Christians everywhere. If you truly hope to show the LGBTQ community that God is love, then take a tip from the believers in my life.

They are so busy loving us that it seems they’ve forgotten to judge us.