A (love) letter to my daughter’s transgender elders

Dear friends, advocate

Today the Advocate published an op-ed I wrote.  You can read it here.  It expresses feelings I’ve wanted to write about for some time, ever since I learned that my young child was transgender and I began encountering older trans women whose experience has generally been vastly different from hers.

I know this is a tricky topic.  This is clear from some of the comments on the Advocate website in response to my op-ed.  These comments point out that our society’s narrow standards of beauty – both for transgender women and nontransgender women – are cruelly narrow and do harm to us all.  I couldn’t agree more.  They also point out the complicated politics of “passing” and the potential for a divide between those who, like my daughter, will likely “pass,” versus those who are perceived by others as transgender.

I know my daughter is luckier than many trans women from earlier generations.  But I don’t think she is luckier because she may “pass” as a nontransgender woman.  I think she is lucky because she does not have to hide who she is.  I think she is lucky because she will get to choose how she lives in the world.  Whatever choices she makes, she will be beautiful.  Just like her transgender elders.  Just like you.

With love and gratitude,


10 thoughts on “A (love) letter to my daughter’s transgender elders

  1. Each generation stands on the shoulders of the previous generations. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those heroes who came before us blazing a bold new path into the future even as they put themselves at great risk. Your acknowledgement of that, GenderMom, is awesome. You are making a great difference for M and other transgender people by your amazing blog and podcasts. You, too, are a true hero.

  2. Our community is notoriously fragmented and argumentative and it’s easy to see why. Some like your daughter will be invisible, she will still carry the burden inside and have to have the talk with any future partner. Others are destined to carry their burden on the outside, I would not be strong enough but I admire those among us who are and do.

    If only we could live and fight our battles as a united army rather than factions living in boxes and gender roles created by the outside society.

    – Antonia

  3. Thank you Marlo. It is gratifying to see the changes that have happened since I went through this 20 years ago as a late transitioner. I am happy that M is having a chance to have a happy girlhood. But I do not think she will be invisible. I see her as a fighter that help to further the cause of transgender people.

  4. Thank you for being a good mom seeing her child and her needs. I would not wish my life on anyone. nor would I do anything different. I am who I am and that will never change. I am one of the abused. beaten and tormented by my parents for who I am. still do this day they threaten me over my identity. for 30 year I was in misery in the deep south until a clinic open last summer and now after 30 years of struggling with no job. ( still no rights to work when you are transgender here in South Carolina ) and with the new federal guidelines I am able to get HRT and move on to become the woman I always have been. worst of all is I lost my youth. I was diagnosed and allowed on hormones at 21 to get my doctors run off by my family. I told my mom at 3 years old and from that time until my teens I was beaten for any feminine act. I was sent off to all boys schools to make more of a man out of me. All it did is get me beat on even more. and now at 51 I am finally on hormones.

  5. I’m an “older trans woman” (started transitioning at age 40, about a year and a half ago) living in the UK, and I also feel a tremendous debt of gratitude to all those who have gone before me and worked so hard to raise awareness. It is thanks to them that I have been able to transition openly and safely: I can literally count on one hand the people I know who have not accepted the new me.

    I experience dysphoria in relation to the masculine attributes of my body such as facial hair, and hearing about people like your daughter who benefit from early intervention to delay the onset of puberty with its increasingly distressing changes makes me so happy.

  6. Hey Marlo, I enjoyed your article in the Advocate and enjoyed the follow up here on your blog. Your a pretty neat mom. I’m also a mom raising two amazing boys ages 7 and 10. I feel so lucky to have them in my life. Perhaps we’ll connect at Gender Odysseus this year if you are going.


  7. Marlo, I loved your post and wanted to validate your approach against the many undeserved negative comments you received on it. I think you’re doing an amazing job with your daughter and the honesty and openness in your relationship is an important part of that.

    While I agree that our society’s narrow definition of beauty is harmful for everyone (cis and trans men and women alike), I don’t see anything at all wrong with wanting to ‘pass.’ It’s an very important consideration and anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful – no one likes to feel ostracized or outed, especially during the vulnerability of being authentic. The unfortunate reality is that not all trans (or even cis) people can pass. It’s definitely not fair and it’s something to be sensitive about, but you’ve never transgressed in this regard as far as I can tell. It’s also no reason to not celebrate one’s good fortune, based on either finances, genetics, age, or technology, to have the privilege of passing. I don’t think one must demean or diminish oneself to lift others up.

    Thank you so much for all you do! Don’t let anyone dissuade or discourage you! I think you’re doing wonderful things for the world! Happy May Day!

  8. I found your article and the responses really interesting if a little sad to read. I understand the idea expressed by some of the posters about being mindful of the message people are beautiful as they are and don’t have to fit a narrowly defined definition of beauty. It seems somewhat conflicting though to say on the one hand that appearance is irrelevant but on the other to go through invasive surgeries and change ones body to become the gender outwardly that you are inside. If appearence truly was irrelevant then surley if you were born a girl with a penis you could simply grow up to be a woman with a penis and everyone would just accept that your genitals and your appearance did not define your gender. Clearly it does matter to transgender people that they are visibly identifiable as belonging to their true gender else why would anyone go through the discomfort of transitioning, the potential side effects of taking hormones etc.
    Clearly it matters to cis females as well. Most women would be very upset if they started to grow facial hair/to go bald, long for bigger breasts or different sized hips to feel “more womanly” or sexier and would be deeply saddened, if not utterly devastated to have to have a hysterectomy or lose any other “woman parts”. I wish appearance really was irrelevant. I think a lot of people would be much happier and more comfortable in their own skin if that were the case.

  9. As one of the elders, your daughter makes me smile. It means the battles that I have fought since the early 1990s, when I was still in my teens, have not been in vain. I am delighted that your daughter will not face what I and many others have – I look forward to there being a day, likely when people like myself have long since left this earth, when the people of our societies future look back and see the stories of those of us who had those battles an think, “how could the world have been so cruel and barbaric,” and then they read the stories of M. and others like her, and think, “why was this so unusual and groundbreaking?” That will mean that what I fight for has been achieved.

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