Trust Your Mom Gut


IMG_7865Parents often ask me how they can tell if their child is transgender versus gender nonconforming and if they should be transitioning him/her.

Before I reply, I always clarify that I’m not a certified expert on gender or when to or not to support/encourage/allow a child to transition. I’m merely self-taught and have personal experience.

The only thing I’m an expert on is my child — and most days he does a thing or two that makes me question even that.

When people ask me about the state of their child’s gender identity, I reply with a question.

“What does your mom gut tell you?” (Or dad gut or primary caregiver gut, I don’t discriminate when it comes to questions of the gut.)

There’s trusting your gut and the there’s trusting your mom gut. My mom gut feels stronger and is correct more often than my regular gut. Like it is more accurate because it’s an invisible nerve that is tethered to my child and feels and knows things about him that no other person could feel or know.

My mom gut says my child is not transgender and not currently in need of transition.

I’ve considered very, very seriously at least three times during his life that C.J. is transgender (and I’ve mildly contemplated it during fleeting moments on hundreds of days).

The first time was when he was four and for a few months was pretty adamant that he was going to be a woman when he grew up.

The second time was when he was six and asked us to call him by a girl’s name and use female pronouns.

The third time was not so long ago when he watched one of his friends transition socially from male to female and said that maybe he should transition too.

FullSizeRender-3Over the last four years, some professionals have told us that C.J. is transgender and that we should help him transition socially.

But, we never have. Because my mom gut said it wasn’t the right decision. I’m glad I didn’t. Sometimes transitioning is the answer and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there is no answer. And, sometimes you just keep on living in the middle of the gender spectrum because that is where your child is most happy and healthy.

My son no longer wants to be a woman when he grows up, like he did when he was four. He didn’t feel comfortable during those days when he was six and we called him Rebecca and used female pronouns. And, after watching his friend transition he declared that he couldn’t imagine being a girl every day.

So, he continues to identify as gender nonconforming; just as he has since he was old enough to identify as anything and despite how much I’d rather him use the term gender creative (I’m a sucker for positive connotations).

His gender isn’t up to me. It’s up to him.

On this unique parenting journey, I believe that:

  • If your heart beats wholeheartedly, lovingly and accepting-ly for a child;
  • If you don’t have religion or the fear of what other people will think clouding your judgment; and
  • If you would love your child the same if they were cisgender, transgender or gender nonconforming.

Then you should go with your gut.

If you can’t quite tell what your gut thinks, but your child is happy, healthy and thriving, give it some time.

IMG_7850If your child is consistently insistent that their sex and gender don’t match up or shows signs of distress (like depression, anxiety, behavior issues, self harm, self mutilation, etc.) seek out help from professionals. I’d start with a gender therapist.

Eight years into parenting a differently gendered child, have I totally and completely ruled out that my child is transgender? Absolutely not. C.J. has taught me to get comfortable living in uncertainty. More importantly, he’s taught me that you should feel confident listening and trusting your mom gut (dad gut/primary caregiver gut), so long as your heart is in the right place.



About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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32 Responses to Trust Your Mom Gut

  1. wheelchairmommy says:

    This is perfectly eye-opening for me! We often wonder if our son will transition or not. My gut says no, he just likes girly things, sometimes more thang is boy things, he’s okay with male pronouns but never corrects when the female ones are used… I’m devouring EVERYTHING you have published. As of right now I have ZERO clue if he is straight or gay. He’s mentioned one day marrying men and women.

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  4. At three years old, my beautiful, bright son asked me “Why did God make me a boy when I am really a girl?” After a moment, being stunned and taken aback, I replied “God does not make mistakes. You have a penis, so you are a boy. Try to be the best boy you can be”.
    One week later, as he lay flat in the bathtub, he called me in to talk. He had pushed his genitals between his little legs and said, “Look, I don’t have a penis!” I held back my laughter and replied “Well, isn’t that clever.”

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  6. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a parent to see that their child does not really feel comfortable in his/her own role. Sorry, do not know what other words to use to express what I mean. It seems like you are strong and that’s what your child needs. Remain strong for him!

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  8. Kathryn says:

    Thank you so much for this post, it’s such a huge relief to hear from someone who is in the same place! The “evidence” kept me wondering if my daughter was transgender but the label just didn’t feel right to me and I couldn’t explain why. I love the Mom-gut idea, it’s like something I knew I had but had no word for!

  9. Miranda Todd says:

    I really admire your parenting! I hate that gender is so clear cut in this society, it seems silly to me. You know what I love about the Chinese language? There is not a separate word for he/she, there is just one word for someone other than you or me. “Ta” means he and she.

  10. Silja Rós Wang says:

    I just came across your blog today, Lori, and I absolutely love it. I’m just a young cisgender woman from Iceland and don’t have any children, but I think it’s so important to allow each individual to be themselves and happy with who they are and that we teach children (and grownups) that people are different, there are not only cis-boys and cis-girls, and it’s all normal. I can imagine raising your son can be a challenge sometimes but you seem to be doing an excellent job and I’d love to know all parents had the same view and similar way of parenting as you do. All the best to you and your family, and all other parents commenting here.

  11. Ellen says:

    Beautifully said as always!! I agree with the lot ..CJ is so lucky to have as his mom and he is lucky in the dad department too!! A beautiful family with supportive and loving parents!! Thanks for doing what you do and opening up people’s hearts and minds (mine included).

  12. “Mom gut”…love it! Your unconditional love for your son is inspiring. 🙂

  13. em1580 says:

    You are truly an amazing mother! Thats how a parent is supposed to love their child? Thank you for posting this! You are also a talented writer! I will definitely be reading your book!
    If you have any free time can you check out my blog please? Its

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  15. Great post. My niece for years dressed and acted as a boy. She would call herself a boy. Her name is quite unusual, so it’s neither male or female (it’s a last name), so no issues there. But as the teenage years hit and her hormones changed, she seems to have swung to being comfortable as a girl. She now identifies as a girl. I think it changed for her around 10 or 11.

  16. Kudos to you for loving your son the way a mother is supposed to!!!! You are awesome!

  17. AMM says:

    I don’t know that it’s so much about “mom-gut” as it is about listening to your child, picking up on what they are saying and not making what they’re saying into something it isn’t.

    All the stories I’ve heard about children who transition young say that the kid in question was consistent and adamant about being the other gender. If that’s the case, then you look into social transition. But if they’re okay with their birth name and gender, why not go with that? From what you say, CJ isn’t asking to transition, so why on earth would anybody want to push it?

    The same with puberty blockers: some TG kids are acutely distressed at the prospect of the changes puberty brings. If your kid is that way, then you look into puberty blockers. If they know about puberty and aren’t bothered by it, then you don’t.

    And if your kid can’t seem to make up their mind, why is that such a problem? I know some elementary-school age children who come up with a new name every month. Their parents shrug and make a good-faith effort to use the name of the month. Can’t it be the same with gender? (Note: some adults go back and forth with their gender, too.)

    tl;dr: There’s no one way to be TG.

    OT, but possibly relevant anecdote:
    Billy: where did I come from?
    Parent: (long birds & bees explanation)
    Billy: Oh. My friend Bobby was saying he came from Philadelphia.

    • Lane says:

      As a trans man, I agree completely. I am someone whose parents told me they didn’t believe I was really transgender. They still think that… even though I transitioned five years ago and have been so much happier and more mentally stable since.

      Although, I think in a way what you’re saying and what this post is saying are different ways of saying things. One of the things that I’ve learned over the past few years is that love and listening are deeply interlinked. Sometimes people say they love you, and what they mean is that they have an idea of who you are and they really love that. They will do anything to preserve that idea of you. People who really mean they love you understand that the person you are, the person who they love, is complicated and evolving. They will constantly be listening to what you are saying about who you are and who you are becoming. I think that kind of listening leads to developing the “mom gut” she is talking about here.

  18. GeorgeB says:

    Your Mom gut is right. He will figure out what he wants to be as time goes on. He’s taking in the world and all it has to offer. Some things we like and some we don’t. He’ll find his likes and dislikes. My personal gut feeling is that he will be a feminine leaning gay male and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Just keep doing the wonderful job of raising him that you always have done.

  19. We’re new to this with our 7 year old and a friend told me recently, “hang on for the ride.” Following his lead, listening closely, following up, and loving have been the best recipe for us so far.

  20. Naomi says:

    Thank you! This was perfectly written and I wish more people were more open and accepting as you are. I love it!

  21. Amanda says:

    THANK YOU!!! Your kid is so lucky to have you. It sounds like you are letting them just be a kid a be them-self, and figure it out, which is a such a great thing! As a kid growing up in the 90’s with parents that had NO information, education, vocabulary or support about gender ‘creativity’, I was lucky in that my parents just let me be a kid and figure stuff out. As a person assigned female at birth, my name and pronouns never bothered me (still don’t) but I never felt constricted by what I was “supposed” to be because the ‘rules’ my parents enforced we about being kind, trying hard, being respectful, etc – NEVER gender-based rules. As a grown genderqueer adult, it is great to hear awesome stories of parents who are so awesomely supportive of their kids-whatever that might mean.

  22. renee says:

    This is just what I needed to read. My 8 year old son is non conforming and also on the autism spectrum. Some days I am convinced he wants to be a her and other days I am not. I feel like sometimes I am spending so much time trying to figure him out but the reality is he doesn’t know anything more than being an 8 year old. I wish that society didn’t pressure so much for a label or to fit neatly into a box because there is no box or label that could possibly define all his awesomeness.

  23. jerbearinsantafe says:

    Gender is not always binary and being trans does not always equate with being either trans male or trans female. For some of us it means being neither male or female or embracing a point in between the binary gender options. I was gender creative as a child and knew I really didn’t want to be a woman but something never seemed quite right to me. Finally, I learned about non-binary gender identities after decades of confusion and I has my eureka moment. I now identify as Agender and gave found a wonderful trans community that has welcomed me. As you continue with your wonderful and loving parenting journey you will find that the options for CJ are not just binary. I know that whatever the future holds your loving family will be there for CJ.

  24. haugenka says:

    I’ll be happy when there’s no longer such a thing as gender conforming or non-conforming and every kid can be confidently comfortable being whatever they happen to be – without being judged – until they might be ready to be something else. I’ve never understood why people get so upset about a kid’s clothes or hair or toy choices anyway, nor whom they find attractive or choose to love as they grow older. I can’t imagine what the pain and discomfort of being transgender will be when it’s no longer accompanied by the social judgement and confusion that exist today. In the meantime, I’m grateful for this blog and efforts like it that are moving us in the right direction.

  25. Danielle says:

    My kiddo is a lot like CJ and your blog gives me the strength to live in this nonbinary land. Thank you!!! The part that keeps me awake at night is what to do about puberty… a very binary event.

  26. Amy says:

    Love this blog. One thing I might add: absolutely listen to your kid, but consider that the kid might not exactly know why s/he is drawn to identifying with another gender. For example, when I was a girl, I was a total tomboy. All my activities were “boy” activities, all my friends were boys, I looked/dressed like a boy to the point where people would always ask me if I was a girl or boy, I daydreamed and wrote stories from the perspective of being a boy. I am now a grownup heterosexual female. In my case, I think my gender confusion was caused by not having any role models of women doing the kind of activities I loved to do. I just identified so strongly with everything that society had labeled “boy” that I assumed I should be a boy rather than questioning the labels themselves. I ended up moving to Alaska, met a lot of men and women who do both “boy” and “girl” activities, etc. and eventually came to love being a woman. If you had asked me when I was six, I would definitely have said I wanted to be a boy. (This is not in any way to say that kids can’t know when they are little whether they are “really” transgender, etc. Certainly lots of kids feel very strongly about this!)

  27. Bennett says:

    The statement you made about having learned from CJ to live in uncertainty is one of the greatest gifts LGBT and gender varied people offer humanity. Artists offer this as well. The opportunity to become familiar with the unknown and the uncertain. Life certainly has abundance of uncertainties and the best navigation of those come with a steadiness in the face of the unknown. It is one reason why gender non-conforming people in traditional societies were allotted the role of spiritual functionaries: those who travel and translate the liminal spaces of spiritual experience.

  28. Glenn says:

    Please, please, PLEASE don’t perpetuate the idea that transgender equates to transitioning! CJ is not transgender because he says he is not. My child is six and very much of what you described about CJ fits for my child – including voicing at times wanting to be the other binary gender and at times not, experimenting with a different name and pronoun, consistently expressing in a manner more consistent with the opposite binary gender, but comfortable (today) using the name and gender assigned at birth. But there is one big difference: my child identifies as transgender. For my child that label is a source of comfort and pride, and nobody should ever think he has to transition to use it.

  29. Nancy Pearl says:

    You are a wonderful writer and so eloquent in how you discuss these concerns. You do a fabulous job of defusing what potentially could be heart breaking and confusing issues for some families. I don’t have children but if I feel like taking a deep breath and thinking everything will work out, I can imagine how parents might feel after reading your posts. CJ sounds like a great kid who has a great family!

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