The words "Happy Mother's Day," especially when spoken by one's own child, are guaranteed to tug at a mother's heartstrings. But for transgender women — who have weathered the often tumultous waters of redefining familial relationships before, during and even after transition — those three little words can deliver an enormous wallop of affirmation.
The Advocate asked self-identified trans moms (everyone's family is different) to share a photo of themselves and their loved ones, along with an anecdote about what motherhood means to them. The responses show not only the diversity of our community but also the strength and resilience of the bond between a parent and child. Whether these women's children call them Mom, Dad, Maddy, Moppa, or anything else under the sun, there remains one constant: love.
Read on to hear from 11 trans women who are living their lives authentically and fully — proving that kind, compassionate parenting knows no gender.
"I love seeing the unconditional love that my kids show me. I love it that my son comes to me with his questions on how to handle his romantic relationships and knowing he feels safe sharing those intimate details and feeling secure that I have his best interests at stake. But the best part of being a mom is watching them succeed as good citizens, good kids, and just plain ol' good folks because I'm given them the tools to do so." — Traci Burrell, Duluth, Ga.
"Sharing the growth and triumphs of my boys with my amazing wife. Experiencing everything new again through their eyes. And the hugs! They are great kids." — Susan Hill, British Columbia, Canada
"Our family consists of four transgender people: me and Sofia, and our unofficial foster kids, Rose and Christian. We came together late last year when Rose and Christian, who are homeless and were 16 and 18 respectfully at the time, were looking for a place to stay. We both knew them previously as they attended our weekly transgender support group. These kids have had it tough because they were rejected from their families for being transgender. Sofia and I were concerned for their well-being and believed that they would not find comfort in the shelter system because they were transgender. What was supposed to be a temporary stay evolved into them staying with us for over two months. They have stayed with us periodically since being forced out by our landlord, but we've permanently bonded with them. I am currently seeking custody of Rose from her legal guardian so we can continue to help them get back to school and get back a stable situation. This includes moving somewhere so they can live with us permanently.
"This will be our first Mother's Day as 'moms.' And we're really looking forward to it. The biggest advantage we have as trans moms is understanding our own kids' transness. Whether it's the dire need to get on hormone therapy or dealing with emotions of body and gender dysphoria, this is something we both totally get. Even though [Sofia and I] both transitioned later in life, we are glad these kids have a shot of enjoying most of their lives as their authentic selves. We wanted to ensure they can make that leap. Could it get any better than that? Though they are still teenagers and they are quite a handful, my previous experience as a parent has helped (from my first marriage, I had a stepdaughter)." — Erica Forman (second from left) with partner Sofia Miller and children at the LGBT Network center in Bay Shore, N.Y
"I am Israel's trans mom. This is my son — granted, he has Asperger's, and I won't allow that to stop me from seeing this young man be the very best he can be!" — Ellen Shaver, Lake Dallas, Texas
"This is me with my son, Sir Brendan Conor. He was my gentleman of honor when I remarried in August 2014. To make a long story short, oral tradition has my branch of the family as first cousin to the king of Leinster in Ireland. That would make me a duchess. Therefore, using my authority during a time of occupation, I knighted my son during the wedding. My son has been my rock throughout my transition. While he still calls me 'dad,' he always uses the correct pronouns! He is my joy!" — Shauna Marie O'Toole, Rochester, N.Y.
"I have two amazing kids: a daughter, 19, and son, 14. There is no doubt that each one of them is my blood —
both in looks and personalities. ... As much as I see myself as one of their moms, my kids have been slow to think of me that way. I always felt more of a mom than a dad to the kids. Hated Father's Day. It wasn't until last year, four years after transition, when my kids wished me a Happy Mother's Day for the first time. It was simple and sweet. No big production, but the act alone was huge. ... As much as I wanted to be seen as their mom, they needed to know that we were in this together and I respected their choices." — Meggan Sommerville, Aurora, Ill.
"While I have never had children of my own and never can, I am considered to be a mother by many of the trans people I have helped to transition over the past seven years." — Tamara Jeanne, director at Trans-Action Dakota, Sioux Falls, S.D.
"I let my kids decide what my relationship with them would be as I transitioned. I became 'Mom' on that first Mother's Day. Being accepted and recognized that way by two of the people I loved most in the world brought out the happy tears then and every time I think on it." — Jennell Jaquays, Seattle
"Jennifer Finney Boylan, the author, notes it's that children, especially boys, that benefit from having a trans parent
, as it causes them to reevaluate what society says being a man is, and our sons became far more open-minded and less judgmental towards persons different than they. This results in a healthier, better-adjusted young man. With my son, thus far, this appears to be the case, and for that I am grateful." — Melanie Anne Ryan, Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Being a transgender parent means I get to continue being with my children. Through the great report cards and the bad ones, through silliness and play, and through all the parts that make you want to pull your hair out, too. It means school plays, and concerts, visits from the tooth fairy and silver dollars under pillows. It means reading bedtime stories, and (spoiler alert) crying together when Dobby dies in the last book. In short, it means being a parent like any other, which is a special gift in itself. In the past, very few transgender people got to have these things after they came out. I have to remind myself that all of these moments are a gift, including the ones that are why Janis (pictured above, left) and I are both rapidly going gray." — Brynn Tannehill, Xenia, Ohio