Ellen Huggins on Gender Inclusion: He Is My Mom

This essay is part of our “What is a woman?” series in tandem with our podcast. This season, our community is exploring the question “What is gender inclusion?”

Written by Ellen Huggins.

I easily confuse people when talking about my mom. Mostly because I rarely fully explain who my mom is. My mom’s name is Jerry, and he is a transgender male. It’s not very common to call a male parent “Mom,” but that’s what we do in our family. Calling him “Mom” openly in public can lead to some harsh stares, sometimes even comments or violence. Because of those things, we steer away from that by simply calling him “Jerry.” Despite the societal norm, Jerry is still my mom – and a damn good one.

I’ve learned that other people who have a parent who transitions often find another name for the parent. Many times the parent is uncomfortable being called “Mom” or “Dad.” For us, it was what came naturally, and perhaps we needed to keep something of what we had. Our mom, Jerry, allowed us to call him what we felt most comfortable. This has become a common point of conversation in our family in wondering what other transgender parents prefer. We’ve even explored online support groups where transgender men over the age 40 shared what their kids find most comfortable.

Being in a family that is no stranger to ignorance and prejudice, you learn to accept and love even more.

My sisters and I first learned what it meant to transition when our mom told us his own experience of starting to transition right before my junior year of high school. And we went to a Catholic high school. Our family’s relationship with one another suffered at the time due to the confusion. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how selfish and immature my anger was, like when I asked, “Did you really even want us to be born?” Since then, we’ve grown up, learned, apologized, and appreciated the family we had.

My freshman year of college was when I decided to become a part of the Racial Awareness Program (RAPP). I was able to meet other folks who were transitioning or identifying their gender outside of the binary. Throughout this one-year program, I started feeling more and more guilty that I didn’t ask questions or even talk about these topics with the one person in my life with whom I should have been asking questions.

My family has become a source of strength, from the days of high school, when I was ashamed and embarrassed to even discuss my situation, to today. I find comfort in learning more about gender identity and its relation to parenthood. It has made my relationship with my mom stronger than ever. At this point, I feel lucky to have had my eyes opened to a life situation different than mine early in my life. Being in a family that is no stranger to ignorance and prejudice, you learn to accept and love even more. I am grateful for that and to have a parent who loves me unconditionally regardless of gender identification.