Telling Jessie's story

The soul inside
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 5, 2012

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LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER Julie Ross says the reponse to her blog, chronicling her youngest child's transition from male to female, has been overwhelmingly positive. 
Julie Ross didn't always plan to blog about her experience as the mother of a 10-year-old transgender child named Jessie (who, until her 10th birthday in 2011, was known as George).

The blog, georgejessielove.wordpress.com, grew out of an e‑mail list that Ross, who lives in Brookline, launched to keep friends and family updated on the big changes going on in her household (which includes her husband, Rich, and a teenage son named Harrison). She waffled about "going public," but when Hotmail shut her down as a suspected spammer, her decision was practically made for her. "I had so many things left to say," she recalls.

Ross's posts are brutally honest, funny, and occasionally tear-jerking. A single entry veers from amusing — Ross insists one morning that Jessie wear a shirt long enough that her penis wouldn't be obvious in leggings — to moving, when Jessie reminds her mom, at the end of that day, "It's not what the body parts are, it is the soul inside. I am a girl."

In this edited interview, we talk to Ross about what sounds like an extremely positive, if complicated, journey so far — one that could provide a roadmap to parents, school boards, and policy makers who will continue to find themselves grappling with how to deal with, and support, young transgender kids.

WERE THERE ANY REACTIONS THAT YOU WERE NERVOUS ABOUT AS YOU STARTED TO OPEN UP WITH JESSIE'S STORY? I was not really worried about anyone's reaction other than the people that I don't know personally, but by association. Mostly, that is, the school parents. Not my friends, but the people who I know to say hello to in the hall, or our kids have been in class together, or I just recognize from the neighborhood. In fact, when the school became involved they agreed and said that it wasn't the kids that they were worried about; rather, it was the parents.

AND HOW DID THE SITUATION UNFOLD? When the announcement was made to the fourth-grade classes, I asked the principal to call me and let me know the general reaction. Most of these kids have been together at school for five years already and knew all about who Jessie was. . . . None of them was knocked over by the news. With our collaboration, the principal crafted a letter to the parents of the fourth-grade [students]. It was very matter-of-fact and made sure to remind everyone of the anti-bullying laws in Massachusetts. I requested to hear about reaction to that as well. Nothing but positive. In fact, one parent even sent a handwritten note to the principal commending her for how it was handled. I think that once the initial surprise wears off, most people have just taken it in and moved on. I can honestly say, with great amazement, that the transition has been seamless. Not a single incident. I give kudos to the school district for creating an environment that allows such a dramatic change to happen so gracefully.

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