“I’m immensely grateful to all transgender people who have stepped into the public eye as advocates and role models”
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY WILL AUSTIN
Near the beginning of this month, I read Marlo Mack’s memoir How To Be A Girl, where she documents her journey as a single mother raising her young transgender daughter M.*. I’ve been thinking about the book ever since I read it. This year has already seen a rise in anti-trans legislation around the world. Today marks International Transgender Day Of Visibility, I hope that this book continues to start conversations and normalise transgender children.
*Both Marlo’s name and her daughter’s are pseudonyms to protect the identity of M.
Before writing the book, Marlo was documenting their journey on her podcast, also titled How To Be A Girl, and on her blog. When I ask what inspired her to take on the form of the book, she shares that her goal was the same as what motivated her to start the podcast. “To share the message that transgender children are, and always have been, part of the human family, and that their parents are quite ‘normal’ people. When I say ‘normal’, I mean that we want the same thing all parents want: to see our children thrive,” she says. “Since not everyone listens to podcasts – my own mother isn’t quite sure what a podcast is – I hoped a book would help reach a wider audience.”
I’m curious to find out what her daughter thinks of the book. Marlo shares that M. is proud of it and how it has helped people. “We receive emails regularly from people all over the world, telling us that our story helped them with their own struggles, or helped them to understand and embrace transgender people. She likes getting these emails and knowing that she is making a difference,” she says. “However, I think she finds it a little bit odd that people would find her story interesting, because from her perspective, she’s just a regular girl, living a regular life. As she told me, ‘Being transgender is just a part of who I am. It’s an important part, but it’s just one part.’”
Within the book, I loved how honestly Marlo writes about the mistakes she made along the way. Was it challenging to write about these? “I wanted to normalise making mistakes as a parent just as much as I wanted to normalise the idea of a transgender child,” she says. “If I were to present myself as a perfect mother, who supported her transgender child fully and perfectly from the beginning, who would relate to me? And also, I would have been lying.”
Marlo shares that when M. first told her at the age of three that she was not a boy, she was terrified. “I did almost everything ‘wrong’. But over time, I learned. That’s the most any of us can do: Be willing to learn and grow.”
Before our time comes to an end, I ask how Marlo and M. will be celebrating Transgender Day Of Visibility. As M. is private about her trans identity, Marlo shares that they will be honouring today quietly together. “I have always believed she should have control over when and how she discloses her trans identity. It is her information, her identity, her life – not mine. That said, I’m immensely grateful to all transgender people who have stepped into the public eye as advocates and role models. Their courage has transformed our world for the better and made my child’s life viable.”
The UK edition of How To Be A Girl contains a foreword by Mermaids CEO Susie Green, who shared her own experiences of raising her transgender daughter and the impact she felt from learning about Marlo’s journey. I was keen to hear more from the Mermaids team about the impact of the book as well as the topics it discusses. Darren Mew, who is a Digital Engagement Officer at Mermaids, shared that the book “is so important, having the perspective of a parent to a child questioning and transition is so necessary in today’s climate. At Mermaids, we can’t recommend it enough.”
It’s never been easy to be transgender or non-binary. But with the rise of anti-trans legislation and transphobia, being visible can be terrifying. What advice would they give to those within the community? “It sounds cliche but, you are not alone. There is so much support and love out there. Mermaids supports transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children and young people until their 20th birthday, as well as their families and professionals involved in their care. There is also Gendered Intelligence who work across professional, educational services, youth and communities services. And Not A Phase who support the lives of trans+ adults across the UK; to name a few.”
Before my time with Darren comes to an end, I ask if they have anything they’d like to tell DIVA readers on Transgender Day Of Visibility. “Ally is a verb and a call to action. What are you doing to show up for the trans community?”
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