real life

'My trans sister stopped speaking to me because I won't raise my baby gender neutral.'

Having a baby is a big moment in your life, when you need support and acceptance from those around you. New parents should be able to expect that support, especially from people you have supported you through big life changes in the past. 

This wasn’t my experience when I had a baby though. 

Most of my family and friends were amazingly supportive, but there was one big exception. 

My sister Anna* came out as trans a few years before I fell pregnant. During this big life event, I listened and offered support. We had always been close, so we went shopping for dresses together and I helped her figure out the best make up for her skin and face structure. 

It was a good experience that brought us closer together.

When my husband and I announced we were expecting, my family — including Anna — were supportive and joyful for us, especially after we had experienced a hard time getting pregnant. So I was excited to share after one of our scans that we were expecting a baby girl. 

Later in the pregnancy, Anna started asking questions about how we intended to raise our baby. Particularly around what colours we would dress her in and what kind of toys we would steer her towards. 

I was a little nonplussed that she felt she had to ask as I had been a fairly tomboyish child and a stanch feminist for years. Of course I would raise my daughter in a way that didn't limit her experience of life because of her gender. 

Also, for the first few years at least, a baby is pretty much just a baby. 


I didn't think her gender would have a huge impact on how my husband and I chose to parent her early on. 

Watch: In His Shoes: Transitioning Into Jess. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I really thought that was the end of the conversation, until Anna asked if she could use non-gendered pronouns for my baby. 

Again, I was surprised. I thought about it and talked it over with my husband and we agreed that we thought it might get confusing if we weren’t all on the same page in how we spoke to a child who was learning all about language and identity. 

My focus was on encouraging child development and clear language, not on gender identity. 

Time passed and we welcomed our baby girl into the world. After recovering from a traumatic labour and delivery, I was excited to introduce my daughter to all the important people in my life — including Anna.

But Anna was only referring to our baby by her middle name. She informed me the name we had given our child was too feminine and 'traditionally gender coded' and she would only use her middle name, a slightly more gender-neutral name Anna had deemed acceptable. 


I was hurt by this, as we had spent a long time choosing our baby's name and loved it. I asked Anna to please use our baby's name, but she refused. 

The tension grew each time Anna referred to my baby as 'they' or used her middle name. 

The crisis eventually came when Anna confronted me and told me she couldn't tolerate the 'gender violence' I was doing to my child.

"You don't know their gender yet. You're imposing a gender identity based on her biological sex, which is what happened to me as a kid."

Anna told me I should refrain from using any female pronouns, gender coded names or traditionally feminine clothes for my child. She told me she couldn’t support my husband and I while we did this (as she saw it) "damage" to our child. 

I understood that Anna was coming from a place of pain. Anna felt particularly triggered as when she was a child, she felt she had no voice to express her own gender identity and instead was placed into stereotyped boxes. 

But I also could not let my daughter become an outlet for Anna's trauma, a 'do-over' for her childhood. Choices about her pronouns, name and clothes all had to be made. And if we had chosen to go the non-gendered route, that was still a choice we would be making and imposing on our daughter. 

Listen: Georgie Stone, the Teen Who Changed Gender. Post continues after podcast.


The hard work of parenting is making choices for your children. 

We do the best we can in all choices, with the information we have, our instincts and our values. And people will disagree. From those who call people who sleep train monsters to the judgement mums experience if they breastfeed for longer than a year, there will always be someone who thinks they would have made a different, better choice. 

I had already experienced people who disagreed with my parenting choices and had concluded that I couldn't please everyone. 

But someone had to make the choices for our daughter, and as her parents we were best placed to do that. And the choice we had made was to raise her as a girl in line with her biological sex.

I started to feel guilty every time I dressed my baby in pink or floral, imagining what Anna would say. I became careful about which photos I sent, agonising over whether that toy was too girly or not neutral enough. 

In essence, I began to feel ashamed of how I was parenting. 

But one day I realised: I wasn’t doing anything wrong. This was another choice I was making for my daughter, and as her parent I deserved some respect around those choices. I had always respected who Anna is, and I realised for this to continue to be a real relationship I needed her to respect me as well. 

I asked Anna to respect how we were choosing to raise our daughter and how we were parenting. 


"At a minimum, could you please use the name we have given our baby? It would mean a lot to me," I asked. 

 Heartbreakingly, Anna couldn’t do that. 

As our conversations got more stressful and I spent more time crying about it, I realised we hadn’t had a civil conversation about anything in months. The relationship didn't feel sustainable. 

I told Anna the door was always open, as soon as she could agree to not tell me how to raise my child and use my baby girl's given name. 

I am sure Anna and I would describe this relationship break down differently. 

For Anna, it is about gender identity and her trans experience. 

For me, it is about the role of a parent and the respect we owe to others even when we disagree. That doesn't make the fallout or the loss of a sister any easier.

 I am sad my sister is choosing not to know her niece, and by extension to not know me anymore. 

I don’t know how I will explain this to my daughter when she is old enough to ask about my own family. 

I hope by then things will have changed and my sister will speak to me again. 

But ultimately, I’m not sorry about the choice I made. 

Feature Image: Canva. 

*This author is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. 

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