What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation

What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation

By:  Mimi Lemay

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A mother’s memoir of her transgender child’s odyssey, and her journey outside the boundaries of the faith and culture that shaped her.

From the age of two-and-a-half, Jacob, born “Em,” adamantly told his family he was a boy. While his mother Mimi struggled to understand and come to terms with the fact that her child may be transgender, she experienced a sense of déjà vu—the journey to uncover the source of her child’s inner turmoil unearthed ghosts from Mimi’s past and her own struggle to live an authentic life.

Mimi was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, every aspect of her life dictated by ancient rules and her role as a woman largely preordained from cradle to grave. As a young woman, Mimi wrestled with the demands of her faith and eventually made the painful decision to leave her religious community and the strict gender roles it upheld.

Having risen from the ashes of her former life, Mimi was prepared to help her son forge a new one — at a time when there was little consensus on how best to help young transgender children. Dual narratives of faith and motherhood weave together to form a heartfelt portrait of an unforgettable family. Brimming with love and courage, What We Will Become is a powerful testament to how painful events from the past can be redeemed to give us hope for the future.

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  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544965836

  • ISBN-10: 0544965833

  • Pages: 336

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 11/12/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

Mimi Lemay
Author

Mimi Lemay

MIMI LEMAY is an international advocate for transgender youth and the author of the viral essay "A Letter to My Son Jacob on His 5th Birthday." Lemay and her family meet regularly with legislators, business leaders, educators, and clergy to share their vision of a more equitable world. She is a member of the Parents for Transgender Equality National Council at Human Rights Campaign and holds a master's in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
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  • reviews

    “Lemay's writing is superb—the family stories at once heartbreaking and inspiring. VERDICT This is a vital and engrossing book about how to live an authentic life.”—Library Journal, STARRED 

     

    “Engrossing and compassionate…This fascinating, heart-wrenching memoir offers invaluable insights into issues of gender identity.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review 

     

    “A moving memoir, Lemay’s is an important book because there is virtually nothing else available about transgender children as young as Jacob. Though most readers will view Jacob as the book’s main character, his older, precocious sister says that love and kindness are. And who can argue with that?”—Booklist, STARRED 

     

    “Compassionate, wise, and sensitively told, Lemay’s narrative offers moving portraits of a mother and family willing to embrace radical change in order to unconditionally support their child…An intimate and clearly heartfelt memoir.” —Kirkus 

     

    “Weaving the story of her own early struggles with faith and her attempts as a mother to decipher her son's needs, What We Will Become takes us on an unforgettable journey whose conclusion is both haunting and redemptive. With her lyrical and intimate prose, Mimi Lemay makes the case that faith can, and should, go hand-in-hand with acceptance as she provides a compelling vision of a world where every individual can become who they are meant to be."—Sarah McBride, author of Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality 

      

    “With precision, honesty and grace, Mimi Lemay brings us on a journey to an uncertain world with her son, Jacob, and their entire family. Along the way, she reminds us that exclusion and injustice are no match for a mother’s devotion. What We Will Become is more than one family’s story. It is a striking call to action for a country where every child is worthy, believed in, and loved.”—Congressman Joe Kennedy III 

      

    What We Will Become is a triumphant, introspective story about being and becoming It beautifully reminds us of the challenges, but also the necessity, of unconditional love, both for ourselves and for those we care about. It gives me hope for the future of transgender children.”—Gavin Grimm, Transgender Activist

  • excerpts
    Preface 

     

    Ask me my favorite ghost story 

    and I will tell you the one 

    about your haunted house heart 

    still housing all the people you used to be. 

    —NIKITA GILL, “Ghost Story” 

      

     

    How did we get here? 

      

    I set out to answer this question in March of 2015, “here” being where my family and I found ourselves a month after my essay “A Letter to My Son Jacob on His 5th Birthday” had gone viral—as inexperienced but determined advocates for transgender children. “Here” was also the climax of a remarkable five-year journey that had brought us our son, Jacob. Finally, here was the rare opportunity to write a full-length memoir about our experiences and, I hoped, to further shape public discourse on gender identity in young children. 

      

    However, sitting down to write, I discovered that the answer to the question “How did we get here?” was anything but straightforward. 

      

    When our son, Jacob, transitioned in 2014, shortly after his fourth birthday, there were few examples for us to follow and no guidebook for parents of very young transgender children. There were only a handful of therapists experienced enough to help families with transgender children Jacob’s age deal with the seismic changes, at home and in the community, that a social transition entailed. At the time, “watchful waiting” was considered the best course of action for a young child who claimed a disparity between his or her gender identity and the one assigned at birth. 

      

    Relinquishing to Jacob the choice to transition was an outsize act of faith—in Jacob, in ourselves as parents, and, ultimately, in the world that would need to accept him. How I was able to come to this decision cannot be explained without reaching back to my own early years. 

      

    Shortly after her second birthday, when “Em” (a pseudonym Jacob and I chose to avoid using his birth name) started to show signs of emotional decline, the experience had an air of familiarity for me, a sense of déjà vu that I could not account for at the time. As I watched my vibrant toddler fade into a shell of a child, angry, distant, almost unrecognizable, bones and shards of my memories began to surface, demanding examination and claiming relevance to this new and confounding moment. Attempting to record the experience for this memoir unfolded in much the same way. 

      

    “It’s like a . . . ghost story,” I tried to explain to my husband, Joe, “but without the ghost.” I began to suspect that the specter was me or, rather, a former iteration of myself, one that crooked her finger and whispered: “We’re not quite done here yet.” 

      

    As I dug up decades of correspondence and journal entries, these “ghosts,” no longer content in their interment, began to whisper their own stories, shifting the narrative I had long held of my life until eventually it buckled under the weight of their truths. 

      

    The book that I set out to write is not the book I have written; neither is my answer for what sequence of events led us to the moment of Jacob’s resurrection. Once I allowed myself the freedom to reexamine the narrative of my life, it began to reshape itself, past lapping at the heels of present, offering insight and interpretation until the two collided in a moment of startling redemption. What emerged was indeed a memoir but, equally, a mystery, a ghost story, and a love story. 

      

    As the author, I feel I have had a surprisingly spare role in all this, yet I have emerged from the telling of this story irrevocably changed and with a new perspective on my own history and a greater hope for my son’s future. 

      

    How did we get here? 

      

    It started with a birth. A girl born in 1976 in a hospital overlooking the foothills of Mount Scopus, in Jerusalem. Her mother was her entire world, and that world, one of rarefied ultra-Orthodox Judaism, began to collapse in on her when she discovered the price she would have to pay to live an authentic life. 

      

    How did we get here? 

      

    It started with a birth. A boy born in 2010 who was his mother’s world, a world that began to collapse in on itself when she discovered the price her child would have to pay to live an authentic life. 

      

     

    Memory, degraded by time and human subjectivity, can never claim absolute accuracy. The people mentioned in this book may recall conversations or events differently than I do. I have been fully faithful to memory to the extent that my memory has been faithful to me. Thankfully, I am assisted by a quarter century of diaries, correspondence, photographs, audiotapes, and mementos (what my husband, Joe, wryly refers to as my “hoarder’s paradise”).

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544965836

  • ISBN-10: 0544965833

  • Pages: 336

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 11/12/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

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