Mom Corrects What Gender Reveals Get Wrong By Throwing a New One for Her Transgender Daughter

Heather Harris Witt Photography

Julie Hindsley
Heather Harris Witt Photography

On Monday, June 15, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender employees who, according to Politico, cannot be disciplined, fired, or turned down for a job based on their sexual orientation. It was a stunning victory for LGBTQIA advocates, but in Waco, Texas, one mom was taking her own giant step to do the right thing for her transgender daughter. Julie Hindsley knew she wanted to celebrate her 6-year-old daughter Ella's transition, so they celebrated with a gender reveal photo shoot to make sure that Ella knows she is so dearly loved for who she is.

  • Speaking with CafeMom, Hindsley says that since her daughter could start to express herself "she was always drawn to anything feminine."

    Julie Hindsley
    Julie Hindsley

    From a young age, Ella, born Easton, liked dressing up in her mother's heels and would wear her shirts as dresses.

    "When she was 2 she would wear a towel on her head and call it her 'giraffe hair,'" the mom (above at Ella's "first" gender reveal) recalls. Ella wanted nothing to do with her masculine toys and was completely different than her now-11-year-old brother Grant.

    "We were convinced it was either a phase or we were likely going to have a gay son," she says.

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  • But this wasn't a phase.

    Ella Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    When Ella was around 3 or 4, it became clear that she was serious. One day she was upset and approached her mother with the one thing that would change her life.

    "I want to be a girl Mom! Just make me a girl!" she told her. Not missing a beat, Hindsley says that later that night she told Ella she could grow out her hair.

    "As she was growing out her hair she would say things like 'when I'm a sister ...,' 'when my hair is long and I am a girl..,'" the mom recalls.

    "One day riding home from day care she told me 'I was supposed to be a girl in your tummy Mom. Why did I not come out as a girl?'" she adds. "Comments like these didn't stop."

  • Any time Julie and her husband Daniel gave Ella an inch "she would take a mile."

    Ella Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    Like when they started to buy Ella more feminine clothes. Hindsley says it then become a "struggle" to get her to wear her more masculine clothes to school. 

    "Her whole life had been a constant compromise, 'you can play with dolls here, but you can't take them out in public. You can wear that dress in the house, but you can't wear it if we leave,'" the mom remembers.

    The parents decided to seek help, for both themselves and for Ella, and a therapist recommended that the parents transition Ella socially as soon as possible "as they have found that affirming [transgender kids'] identity is the best possible thing for them." 

    Although Hindsley explains that they will hold off on hormone blockers or hormone therapy until Ella hits puberty, it was agreed that slowly they would start to transition her socially.

    The parents even fought Ella's school "over her hair" and once they'd won they sat down her principal and her school counselor with another change. The parents told them that they planned on fully transitioning Ella's pronouns and name over the summer because they felt that it would be too much to ask Ella's school and classmates to get on board with the plan in the middle of the school year.

    "The nurse had known our story and encouraged me to let [Ella] wear what she wanted to school and said she would be fully supported," the mom recalls. So she took Ella shopping and together they picked her out a new wardrobe, while still reminding Ella that at any time she could dress in her old clothes if she wanted to.

    "We packed a pair of her 'boy clothes' in her backpack every day," the mom says. "She has never touched them since."

  • Hindsley says that overall the social transition "went pretty well."

    Julia Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    She knows that some kids (and parents) asked questions about Ella to the administration but the mom says that her daughter only came to her twice with situations where "kids weren't very nice to her about it."

    The mom does regret not pushing to get her daughter's school onboard with Ella's new pronouns and name sooner. 

    "In hindsight, I wish we would have just tried to get them on board as well, but we were still learning through all of this and trying to appease everyone," she explains. "After all, she wasn't having any significant distress so we thought it was OK to let it be."

    But that didn't stop the family from forging ahead. After spring break, the coronavirus outbreak caused Ella's school to go on leave, which is when the couple told friends and family that they would now be using she/her pronouns for their daughter and that her new name was Ella.

    "Pretty much all of our family have been supportive, and a few we had to spend some extra time with explaining things," she recalls.

  • But don't let their quick progress fool you. It has been a journey for both Hindsley and her husband.

    Julie Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    Admittedly, Daniel handled the transition better than his wife did, she says. 

    "Although I have now come to a turning point for the most part," she continues. "I think all of we transgender parents start off in an initial phase of fear. No one would ever wish this on their child; not because we aren't accepting, but because we know their life is going to be significantly harder."

    According to The Trevor Project, 1.8% of  youth identify as transgender and of that number "one in three transgender youth reported attempting suicide, almost one-third reported being a victim of sexual violence, and more than half reported a two-week period of depression," the organization states.

    Facts that Hindsley are all too aware of.

    "The statistics around suicide and discrimination are jaw dropping and continue to keep me up some nights and leave a pit in my stomach any time I think about them," she says.

  • Which is part of the reason why Hindsley wanted to do something big to make her daughter feel loved and safe.

    Julie Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    In February, Hindsley posted about Ella's story on her Facebook page, where photographer Heather Harris Witt saw the photos and reached out. Witt has a gay son herself and approached Hindsley to see if Ella would want to do a photo shoot to raise awareness about their story.

    "I said yes of course as coming from a very conservative town with little to no support here, I know how huge it is to spread that awareness," she says. But shortly later, the coronavirus hit and the two moms had to put off their plans.

    "I saw another post of a mom who did a gender reveal for her trans daughter and posted that and my photographer again said 'let's do this!'" she recalls. 

  • So on May 31, Hindsley, Daniel, Grant, and Ella starred in their own photo shoot.

    She didn't post the photos on her Facebook page until June 10, because -- as the mom explained in her post -- she was heartbroken. George Floyd's death had sent the country into upheaval and black parents all over the country were sharing their own fear about raising kids in a racist world.

    "I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color, but I can imagine the hurt that some of the black mama's are feeling right now," she wrote. "I will never know the struggles they have to go through, but I do know what it is like to have a child that is seen as different, or less human even."

    "I know what it is like to feel anger because of the many that are still in denial; denial that racism still exists or that being transgender is a real thing," she continued. "I know what it is like to be so damn tired and feel like it is all so unfair. I feel for you Mama."

  • In her own family, she shared that there are times when she has to explain to Ella that she wasn't a mistake.

    Ella and Daniel Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    "She tells me constantly that people just don't understand that she is a girl or that she is Ella and not Easton," Hindsley continued. "And oh how I break and wish I never had to have these conversations with my 6-year-old."

    Hindsley added that she knows gender reveals are often criticized by the transgender community, explaining that the tradition both relies on antiquated definitions of gender and "exhausted gendered symbols and codes" -- like pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

    "Gender reveals are only able to be celebrations because people continue to attach such intense emotional significance to gender," she says. "For a lot of parents, having a boy means something holistically, seismically different from having a girl. In this paradigm, biology, not culture or behavior, determines personality type. Parents pass down their gendered expectations onto their children," she added.

  • But they wanted to do this photo shoot as an opportunity to mourn the son she lost and embrace the daughter she gained.

    Julie and Daniel Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    To CafeMom, Hindsley says that she had to grieve for Easton "even before the transition knowing that it was coming," she says. 

    "You grieve the son that you had at the dreams that you had for them. You grieve the plans you had for their future, knowing that they are going to be taking a much more difficult journey," she adds. But this wasn't about her, she says, it was about Ella and her happiness.

    She explained on Facebook that ultimately they felt it was "necessary" for Ella to have another go at her gender reveal, "so she knows that she is not a mistake." 

    "We have mourned Easton and continue to do so, but we are moving forward celebrating our brave Ella -- and her favorite color has always happened to be pink," she added.

  • Since Ella started her journey, her young daughter has blossomed.

    Julie and Ella Hindsley
    Heather Harris Witt Photography

    It's still scary, Hindsley says, but "she is just now living as her true authentic self, and it is SO beautiful. That has made all of it much easier."

    And speaking of the Supreme Court's recent ruling, Hindsley says that the when she heard the news, "I literally cried several times just reflecting on it," she says. "This is the first Supreme Court decision that has included transgender people on the basis of 'sex discrimination.'"

    "This is going to sound super cheesy, but I thought about [Martin Luther King Jr.] yesterday and how hard he fought for basic human rights and how we are still fighting for so many today," she says. "So many people don't even think about these things because it doesn't personally affect them, but it's still crazy to me that all human beings in this country do not have the same rights. We still have so far to go, but this decision gave me hope for the future -- specifically, for Ella's future and kids like her."

    Hopefully, her own story will help to "open a few hearts and minds," she continues.

    "Being accepting and affirming of who someone is is all anyone ever wants," she explains. "I hope [people who read her story] just choose to love and seek understanding." 

    "I hope they look into the science behind being transgender and see that this is something they are born with that is hardwired in their brains and not something that they would choose; because who would choose a life path with such difficult roads?" she continues. 

    "And I hope they see that my baby is a girl!" she adds. "And has always been a girl!"

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