Mom Throws a Surprise Gender Reveal Do-Over To Celebrate Her Transgender Daughter

Zoe Petitt

Zoe Petitt
Zoe Petitt

When parents have a "gender reveal" for their unborn babies, the truth is that there is so much about their child that they don't know. If you ask mom Zoe Petitt of central New Jersey, she'd tell you she's learned that sometimes your kids need to be the one to tell you their gender -- and not the other way around. That was the lesson she learned when her 6-year-old child told her that she was meant to be a girl. So the mom did the only reasonable thing to do in the situation: She threw Avery a second gender reveal two weeks ago to commemorate her beautiful daughter and as a fun way to introduce her little girl to friends and family.

  • Petitt spoke with CafeMom and tells us that Avery started showing interest in traditionally "girly" things when she was 3 years old.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    It was around that time that Avery, who goes by she/her pronouns, started asking for dresses and wanted to paint her nails and play with dolls.

    "She would play make believe and always take on the role of the 'girl' character or ask to be the mom when playing house," Petitt remembers.

    But in other ways, Avery was also "all boy." She loved things like cars, wrestling, Nerf guns, and Pokemon.

    "It's important to me that I remember that and that people understand that," Petitt says. "Hobbies, clothes, and toys are not indicative of a person's gender. We couldn't look for clues in those things to lead us to where we are today, nor should we have."

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  • As Avery got older, she'd say she wished she was a girl, but always in passing.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    So the parents didn't think much of it. They told Avery that she could be whatever she wanted "and just kind of moved on from the subject."

    "Not that we were discouraging her by any means," Petitt says. "But we were so new to this whole idea that we had really no idea what you were supposed to say to that! We didn't want to jump the gun on anything, and we wanted to make sure it was something she really felt."

  • A conference with Avery's teacher this past fall hinted that maybe something else was going on.

    Typically, Avery is an above-average student and excels in school. She's an advanced reader and her moms says she entered kindergarten "already meeting most of the benchmarks she would need to meet by the end of the year." 

    "So you can imagine how confident I was walking into that conference," Petitt says, "only to be told that in reality, Avery was struggling. "

    Avery was having meltdowns, social issues, and difficulties handing in work. 

    "As soon as she felt frustrated she would cry and say 'I'm the worst. I don't deserve anything!'" her mom recalls. "She would be having a seemingly normal social interaction only to begin yelling at her peers, 'Everyone hates me! You all hate me!'"

    It was heartbreaking.

    Avery's teacher told Petitt that they could tell she was smart, but she wasn't putting out enough work to show what she knew.

    "I left the conference sobbing," Petitt remembers. "Why did my child who should be breezing through kindergarten have such low self-esteem?"

  • A few weeks later, toward the end of September, Petitt finally got some answers.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    "One day on my way to pick up Avery from school, her dad told me something she had said to him that morning," Petitt recalls. "My life didn't turn out the way I had planned," Avery had said. "Maybe I should just stab myself in the throat."

    This would make any parent concerned, so Petitt asked Avery about it as soon as she got into the car. 

    “My life didn't turn out the way I had planned," Avery told her. "I was supposed to be a girl but I'm a boy."

    Petitt says that her "heart sunk."

    "In that moment, I realized the weeks of hesitation that preceded it, the weeks of wanting to make sure she was 'sure,' were really probably weeks of denial on our end," she says in hindsight. "Weeks of hoping our baby wasn't going to have to start down a path that we know will be so difficult for her."

  • That was the moment that Petitt knew she was going to have to make a change.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    By keeping Avery from being her authentic self, it wasn't going to make things any easier, Petitt remarks. 

    "It would only perpetuate the narrative she already believed -- that there was something wrong with her," she adds.

    Petitt had made some calls to Avery's pediatrician and some psychologists before their pivotal conversation, but now that she heard what her daughter had to say, she knew exactly what to do.

    "We went dress shopping and tried to find some books that told stories about people like her," the mom says.

  • Of course, it wasn't easy.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    Petitt admits that behind closed doors she was worried. "I had a sweatshirt that said 'Boy mom' that I would wear almost every day -- and one day I picked it up and just cried," she says.

    "I was so scared for her," she remembers. "Already struggling to make friends in school -- how would kids react now? How would the world treat her? Would she still grow up and find her place and find love and get to be who she wanted to be?" And more importantly, how was Petitt going to guide her daughter through this very new and foreign terrain?

    She says that everything clicked into place when Avery was in front of her. It was almost as if she was working by instinct. The changes didn't happen overnight. They started by changing Avery's wardrobe, letting her wear dresses at home, and changed her name around late fall. They finally had a "full social transition," meaning her name, pronouns, and clothing in all settings, around March.

    "In the grand scheme of things, those are small adjustments for us to make to make someone else feel like they belong," Petitt says.

  • Eventually, all these changes led Petitt to rethink the gender reveal they'd thrown for Avery years ago, before she was born.

    The "first" gender reveal celebrated Avery as boy and made that proclamation to the world. Wasn't it time that that they had one celebrating her as a girl?

    "Looking back, an anatomy scan and a gender reveal actually told us nothing about the baby we were going to have!" Petitt explains. "I felt like our actual gender reveal was happening this year and deserved just as much of a celebration -- more so, really."

    So she surprised Avery with a second gender reveal. She told Avery that they were going to do a special birthday photo shoot -- but she didn't show her the balloons and sign that read "It's a ..." until that morning. 

    "I explained what a gender reveal was, and I told her we did one when she was a baby and we thought the baby was a boy," Petitt says. "And I said, 'But I guess a gender reveal before the baby is born was a little silly, huh?' and she said, 'YEAH! Because you don't know if the baby is transgender!!!'

    "She really liked the idea and was really proud to be able to announce her new name to our friends and family," Petitt adds.

    With Avery's permission, Petitt posted the photos to her Facebook page May 16 as a way to make the announcement to their friends and family. But it wasn't an easy decision. Petitt still wondered if she was doing the right thing.

    "I thought that if Avery's story could soften one heart, could validate one mother, could encourage one person in the LGBTQ community -- then it was worth sharing," she says. So she posted the pictures and immediately logged off her account out of nervousness.

    It turned out she had no reason to be scared. The post has since been shared more than 55,000 times to an overwhelmingly positive response -- something that was a complete surprise.

    "I was getting messages from friends who had seen it shared in other groups or by other people around the world," Petitt says.

  • "There were hundreds of likes and comments and absolutely everyone was being kind," Petitt says.

    Although there were a few comments that were unkind, "overall the support has been so much more than I could have ever imagined," she says.

    Petitt tells CafeMom that she hopes people see her daughter's story and it touches their hearts -- especially "for people who are still closed-minded about transgender children and individuals."

    "I hope that people could understand what it really was like from a mother and child’s point of view," she says.  

  • The mom adds that people shouldn't worry too much about when the right age is for a child to decide on a gender.

    Zoe Petitt
    Zoe Petitt

    Petitt assures us that Avery has been transitioning with help from careful research and consideration. It wasn't a decision they made lightly, but she's not worried about the choices they made.

    "People say 'She's too young to make that decision! She's only 6!' -- but to me, there is no 'right' age to make decisions like this," she explains. "Does it really impact my life that much if my daughter is transgender? No! But letting her be fully herself is going to impact her in a HUGE way," she adds.

    "People will say, 'What if she changes her mind?!'" she continues. "And, while I don't think she will, I also don't understand what the issue with that would be either."

    In fact, since Avery started transitioning in the fall, Petitt has seen a rapid improvement in her daughter's mental health.

    "Since then, her mood is overall much happier," the mom says. "She lights up when she gets to wear a dress or a headband. She doesn't talk down to herself, and if she has a tantrum, she doesn't say that she's the worst or that no one loves her.

    "You can see in the way she talks about herself and the way she engages with other people that she is so much more confident," she adds. "She used to call herself shy, but I've noticed lately that she doesn't really seem that way anymore."

    When it all comes down to it, Petitt hopes that people will see Avery's story and have more understanding and empathy for "people who are trying so desperately to find their 'happy.'" 

    "If we met people with more compassion and a willingness to understand them, I think everyone would have to spend less energy fighting a war built on deciding whether or not people are allowed to be themselves," she says.

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