We all deserve acceptance, support, and love as we try to find or create happiness and success

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My recent reader survey asked for your gender. I had a suspicion that the strong majority of my audience is male, and I wanted to know if I was right. Boy, was I ever — four out of five readers are men.

The gender question has become sensitive in recent years, and some people have very strong feelings about it. If I offered only Male and Female as options, it would have alienated anyone who no longer claims the gender that they were born with. I know for certain that this blog has such readers. At the same time, I didn’t want to alienate readers with traditional values by listing options such as agender, genderqueer, nonbinary, and pangender. I asked the question like this:

I hoped everyone would understand and respect the line I was trying to walk. But a handful of respondents used the “Other” write-in option to share their negative views about transgenderism and even to warn me against writing about it here.

To them I say, you know I have a transgender daughter, don’t you?


My daughter Rana, who died unexpectedly at the end of 2021, was born with a male body. In her mid 30s told us that she was a woman and would begin to live as one.

I don’t know — I can’t know — all that was in her mind, all that she experienced, all that she had to process to make that realization and choice. I’m going to level with you, I have some doubts that she really was a woman. I raised her from the time she was seven, when her mother came into my life. Rana, then Ross, was a little boy in every way to me, and he grew straight toward manhood before my eyes.

Importantly, crucially, my experience with Ross/Rana was informed by what I thought becoming a man was, and by what I think masculinity is in general, both of which are heavily informed by the societal norms in which I have lived. It’s entirely possible that my child was playing the masculine role because she didn’t know there were other options, or because she was trying to make them work, or because she was masking. Or maybe I missed the signs back then. Either way, it’s likely that she finally realized who she really was and made a positive choice to honor it.

It’s also possible that she was confused, lost, and wrong about herself. I can’t know.

I saw no sane or loving choice other than to accept, support, and love my child as she was. I’m so glad I did, because our relationship remained as close as it always had been, until she died.

I knew someone in high school who presented strongly as “butch,” as we said in the 80s about any woman who wore masculine clothes and short hair. I was intensely naive about sexuality, but even I wondered if perhaps she wasn’t into men.

We went different directions after high school but I saw her at the reunions. At the 25th, she and I ended up getting a drink together afterward. She told me that she was sure in high school that she was gay, and had a series of same-sex relationships well into her adulthood. Along the way something felt off about it, and after a long period of reflection and further experiences she had lately come to realize that she was on the wrong path. “Jim, I think I’m straight. I’m not sure I was ever gay. I don’t know anymore why I thought I was.”

It’s remarkable how poorly we know ourselves as we enter adulthood. And then throughout our lives we grow, change, and become who we are. Most of us are fortunate to be comfortable and confident in our gender and sexuality — many of us never have to give it a thought. Some of us don’t feel sure about it, or are quite sure we don’t fit the norm. Theirs is always a hard road. Societal norms are powerful. Humans have a deep need to fit in, and when we don’t, we have to work incredibly hard to make our place in life.

It’s not impossible, had Rana lived, that at some point in the future she could have concluded that she was wrong and that she was a man all along. Were that to happen, the sane and loving thing to do would be to accept, support, and love her. I think it would have been more likely that she lived happily as a woman until she died naturally. Just the same, the sane and loving thing would be to accept, support, and love.

We all have to constantly figure ourselves out. We all need acceptance, support, and love as we make our way through our lives. We all should have the chance to find or make our happiness and success, as we define happiness and success.

Side note: That’s not to say that in love we should not challenge people when they are making destructive choices. A few years before she died, I saw some evidence that Rana may have been seriously abusing alcohol. I regret not asking about it and challenging her on it. That would have been appropriate, especially within the broader context of the acceptance, support, and love I offered as best I could. It is crystal clear to me that serious alcohol abuse is bad for a person and should be challenged, in love. It is not clear to me at all that changing one’s gender identity is bad for a person who genuinely believes they are not the gender they were born with. I see some evidence that people who do it live happier, healthier lives. More to the point, I saw evidence that changing her gender identity was, on the balance, good for Rana.

I’m not going to make gender identity or sexuality an ongoing topic of this blog. I am not interested in having arguments over these topics in this article’s comments, especially should they involve the common talking points and tropes. I am, however, interested in hearing where you stand on the issues I’ve raised here. Just please, let’s have a conversation in which we mutually listen to each other and respect each others’ positions.

Also, please remember this blog’s comment policy.


30 responses to “We all deserve acceptance, support, and love as we try to find or create happiness and success”

  1. Jane Herr Avatar
    Jane Herr

    Even though I am really here for pictures of old roads and bridges it was your stories about Rana and how you cared about her that made me commit to at least look at each of your emails (even the ones about cameras!). You cared so much about her and were so hurt by her death even though she was not your biological child. That is true love!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Jane. My sister-in-law remarked the last time I saw her, “You’ll be a father to pretty much any kid who shows up!” That’s turned out to be true.

  2. Victor Villaseñor Avatar
    Victor Villaseñor

    “No sane or loving choice other than to accept, support, and love.”

    That sums up where I stand, perfectly, after all…

    (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding? – Elvis Costello

    Thank you for sharing Jim!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Victor! Always love a good song reference.

  3. lizkflaherty Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved daughter. At the end of the day, the only shoes we can walk in are are own; the important part is that we not use our own shoes to step on others whose experiences and private battles differ from our own.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Liz. Losing Rana was just as hard as you can imagine it was.

  4. Charlie Audritsh Avatar
    Charlie Audritsh

    I completely agree with you Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Charlie. Nice to see you here.

  5. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    As a person who has been on senior corporate advertising staffs for a period of time, I can tell you I have a strange respect for polling and surveys, and well as focus groups. I’ve seen a lot of misinterpretation of the results, but also think they can be a valuable source of information. Even a person who refuses to answer a question, is actually giving you trackable information about themselves. I can also say I’ve seen situations where if you told a person you wanted them to take a poll to track how they feel about products they might buy, and then asked them the exact same questions and told them you were tracking sociology for a college department; you’d get different answers based on personal prejudice. Laughably, I think solid advertising information is probably telling researchers more accurate information than sociological surveys!

    About your child, I can only say I feel bad about that whole situation. Based on every place I ever lived in the world (and working with diverse people in creative venues) when I read the first entries about the situation, I will admit to immediately thinking: “…well, I hope to hell that Jim gets them out of Indiana as soon as possible!” I’ve never lived anyplace that would be less supportive of that journey than Indiana, altho I’m sure there are. Sorry.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sorry, I don’t go along with you on this. There are certainly more accepting places in the US than the average place in Indiana, but there are also less accepting places.

      Rana lived in Bloomington, almost certainly the most accepting place in Indiana for being transgender. She had a far less bumpy road transitioning there than she would have in any number of places outside Indiana that I can think of.

  6. Suzassippi Avatar

    Jim, I think the key is in your comment “we all deserve acceptance, support, and love.” It has been my experience that we all do the best with can with the knowledge, skill, and values we have at that time. We do develop and grow and change throughout our lifetime–that is why it is called “lifelong learning” and we all have the ability to do that unless one has a foreclosed identity. Just because we don’t understand it does not make it wrong. It is a strange thing to me that it is often those who espouse they do not want others making decisions for them, and yet they do their best to legislate making decisions for others that have serious and far-reaching consequences. But indeed, all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, exactly. Anyone earnestly trying to find their way in life deserves support and love, not condemnation because you don’t agree with what they’re doing.

  7. DougD Avatar

    Yep, you pretty much hit the nail on the head with acceptance, support and love. Our church is taking the affirming path, and we are trying to welcome and support our young people who are not mainstream. Certainly they are relieved to be accepted but it’s still a difficult path, not a magic bullet for happiness and not immune to unfulfilling or abusive relationships. I sometimes wonder how much happier they will be long term. But my task here is to accept support and love.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve been thinking some lately about the interpretive frameworks the various church traditions have to create to be able to have a cohesive way of using the Bible and preaching from it. I can’t figure out how anybody comes up with an interpretive framework that doesn’t involve the current culture and its mores. Our current culture has some serious trouble navigating non-straight, non-cisgendered sexuality, so of course our positions are reflected in how we read the Bible. It makes me wonder what God actually wants our faith to look like.

  8. Victor Bezrukov, photographer Avatar

    Thank you for the frank story. I never was in doubt – who i am. but was and still in doubt why I’m here. (i mean in this period of time and in this world).

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Victor. It’s hard to figure out how to fit sometimes, for sure.

  9. Peggy Avatar

    You are truly a wonderful human being and that is the main point, we are all human, we come in many forms, we are not box made, we are souped. I wish everyone could have the support you offered Rana.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Peggy. Even for people who just naturally fit into this world, life is still not a straight line.

  10. Cynthia Avatar

    I don’t, and can’t, understand a trans person’s journey. But my small personal glimpses of how it feels to not be the person you want to be when you look in the mirror are enough to convince me that I don’t need to understand, but – as you say – accept and support.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  11. John Holt Avatar
    John Holt

    Jim, I thank you for your insightful presentation of gender-inclusive honesty. Nobody has the inside scoop/knowledge on how anyone else lives, or wants to live, their lives. Thanks again! John

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks John, I appreciate it.

  12. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    I think your post is judged perfectly Jim. Anyone considering such a life changing decision needs support and love but also, as you point out, to be challenged on their thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It is such a monumental thing to undertake that I think helping a person to make the right choice for them, whichever way that may go, is the best thing to do as long as it is open, honest, and not directed by preconceptions or prejudice. Your unconditional love for your daughter shines through in your post, and I think that’s the most important thing of all.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Nigel, well stated.

  13. tbm3fan Avatar

    Fortunately I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and don’t have to deal with this crap generally. It has always been live and let live when it comes to one’s life. My only criteria is are you a good honest person. If so then I could care less about anything else and most people know that about me. Granted I am a little picky about how a 1968 Cougar should look but that is a car and not a human being. So anyone who had complaints about specifying gender, or talking about it, can take a long hike off…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      “Live and let live.” I want to live there. Sounds delightful.

  14. Darts and Letters Avatar
    Darts and Letters

    Sometimes I think you’d make an amazing pastoral counselor, Jim. very thoughtful essay on a tough topic.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a lovely compliment. Thank you.

  15. Bill Smith Avatar
    Bill Smith

    We all struggle throughout our lives to figure out the right path. When we are young, we like to think we know all there is to know. Yet, we haven’t experienced enough of life to even think about those born with gender differences. Lots of us don’t experience having a family member be our first opportunity to learn about this. On top of that is the loss of your daughter in the midst of your journey of learning. If I could add anything to this blog, it’s that you are very truthful in describing your thoughts and experiences in life. I find it helpful to expand my own depth of thoughts by reading your blog and thank you for choosing to include me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks, Bill, for being along for the ride.

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