Siblings Elizabeth and Emily prepare for Elizabeth’s wedding. Emily, aged 23, is asked to be maid of honor and accepts, but immediately feels uncomfortable. Hoping that ignoring the feeling will make it go away, hoping it’ll get better and be okay, Emily agonizes over what to do. Then the bridesmaid dress arrives, bringing with it the moment of truth: Elizabeth is informed that Emily will not—cannot—put the dress on, under any circumstance.
In many families, such a statement might lead to anger, hurt feelings, and even ruptured relationships. But this isn’t just any family; it’s the Ivesters. The whole family discusses the situation, and Elizabeth agrees that Emily—who later becomes Jeremy—may wear dress slacks and a vest to match the bridesmaid dresses. He was comfortable, and his family, being aware, were able to be supportive of who he is.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy is written by Jeremy’s mother Jo Ivester, but the story of his transgender journey is told through the perspective of various family members. I appreciate that they were willing to open up their lives and give us a peek into it.
From an inquisitive childhood to an articulate adulthood, Jeremy lives with a thoughtfulness and maturity rarely seen. What I took from his story is that Jeremy didn’t rush his growth. He stepped into each new period of his life by being introspective. Looking in a mirror seemed to help him discover a courage to move forward with what he knew he needed to do in order to feel whole. The support Jeremy received from his family along the way—as demonstrated by the bridesmaid dress situation—went far, I think, in allowing him to grow into his true self.
Getting to know this mother and son through her excellent storytelling will keep any reader immersed in the family’s memoir. I found myself with a new appreciation and compassion for those who travel the transgender path. Anyone who reads Once a Girl, Always a Boy will come away with a sense of what it takes to live a life when one is not always accepted by society. It can help us all have a better understanding, and acceptance. Love, understanding and compassion make this world a better place in which to live.