Beautiful, Inside and Out

30 Sep

Last December, I didn’t send out our annual holiday newsletter. This is unprecedented for me, as for over thirty years, I’ve always sent out a photo card showing our beautiful family of six, accompanied by a letter detailing the many accomplishments of my children. This past year though, I just couldn’t face it.

I was too overwhelmed. And a bit scared.

In 2019, some major changes took place in our family. Our oldest daughter moved back home; our second daughter got married, and our youngest daughter started high school.

And our third child, who was assigned male at birth, came out to us as a transgender woman.

Last summer, at the age of twenty-five, Cecily, who goes by Cece, realized that who she was on the inside did not match the gender originally listed on her birth certificate. For those of you who know our family and are slightly confused, I’m talking about our child whose “dead name” was “Nino.” From now on, I will only refer to my daughter as Cece, and use she/her pronouns because that is who she is, and who she has always been.

It’s so odd that for years, we perceive someone as being a certain way, and have absolutely no sense that they might be someone completely different on the inside. Society has taught my generation that gender is binary—either male or female—so we told ourselves stories about our children based solely on their bodies. We nurtured them as the gender we assumed they were, never realizing that we might not be honoring their authentic selves.

Then, when our children are courageous enough to reveal who they really are, we’re shocked. We’re sad. We grieve for the person we believe is no longer with us. We didn’t realize then how much we had to learn.

While I immediately accepted Cece as a woman, to be honest, it was far more difficult than I imagined it would be. As a perpetual people pleaser my entire life, I worried about what others would think and say about my perfect little family. I was terrified of rejection—not only for Cece, but for myself.

Societal constraints are often oppressive, and for her own survival, Cece unknowingly hid who she was—even to herself. For years she suffered from deep depression because she pushed her true self down for so long. And who wouldn’t want to hide? People can be unaccepting and unkind about what they do not understand.

Our family is fortunate enough to live in a community where people are generally well-informed about transgender folk. I’ve discovered that my kids’ generation is so much better at understanding the differences of others than my generation has been. From the moment Cece came out, her sisters have embraced her with pure acceptance and love. They are closer now than ever.

It’s not always easy, but our family is learning as we go. Our love for Cece has grown exponentially, and there’s no doubt we will continue to support her as she makes her way through life as the woman she was meant to be.

Cece is still the same person she’s always been—she’s just more beautiful now, because she’s finally able to freely show us who she really is on the inside. As for me—well, it took me a while, but I’m done keeping quiet. I’m flying that progressive rainbow flag with pride.

Ultimately, love is all that matters. I loved my child from the moment she was born, and that love has only grown deeper now that she’s given me the gift of knowing her true self. I am so proud to be her mom, and I celebrate her with all of my being.

18 Responses to “Beautiful, Inside and Out”

  1. Elisabeth September 30, 2020 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m teary. That was beautiful.
    Love to you and to Cece.
    Would the two of you like to run for president, please?

  2. Betty September 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm #

    Very beautifully written.😘

  3. Jacque September 30, 2020 at 1:42 pm #

    This is so beautiful! I know first hand how this discovery can change things immediately. The people I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about talking behind our backs and being supportive ended up being the most disappointing. In the
    End, we embraced our daughters authentic self
    And more than anything, her happiness. You are only as happy as your saddest
    Child. Thank you for being so authentic.

    • Allegro non tanto September 30, 2020 at 1:45 pm #

      I’m always amazed at how many people share similar experiences! Yes, who cares what others think or say? If we have a happy, healthy child, then that’s all that matters. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  4. Britton Minor September 30, 2020 at 2:35 pm #

    Like Elisabeth, I’m teary, too. I’m so honored to know you, Jessica—so damned proud of you, too. I can only imagine that Cece feels grateful to have a mother who is both accepting and honest.

    What greater gift can we give our children than being open to learning who they are, despite the assumptions we cannot help but make along the way?

    I feel excited for Cece, though I understand her path is an unfathomably difficult one. But how wonderful to have a safe place, her family, to land—and to continue to grow.

    With deep love and joy,


    • Allegro non tanto September 30, 2020 at 2:40 pm #

      Oh, Britton—thank you for sharing your big, beautiful heart with the world! Love you!

  5. Liz Zok September 30, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

    Dear Jessica,
    THANK YOU for the gift of yet another deeply personal post. I daresay this might be the most personal post you will ever write and share, and I am grateful.

    I think you have a most beautiful family and hope I get the opportunity to be reacquainted with Cece at some point. My most recent memories are of her warm smile and impeccable service at Fresco N. when I would frequently dine on Sunday afternoons. I also remember seeing some beautiful art, and hope that she is still creating, if that’s what her heart is leading her to do.

    How wonderful that you are able to fly the progressive rainbow flag with pride… not just for Cece, your family, but also for our larger community! I’m also grateful to live in a community with a vibrant branch of PFLAG and a wonderful resource in the Pacific Pride Foundation, where I have volunteered in various capacities for several years.

    A belated welcome to the world, Cece Mireles! And

  6. Liz Zok September 30, 2020 at 3:07 pm #

    That was supposed to say….
    And way to go, Mama Bear! ❤

  7. Jill Bess Neimeyer September 30, 2020 at 3:19 pm #

    Oh, Jessie, how beautiful. As a recent retired high school teacher, I have had the honor to have several transgender students in my classes and a few trans students who bravely let me into their lives on a very personal and trusting level. I saw first hand the struggle with their families, their friends and classmates and the immense pain that they carried with them when people they loved did not accept them. It warms my heart that Cece is so well loved and accepted in her true state by you and your family. I see a lot of hope and acceptance from the younger generations and I am deeply touched by your love for your daughter and so glad that you are flying they rainbow flag proudly. We need more news like this these days. Sending love to you and Cece and your entire family. What a joyful piece of news.

    • Allegro non tanto September 30, 2020 at 8:38 pm #

      Thank you for your kind and loving words! We are indeed blessed!! Love you, Jill!

  8. Sarabeth Clevenger September 30, 2020 at 3:30 pm #

    So compassionately written. My love to you ALL!!😘😍🤗


  9. Rossandra October 3, 2020 at 6:56 pm #

    Oh, my dear Jessica, how you have magnificently risen to the occasion with such vulnerability and grace. Who else could express such a profound life lesson, complete with struggle, with such depth of meaning, every word straight from your heart to mine. And everyone else’s. (What do you call those who are taking on an issue in service for the whole in a beautiful personal way?). To me that’s what you’re doing. Infinite love to you and your wonderful family!

    • Allegro non tanto October 3, 2020 at 10:45 pm #

      Your beautiful words mean so much to me. Thank you, my lovely friend!

  10. Melanie October 12, 2020 at 5:43 pm #

    Here’s to the power of love, acceptance, and the courage to be one’s true self. I appreciate so much that Cece has a family that loves unconditionally and fiercely, and your courage to write honestly about living the process.

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