My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey from Clueless to Kickass

My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey from Clueless to Kickass

My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey from Clueless to Kickass

My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey from Clueless to Kickass


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In 1992, Julie Tarney’s only child, Harry, told her, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” He was two years old.

Julie had no idea what that meant. She felt disoriented. Wasn’t it her role to encourage and support her child? Surely she had to set some limits to his self-expression—or did she? Would he be bullied? Could she do the right thing? What was the right thing?

The internet was no help, because there was no internet. And there were zero books for a mom scrambling to understand a toddler who had definite ideas about his gender, regardless of how Nature had endowed him. Terms such as transgender, gender nonconforming, and gender creative were rare or nonexistent.

There were, however, mainstream experts who theorized that a “sissy” boy was the result of a domineering mother. Julie couldn’t believe it. She didn’t want to care what her neighbors thought, but she did care. “Domineering mother” meant controlling mother. It meant bad mother. It meant her mother.

Lacking a positive role model of her own, and fearful of being judged as a mom who was making her son “too feminine,” Julie embarked on an unexpected parenting path. Despite some missteps, and with no map to guide her, she learned to rely on her instincts. She listened carefully, kept an open mind, and as long as Harry was happy, she let him lead the way. Julie eventually realized that Harry knew who he was all along. Her job was simply to love and support him unconditionally, allowing him to be his authentic self. This story of a mother embracing her child’s uniqueness and her own will resonate with all families.

Winner, inaugural BeOUT Award for LGBTQ Visibility, awarded by Milwaukee Pride

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780299310608
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Edition description: 1
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Julie Tarney was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BA in liberal arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After a successful career building the largest PR firm in her hometown city, working for clients like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Harley-Davidson, Julie applied her expertise to a leadership development consultancy. Representing big corporations in diverse markets, Julie realized a common thread of confusion and misunderstandings regarding gender identity. Today she travels the world as an independent speaker, consultant, and trainer, helping hundreds of businesses learn how to better build their brand by creating LGBTQ+ inclusive, welcoming, and supportive workplaces.

Read an Excerpt

“Traditionally, mothers of gender creative children were totally silenced. No mother would ever come forward to tell her story, unless she wanted to be skewered publicly and morally condemned. In that historical light, My Son Wears Heels is both transgressive and transcendent.”—Diane Ehrensaft, author of The Gender Creative Child, from the foreword

Table of Contents

Foreword by Diane Ehrensaft
How Do You Know I’m a Boy?
The Toilet Paper Bride
The Dress-Up Box
Out of the Closet
Not Like Other Boys
Four Bullies Suspended
From Blue Wig to Hedwig
Harry Decides
The Pain in Spain
The Graduation Stilettos
The Glass Half Full
Epilogue: The Night Jesus Wore Lace
Resources for Parents and Youth
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