A poignant narrative of one mom’s struggle to support her transgender daughter—showing how any parent can forge a deeper bond with their child by truly listening
Mama, something went wrong in your tummy. And it made me come out as a boy instead of a girl.
When Marlo Mack’s three-year-old utters these words, her world splits wide open. Friends and family, experts, and Marlo herself had long downplayed her “son’s” requests for pretty dresses and long hair as experimentation—as a phase—but that time is over. When little “M” begs, weeping, to be reborn, Marlo knows she has to start listening to her kid.
How to Be a Girl is Mack’s unflinching memoir of M’s coming out—to her father, grandparents, classmates, and the world. Fearful of the prejudice that menaces M’s future, Mack finds her liberal values surprisingly challenged: Why can’t M just be a boy who wears skirts and loves fairies? But M doesn’t give up: She’s a girl!
As mother and daughter teach one another How to Be a Girl, Mack realizes it’s really the world that has a lot to learn—from her sparkly, spectacular M.
About the Author
Marlo Mack (a pen name) produces the award-winning How to Be a Girl podcast. A Peabody Award finalist, it has been featured by the Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, and Time magazine in their annual lists of top podcasts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, NPR, BBC, Salon, and The Advocate.
“A stunning story. . . . Smart, honest, and deeply personal, this illuminating work should be required reading.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“How to Be a Girl exemplifies the true meaning of unconditional love. In this book, Marlo learns that her ‘son’ is actually a transgender girl, and, terrified at first, shows what it looks like to find acceptance and how transformative and uplifting that can be. Capturing the complexity of a mother’s journey to understand her daughter, this book is universally relatable to any parent who is struggling to adapt and embrace who their child truly is as opposed to who the parent thought they were. As transgender children are often misunderstood, How to Be a Girl is an invaluable tool to providing the support and empathy they need. Marlo’s tender reflection and courageous love is an inspiration that will help others to their own awakening.”—Jazz Jennings
“Transgender children are in the news. Bobbing in the sea of headlines is a growing number of memoirs written by parents of transgender kids. . . . The latest is among the best—Marlo Mack’s How to Be a Girl. . . Mack’s prose is accessible and smart, by turns witty and searching. Her storytelling is sprinkled with the kind of helpful explanations one might find in a parenting advice book. . . . [Yet] Mack’s touch is light, like a friend making a wholehearted suggestion over coffee.”—Women's Review of Books
“Marlo Mack’s How to Be a Girl is an extraordinary mother-daughter story and also a wondrously ordinary one, not just about a mother’s unconditional love but also about listening to one another, learning together, following your mama-gut as well as your mama-heart, and leaping into the unknown with a child—your child—as your guide.”—Laurie Frankel,New York Times–bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is and One Two Three
“The gender journey is beautiful, though lined with thorns. Marlo Mack brings this journey to life in exquisite, compassionate recollections. Her honesty and wide-angle lens make How to Be a Girl a brilliant must-read for any family member of a gender creative child and every ally and professional who wants to make this an affirming world for children of all genders. Thank you, Marlo Mack, for setting us on the right path in the journey.”—Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, Director of Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Gender Center, University of California Benioff Children’s Hospital, and author of The Gender Creative Child
“A compassionate and heartwarming story, this book speaks to the truth that transgender adults start as transgender children. While not every person of transgender experience recognizes their authentic gender in childhood, many do. Endless gratitude to Marlo Mack for sharing her own experience and love for her daughter with the rest of the world.”—Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD, Medical Director at The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
“Throughout How to Be a Girl are conversations about gender between Marlo and her child that would have been impossible within my own family. While society still struggles with its one dimensional perspective of gender, Marlo Mack takes the reader through her tesseract-like journey to love, support, and celebrate her daughter. The end result? The impossible becomes possible, and we all have greater capacity to see the brilliant parenting path we once could never have imagined.”—Aidan Key, gender educator, speaker, and author
“This beautifully written book is about parental love, pure and simple. And I don’t mean just the rhetorical ‘love’ claimed by all parents when things are going easy, but the unconditional ‘LOVE’ required when faced with something in your child that makes them—and you—potential pariahs. There is so much to learn here from Marlo and her gorgeous daughter M.”—Christine Burns, MBE, author and transgender activist