If you have been following my blog for a long time, you may know of my daughter, Marie’s, early trauma and severe abuse. When she came to live with us at the age of 7, she insisted that she was a boy, not a girl. She wore boy clothes and had a boy’s haircut. She even begged the pediatrician to sew a penis on her! Bless him for not being shocked, but for telling her that decision would have to wait until she was an adult.

Because she is deaf, she didn’t hear when I’ve called her my daughter and when I’ve used the pronoun “she”. It also didn’t seem to faze her that her name was a girl’s name. After the abuse she lived through, my goal as a mom has been to make her feel as comfortable with herself as possible. If having a crew cut and wearing boys’ underwear suited her, so be it.

Marie insisted she was male right up until she got her first period. At that point she conceded to me that she WAS really a girl, (no denying that fact,) but that she wanted to appear to be a boy so that no man would “hurt her”. This was understandably a clever accommodation on her part!

Enter Marie the teenager…and “THE” talk about sex… She brought the subject up as we were watching a teen movie on television where the heroine and hero kissed. Marie did most of the talking, (in American Sign Language of course,) asking me who was better for her to “like”, boys or girls. She said she has had childhood boyfriends and girlfriends, but that she didn’t know which she should “like” for a real mate whom she would someday marry. She looked at me with questioning, soulful eyes as I put on a brave face, pretending to be wise. The answer was simple, of course. I told her that she would end up finding a mate with whom she would feel comfortable having sex. SEX????? She signed, aghast. She wasn’t talking about SEX…..in fact, she was NEVER going to have sex….she just wanted to know whom she should marry! And just like that she dismissed my answer with a wave of her hand and went back to watching the movie….


To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:


The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane


Comments on: "I had “THE” Talk with My Teenage Daughter" (101)

  1. Wow ~ you are a blessing in her life. How blessed is Marie to have you love her for whomever she is and to allow her to be comfortable as she moves through life. May all find that loving acceptance in life.

  2. I also adopted abused children and it’s so hard to see their inner struggles. In a way I can relate with your daughter. I was raped at the age of 6, very brutually. As a preteen and teenager I had a weight problem that to this day has tormented me, but I honestly think part of the way it began was as a shield to keep people away from wanting to hurt me. Bless your daughter, and bless you for loving her, no matter which road she chooses! I wish her all the inner-peace in the world!

  3. The joys of “THE” talk. I have started them so many times in my head.

  4. I have a roommate who is a transgendered man. He had a short haircut and wore hand-me-downs from male relatives growing up. Happily his parents are very supportive and their insurance allowed him to have reassignment surgery, but before he was able to accept himself he had a very rough adolescence although it looked like everything was alright from the outside. It was traumatic for him to get a period and to be treated like a girl.

    Now he’s well adjusted, working full time, and studying at a top university to become a social worker.

  5. Haha! Sometimes we read so much into what our kids are thinking! Love it!

  6. Bless her heart. She will sort it out. Love heals all wounds and it sounds like she is getting plenty of that.

  7. Sometimes, we get ahead of our children :-). I totally understand!

  8. When one of our daughters finally “came out” during her first year in college (no surprise to us), she was so much happier. She’s getting married this summer, and we are so happy and excited for her. We’ve known other kids who have had a difficult time with their families–one boy, a friend of our other daughter’s, actually “ran away” to our house for a couple days because his family would not accept his sexual orientation. What does it matter if you “like” boys or girls? Or if you think you are male or female even though your physical appearance doesn’t match? I can’t understand why any parent wouldn’t want his or her child to be happy. The teenage years can be interesting. 🙂 It’s sounds like Marie found a wise and caring mother!

  9. Wow. I don’t know how I would handle something like this. You seem to know what you’re doing. Can’t wait to read your book.

  10. 1wanderingtruthseeker said:

    Thank you for giving her the love she needs.

  11. You are such a great understanding parent! Biological parent or not, you gave her the answer that a lot of parents battle to even consider. ” she would end up finding a mate with whom she would feel comfortable having sex.” Good job 🙂 x

  12. wonderful! sometimes they are not asking how, but who and when… that is great that you were their to support her questions and not laugh when the act of sex was not what she was getting at kids are great!

  13. May I recommend a book, and DVD by Joyce Meyers? She has a world-wide ministry, and was severly sexually abused by her father for many years. She is upfront about it and how she conquered such things in her life in her DVD of her testimony available at joycemeyerministries.com. Another, the book, is called, “Beauty for Ashes”. These can be life-saving for many, and as a PTSD sufferer who went through abuse, I can personally recommend them.

  14. What is a man? What makes a man a man? Is a man a man because he makes alot of money? Or is a man a man because of his well, “man hood”?

    The Scripture has a picture in Holographic form of what is a man. Line by line, precept by precept ( Isaiah twenty eight verse nine to thirteen). The world tells one thing, The Scripture describes something quite different. Some preliminary thoughts I have written on the issue if you are interested.

  15. Hahahahaha. It is so like us mothers, adults, to read so much more into a conversation/question, than our children often expected. Don’t worry. Keep having open-ended discussions with your kids and they will find their way.

  16. So happy when kids know what they need from adults, even happier when adults understand it! Smart move, Mommy!

  17. What a wonderful mother you are! Marie is truly blessed.

    I keep seeing in the press that there are plenty of sexless marriages these days, so Marie could well get her wish.

  18. You are such a fabulous mom. She obviously trusts you so much, and I’m sure you’ve done a lot of work to build that bridge. With you as her guide she’ll figure it all out!

  19. If I could be half as good a mom as you when I have kids, I would be content. 🙂 What a great way to handle things. So many parents would insist on her wearing female clothes but it should really be about what makes the child feel safe and secure and comfortable. Keep being fantastic.

  20. Very wise young daughter you have there! Hopefully in time the scars will heal and she may embark on a healthy relationship with whomever she chooses 😉
    Big hugs to you both, looks like you have an amazing relationship!!

  21. Colleen Pringle said:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Having “The Talk” sure is difficult. I have had that conversation with my daughter too. It really is interesting to find out that what we were thinking can be so vastly “off-base” with our children. As I read to the end, I smiled at Marie’s response to your “sex” comment. And life continues…

  22. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez said:

    God bless you that she feels comfortable coming to you with her questions. When the time and person is right she will know. 🙂 Sweet post.

  23. violetannie63 said:

    Every time I read your blog, I think to myself that the world isn’t such a bad place after all, with people like you in it. I hope Marie does marry someone who will love her and protect her as much as you have. 🙂

  24. I love your sharing of such tender, funny, scary moments in our lives as mothers. This one blew my mind because I couldn’t imagine trying to have this discussion in sign language! God bless you…..I know He does….no one could have made it through all your challenges without Him and a fantastic sense of humor. Thanks for letting us walk with you through all of it, the sublime and the ridiculous…..love it!

  25. Life and Other Turbulence said:

    What a wonderful post!
    This ‘Sex Ed’ monologue by Julia Sweeney came to mind Here’s the link if you’ve not seen it…I think it’s terrific and I suspect you’ll enjoy it as well!

    Happy new year to you…sending all good wishes!

  26. Oh, well I guess that’s sorted, then! Nice answer!

  27. What an amazing mother you are! Marie is blessed to have you as her daughter!

  28. Its a tough row to hoe, but I am glad there are people out here to help heal these beautiful souls.

  29. What a wonderful way to deal with Marie, reading something like this makes me realize the type of parent I want to be. She is blessed to have you to bring her back to life again after all that darkeness!

  30. Marie is blessed to have a mom like you. God bless her and I hope one day she would be able to understand the relation between sex and Marriage naturally 🙂


  31. My husband and I are about to embark on the foster and adoption journey, as late-in-life parents. Your blog is a treat to read as well as informative. Thanks for sharing!

    • I wish you all the luck in the world! I have loved doing foster parenting and adoption, but you have to go into it with open eyes regarding the emotional and behavioral possibilities. It helps to be very patient and to have a good sense of humor.

  32. You are an amazing mom, and your daughter sounds like an incredible, strong kid. I just love parents who accept their children for who they are and know that what’s important is that their children grow into kind, loving and hopefully happy adults.

  33. God Bless you and your family….<3…I pray for more parents like you!

  34. I have always said that I have bigger fish to fry then what my son wears. He is only 8 and has luckily never suffered abuse, but he has had his own sense of style and would go to school with I matching clothes, inside out and backwards. And I let him. Because at the end of the day, I just want a happy family and while I may never find peace, I have bigger fish to fry. I give you so much credit for handling that situation with grace and compassion. Kudos to you.

  35. Wow… so many thoughts.. You’re an incredible woman.. I think that if I had experience as a mother to this little girl, I would eventually have to leave the room to cry my eyes out..

    • I’ve learned it is much better to smile and laugh than to cry. Crying doesn’t do me any good, and if I were sad about these kids, I wouldn’t be able to be a good parent to them.

  36. I absolutely love it!!! I think you get in the weirdest of situations sometimes and you always have the answer–gosh, I wish I had been that smart with my kids 😀 . It reminds of the joke about the kid asking his parents about sex–he just wanted to know male or female… Don’t you love children? I love it! This is great! 😀

  37. Agree. You ARE a blessing in her life.

  38. The talk is very difficult at any age – and especially when you discuss Sex with them – but you are incredible. Having 2 adopted children with many challenges as well – you give as all insight and a little better understand of what we will have to expect.

  39. Glynis Jolly said:

    Despite what Marie has gone through earlier in life, it sounds like she’s finding her own way back to a good reality. Obviously, you are a fantastic mom. My hat goes off to you.

  40. Ha! Sometimes we COMPLETELY misinterpret what they’re asking us! 🙂

  41. This is an interesting story. It’s great that you’re there for her and willing to answer difficult questions.

  42. Thank you for what you do. Sincerely, a teacher

  43. This just broke my heart and lifted it up all at the same time.

  44. Reading the comments here, I was not the only one who got the feeling of Marie “finding her way back”. It’s wonderful, and tear-provoking in a good way. I like to think she will find a person some day that will make her feel as safe and good about herself as you have as her mother, and that she will find a “grown up life” full of happiness and even more love with that person. Bless her!

  45. Hi, this is the first time I am reading your blog and I find it heart-touching. It does have a powerful impact on me. Going through your articles, I can see that you are a strong woman because it takes resolve to open oneself to the world in trying times. Kudos to you.
    I will be looking forward to your future posts.

  46. Ha! Although there is so much pain in her past, and hurt behind the reasons for her needing to ‘forget’ the sex part of a relation ship, her response made me giggle at the innocence behind her reply. Lovely. My eight year old has been asking me questions about that stuff too! It started getting so serious that I ended up having to tell him that just because he is smart and thinks of things at a teenage level doesn’t mean he should be given all the answers until his maturity can handle it. He was…sort of… satisfied with that! Hard questions… hard answers!

    • Having also raised 4 other kiddos, I’ve had to stumble through the talk with them also. I’ve always used the proper names of things, penis, vagina, and so forth and I’ve given a matter of fact discussion about the facts from an early age. With Marie it was different because she already, unfortunately, knew the mechanics of sex from her childhood abuse, so I was a little flustered as to how to answer HER question!

      • I’m sure you did great with all of them anyway, you always do 🙂 Mine has known all the bits and names since he was four years old… he researched how to make babies because he wanted a sibling…! Then he tried to start instructing us on how to make one for him! eeek!!

      • Oh, that is toooo funny!

  47. It is wonderful that she talk to you about these issues. And funny how we all want to know if we can find love (however we define it) when we grow up.

  48. I agree that as parents we absolutely jump the gun and assume the worst, when sometimes it’s just so simple as peas and carrots:) great blog post:)

  49. First time reader here–
    Were you at all prepared for this, or were you thinking on your feet?
    Either way, you sound like a pretty incredible soul to me.

    • I had a brother who was multiply disabled and lived with a father who was mentally ill. Our life accommodated their needs and I had a very unconventional, but very happy, childhood.

  50. oh, and ditto on the ‘bigger fish to fry’ comment! I trade peace in the house for quite a few interesting aberrations. Thank God we are raising our kids in a more understanding generation.

  51. funny how kids separate marriage, sex and having babies – just had a hilarious conversation with my daughter about whether she could “have a go” at using a pregnancy test because the advert made it look pretty exciting! She was a bit taken aback when I said there was no point taking a pregnancy test unless there is a possibility of actually being pregnant!! Even more put off when I mentioned that you have to pee on the stick!

  52. Wow. What an article! You are an amazing mom. Isn’t that the way it is, though? The minute you think you’re “getting through” with new info, they’ve lost interest. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  53. You gave the perfect answer and left lots of room to revisit whenever she feels like continuing the ‘talk’. What a wonderful post!

  54. I just love the way children can switch on and off during ‘important’ discussions. It makes me wonder what goes on in their minds. I know for sure they don’t think deeply about things as adults do. It would be good to think as a child sometimes!

  55. What a beautiful post. Your daughter sounds truly amazing

  56. What a sad story. But it is so true for so many young people. Well done for the work you are doing in helping Marie to overcome her past, as far as she is able to.

  57. mrshameed said:

    As always, I adore your posts. Marie is so blessed to have you as a mom. Women like yourselves(and men, too, of course) amaze me and IMO are TRUE Christians, whether you drop a name or not. Those who help others who desperately need love are the most important people in the world- worth more than any preacher, any politician, any dollar amount.

  58. Okay – third post of yours I have read. If they gave medal for parents….you deserve all of them!!!

  59. Thank you for sharing this story with us!

    I am a single mother of 5; because, my husband was a child abuser. He is now serving a 40-year prison sentence.

    I, too, have had to deal with the lingering effects of abuse in some of my children. You are making a difference in the life of your daughter.

    P.S. I am fluent in ASL! I worked as a sign language interpreter several years ago. 🙂

  60. I too say, bless her heart. How confusing it must be for her after suffering from sexual abuse. I think you are doing a great job helping to find her true identity and hopefully, find that sex is not a bad thing with the one whom you love and are married to. (I know people don’t believe you have to be married to have sex, but for her, considering what she has been through, seems best to explain it that way, no matter your religious morals).

  61. […] To Advocate | Cheering on Charlie 2. I had “THE” Talk with My Teenage Daughter | Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane …3. A FREE printable for the friend of a special-needs mom | Beautiful In His Time 4. Beading Saves […]

  62. Linda,
    I really love your blog. I’m a special needs mom and I find your stories particularly heart-warming. I’m new to blogging and I’ve so inspired by my fellow bloggers! Please accept the Sunshine award to recognise great work that is full of life! http://advocacyautismspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/sunshine-on-a-poopy-day/ (don’t worry the poopy day is just because we’re potty training 🙂
    Happy Blogging and Warm Wishes of Sunshine!

  63. wow. what an intense yet not intense situation 🙂

  64. Love this. This is no ordinary situation, so thank you for handling it like a champ.

  65. What a difficult topic to address and I’m sure there’s more coming. It’s obvious she trusts you and feels open enough to talk to you. Good job mom!

  66. Well, i was never given “THE” talk! :/ She should be grateful to have a wonderful mother!! 🙂

  67. That poor, sweet girl.

  68. WIth all due respect, this makes me profoundly sad. There is nothing “simple” about telling her that her eventual partner will be male. There is no way for you to know that. It seems that the simple (and accurate) answer is that you don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, that the only important thing is to find someone kind that you love and trust and that loves and trusts you back, and that you’re certain she will find such a person. There is nothing wrong–nothing whatsoever–with being lesbian, or transgendered, or however she identifies at each stage in her process. I believe strongly that we have no right as parents to tell our children what they will be or what/who they are–their lives and paths are theirs to discover.

    • I think you misread what I wrote. I never told her that her eventual partner would be male. I told her that her eventual partner would be male or female, but it would be whomever she loved. I completely agree with you that we as parents do not have the right to tell our children who they will be…that is why all of these years Emily have lived wearing boys clothes and identifying herself as a boy, HER wishes. I love my kiddos unconditionally and I certainly support any path that she wants to discover!
      And, yes, I feel profoundly sad for my daughter, but only because of the abuse which she suffered and the psychiatric difficulties (PTSD) she has developed because of it. My job as a mom is to do whatever I can to support her, which includes supporting her decision to love the person of her choice.

  69. […] Linda Petersen of Raising Five Kids With Disabilities […]

  70. Bless her heart. She sounds amazing. And it of course does make perfect sense that if she was hurt by men then she would want to be a boy so that they wouldnt hurt her again! XX

  71. Is she comfortable, herself, being a girl at this point? Is looking like a boy only a defense? If you think she might actually be transgendered, you may want to find a supportive doctor stat, before she gets too far into puberty; gender reassignment works a whole lot better before the body has gotten too far into the process of assigning in the first place. Nobody is going to “sew a penis on her” until she’s an adult, but there are hormones and other treatments that could make the final result look a lot more natural. Then again, with her early abuse complicating the whole issue, you don’t want to rush into anything. Do ask her, though, how she really thinks of herself. If she’s gotten her period and still thinks about getting a penis when she’s old enough, that should tell you something.

    • Thank you for your suggestions. I have been really lucky, her pediatrician is actually a family doctor who received an award for dealing with these issues. (I didn’t know that about him, I just knew that he was awesome and very understanding.) Being conscious of the possibility of transgender, Marie was raised in a non typical way. Because she is deaf, there was no of the he/she, her/him issue because in American Sign Language it is just a sign for that person, not gender specific. She wasn’t even familiar with the fact that her name was female because the only names she knew about were name “signs”, again not gender specific. While I really did think that she thought she was a boy for the first couple of years she lived with us, she whispered the truth to me one day…she said she really WAS a girl inside, she just didn’t want anyone else to know. It is funny because she actually went to junior high school with a good friend who was transgendered and her parents took her to their native country (I don’t know which is was) and had gender reassignment surgery. This good friend came back as a boy and no one thought any differently of him.

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