The author of this true account is a friend of my mother's, together they've shared experiences of having a trans daughter. My mum wanted me to read this so I could pass comment on how Milly's ( the daughter in the book ) transition and experiences is similar, or dissimilar to my own. I won't be doing much of that here (although I'm happy to talk about it if asked).
I was worried that The Road to My Daughter - Elisabeth Spencer would be an account of a mother's struggle with her daughter's transition, but I was pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be a trans women's struggle from the point of view of her mother. Of course, the author does discuss how Milly's transition has been hard for her, but the focus is always on her daughter's struggle to be happy with herself.
The book is painful to read as a trans person. It forces the reader to think about their own experiences with trans healthcare, unsupportive family and moving through life as one transitions. I cried a lot at the pain the author has suffered too, particularly the loss of her husband, Baz, following traumatic years of sharing palliative care between Milly and herself. I also felt for the author as she delt with family unsupportive of her trans daughter and seeing her daughter struggle.
While much of the author's words are about how she personally feels as Milly goes through various stages to reach her transition goals, there is a lot of cited research included. We read about the side effects of HRT medication and statistics on how many people go down what surgical routes. There are upsetting statistics about the suicide rates among trans people forced to wait for years to move forward in a system with too many patients to care for.
I'm pleased that this book spends so much time using facts from research to help the reader appreciate just how difficult, traumatising and demoralising it is to be transgender ( particularly in the UK ). While none of this information is new to me personally, it is important that people not in the know understand the numbers.
The author is not afraid to question her own actions. She frequently writes about how the things she says to her daughter ( often early on in the process ) were wrong, She has clearly put a lot of effort into understanding why certain phases, words and sentiments are unwelcome to trans ears despite seeming totally innocent. Learning and questioning your own past actions is a very important factor in being an excellent ally.
While the transition pathway that Milly follows in the book is not entirely dissimilar to many trans women's story, it is out of the realms of possibility for the vast majority of, especially younger, trans women. Milly accesses almost all of her trans healthcare and surgeries privately ( i.e she pays for them out of pocket). She is lucky to find an NHS GP willing to engage in trans care with private providers, as well as finding a private endocrinologist willing to prescribe HRT after only one appointment. After only 5 years, she is on a regular HRT regime, had hair removal, extensive voice coaching and multiple surgeries in foreign countries. None of this is impossible, with good research and a large amount of sustainable funds, but should not be taken as the normal experience in the UK for most people. The majority of trans people in the UK wait 3+ years to be seen at an NHS gender clinic and even then getting to Milly's point can take a decade.
When I say this book was 'not for me', I don't mean I think it was bad. I mean that this book was not written for trans people to read, this book is for parents and family members of trans people. It'd make a good introduction for those cis people wishing to understand what it means to be trans as an approachable read written by someone who is more like them. If you're a trans person with skeptical or dismissive family and friends, its worth asking them to read this, hopefully they can identify with the author.
However, it is important to know that this book is written by a cis woman, and does not contribute to the amplifying of trans voices telling their own stories and struggles. Always prefer books about being trans written by trans folk.
The book is well researched, well written and excellently presented. Aside from using the word 'Transgenderism' multiple times, ew, weird, stop that please Mrs Spencer.
Copyright Samathy Barratt 2020