By Liana Jacob
MEET THE mum who has been accused of CHILD ABUSE for raising her DAUGHTER as TRANSGENDER – but insists she is happier as a girl.
Luxury brand retail manager, Jaime Clara (41) from Long Island, New York, USA, first noticed a change in behaviour from her daughter, Dempsey (8), who was born biologically male, when she was just two and a half years old; she gravitated towards dolls, dresses and sparkly objects.
Initially, Jaime and her husband, Dennis, thought it was just a phase that would pass, but over the years Dempsey became increasingly angry at having to dress like a boy; she would bring back pictures she drew of herself as a girl with long blonde hair and would cry when she had her hair cut short.
When she was just four years old, her parents took her to a paediatric mental health professional who diagnosed her with gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress due to the mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
Throughout her journey, Dempsey has had to face criticism from her peers in primary school, who would bully her. This prompted her family to raise concerns with her teachers who let them speak at her school to raise awareness of transgender children.
Other parents would also accuse Jaime and Dennis of child abuse for the way they are raising their daughter and would attack Jaime for ‘brainwashing’ her, but they have simply ignored them and insists that she struggles to get her children to eat vegetables, let alone change their genders.
In 2019, Jaime and Dennis changed Dempsey’s birth certificate to reflect her gender change and their family have since participated and volunteered at various LGBTQ+ events and protests.
“Dempsey has been gender non-conforming since the age of eighteen months old, basically since she was able to express herself. She always gravitated to dolls, dresses and sparkly objects,” Jaime said.
“Our older children were never interested in these types of things, so they weren’t readily available at our home.
“Dempsey would use her imagination to fashion items of clothing such as pyjama trousers into long hair and shirts into skirts for dress-up.
“She would always draw herself as a girl with long blonde hair. She would ask for dolls and princess dresses as gifts for holidays.
“Knowing that these items were what she wanted, we bought them because we knew how happy they made her.
“In the beginning, Dennis and I thought it was a phase that would pass and were not overly worried or concerned with it.
“However, we were concerned that she would be ostracised by her peers at nursery. Phases categorically last six months or less.
“Dempsey became increasingly despondent and solemn during this time. She would have meltdowns and tantrums when she had to change into masculine clothing to attend preschool.
“She would become hysterical and visibly traumatised when we cut her hair; she was happiest and most comfortable at home where she could be herself.
“Hiding herself in public became unbearable. She was teased by other pre-schoolers when she played with ‘girl’ toys and frequently cried when she returned home.
“We had candid conversations about Dempsey’s toy preferences and gender non-conforming expression with the preschool directors and were supported to an extent.
“They told us that they accepted Dempsey as she was but couldn’t stop the bullying by other children if she chose to wear feminine accessories.
“At this time, Dempsey was still insistent on using he/him pronouns, which made the situation difficult at that time.
“We met with school administrators prior to the start of elementary school and had an independent organisation come and do an educational workshop on gender with all the teachers and staff.
“Dennis and I continued to follow Dempsey’s lead, as was advised to us by her therapists. She entered kindergarten using masculine pronouns but started to grow out her hair and wearing feminine accessories to school.
“Two years later, Dempsey was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of four by mental health professionals.”
Jaime and Dennis have been at the forefront of bullying themselves by other parents who would constantly accuse them of abusing Dempsey into living this way.
Their misinformed comments motivated them to set up an Instagram page to illustrate Dempsey’s journey and educate the public about what it means to raise a transgender child.
“There were many nights of teary-eyed cuddles while Dempsey clung to her stuffed white cat named Mimi,” she said.
“There were times that Dennis and I had to tell each other to just breathe and that the heart-breaking challenges of the moment would come to pass.
“We were always diligent in conveying to her that we loved her and supported her fully. It is very agonising to see your child dealing with so much inner turmoil. Sometimes the best comfort you can give is to love on them, gently reassuring them it will all be okay.
“Dempsey’s journey was gradual since she was eighteen months old, not a sudden event that some families report encountering.
“Research shows that many transgender children wrestle with their own feelings for a very long time before eventually coming out to their families.
“Because of this, some parents may feel their child’s gender revelation comes out of the blue and are shocked, when in fact, it has most likely been hidden from them for some time.
“In our case, people around us had already been exposed to Dempsey’s changing appearance and gender expression over time on social media and in real life so there was never a shock factor.
“A few people were angered and upset by our support of Dempsey and chose to remove themselves from our lives, mainly because of their religious beliefs.
“Several others believed I was forcing my child to be a girl and brainwashing her to be this way. To them I said, I can barely get my children to eat their vegetables, let alone change genders.
“Strangers can be cruel, sometimes offering their opinion when it is not asked for. I firmly believe that in life, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
“Once at a grocery store, a man approached Dempsey, who at the time still had short hair, in a dress cradling a doll sitting in the cart and said, ‘Is that your sister’s dress and toy?’
“Dempsey replied, ‘No, these are my things.’ He scoffed at her and said, ‘This is disgusting, you’re a boy.’ Then he looked at Dennis telling him that we were bad parents and should be reported for child abuse.
“Dennis told him to mind his own business (along with an expletive) and walked away. Our former paediatrician told us that Dempsey was just going through a phase wearing dresses and said ‘transgenderism’ isn’t real. She later talked about our family behind our backs referring to us as ‘freaks’.
“We’ve had some amazing responses as well though; a gas station clerk saw Dempsey with her dress and short slicked back hair and called her little Lady Diana.
“Afterwards, when I showed Dempsey pictures of the late Princess Diana, she beamed for an entire week.
“Dempsey has really blossomed and come full circle since socially transitioning; she is happy, thriving and overall pretty comfortable with herself.
“However, she still struggles knowing her body parts aren’t like other little girls. She expresses shame about her body sometimes, which is hard.
“Otherwise she is very confident in herself and her abilities. She has many friends, is supported by her school and is an honour roll student. She has been awarded Student of the Month twice, which is decided by her classmates.
“Once I began sharing our daughter’s journey publicly, I started receiving a flood of messages and calls from friends, acquaintances and absolute strangers in similar situations asking for help and guidance with their transgender or gender non-conforming children. This continues to present day.
“I feel that in a small way I am doing my part helping the very marginalised transgender community. Being a parent is never easy, it takes everything you have, pretty much every single day.
“Having a transgender child, who has the odds stacked against them in every arena of life, makes it even harder.
“Unfortunately, I have also been harassed and verbally attacked by parents who say that I am abusing my daughter and that my children should be removed from our home.
“A lot of people have commented that Dempsey is lucky to have me as her mom. I feel just the opposite. I feel lucky to have Dempsey as my child.
“She teaches me new things every day and has changed my perspective on so many things, many of which are about compassion and acceptance.”