When Julie Hindsley and her husband Daniel discovered they were expecting a baby, they threw a huge gender reveal party with blue balloons and blue cake.
But six years later, the parents, from Texas, realised that their declaration that they were having a boy wasn’t the truth.
Their daughter had come out as trans, telling mum Julie: ‘I want to be a girl! Just make me a girl!’
To honour their child, who now goes by Ella, the parents decided to throw a second gender reveal party, even posing as a family for a photoshoot to celebrate Ella’s gender.
Julie, 33, and Daniel, 37, noticed that as their baby grew up, she was completely different to their eldest son, Grant, and loved playing dress-up in Julie’s clothes and makeup.
Julie, who works as a nurse, and her husband Daniel, a lineman, thought Ella, now six, would eventually grow out of it and encouraged her to play sports such as baseball and tried to get her interested in her other toys.
However, when Ella threw her fists down in frustration, Julie knew that her child was transgender and took the family to counselling to try to find the best solution.
Mum Julie said: ‘For our first gender reveal, we had all of our closest friends and family come together at a local restaurant that I worked at at the time. We had a cake pop stand and we bit into the cake pops to reveal the gender – it was bright blue inside.
‘I was so shocked that we were having another boy because everyone thought it would be a girl – including me. I knew there was going to be a lot of people disappointed but I was relieved because I already had a boy.
‘Ella was born in April 2014 and was completely different from her big brother from the get-go.
‘When she began talking and expressing herself, I realised there was more to it. She would talk about wanting hair as long as mine and wanting to wear the same clothes as me.
‘I started noticing that she didn’t want to play with any toys she had, and at one of my niece’s birthday parties she got super excited over the toys and wouldn’t leave them alone.
‘I told my husband we should get her a doll and maybe she will play with that. My husband bought her her first doll when she was two and she was so excited.
‘We didn’t want to encourage anything too much either way so we just introduced it slowly – my husband began worrying we were getting her too many girly toys.’
Ella, now six, first told her mum she was a girl when she was just four years old.
Julie was shocked but tried to offer support by letting Ella grow out her hair. It took a while for her to accept that her child was transgender, however.
‘I just knew that she was transgender because of all of the other little things throughout her whole life that led up to that moment – but I tried to appease her and said we can grow out your hair if that’s what makes you happy,’ said the mum.
‘She would call herself sister a lot and my son would call her his brother and I had to tell him to stop correcting her – I didn’t want her to think something was wrong with how she felt, but I still was not ready to say the word transgender just yet.’
The family’s counsellor helped the parents to understand Ella’s gender identity and helped them to adjust.
‘They told us that hardly any children change their minds about their gender identity after this age when they are consistent, insistent, and persistent about it like she was – and that letting them be the gender they identify as was the best thing for their mental health,’ said Julie.
‘We talked to her and asked if she would want to start first grade as a girl and she got super excited and said yes – the process of transitioning began at the end of last year.
‘In February, one of the nurses at her school said we should let her wear what she wants to wear. I took her shopping and she started wearing what she wanted.
‘By March, we were using she and her pronouns and she chose the name Ella. This was around the time coronavirus hit so she got to transition at home which was really good for her.
‘There’s no more fighting or bargaining with her; she’s been a lot happier since it happened, like a brand new kid.’
To celebrate Ella’s joy at being able to live authentically, Julie and Daniel threw a second gender reveal party this year, now their daughter is six years old.
Julie says Ella is so much happier since being able to transition socially and go by female pronouns.
‘Now, I would recommend waiting until a child is born, and a couple of years old, before having a gender reveal or be prepared that it might change,’ the mum advises other parents.
‘We were in denial for a long time about it until we finally learnt how to let go of our son and accept our daughter.’