As a memoirist, I often write about my family. I don’t worry too much about offending the people I write about for one simple reason– they’re dead. When you die, you lose the chance to object to what people say about you. I don’t know if I even could write as candidly as I do about my parents if they were alive. Fear informed a great deal of my relationship with my father. But when it comes to writing about my children, there is another type of fear: I don’t want to screw it up. While I get consent from them before I publish anything – especially with my transgender daughter, Sammy, who is only thirteen – how much consent can she really give? I have to think about not just now but twenty or thirty years from now. In writing memoir about Sammy, I don’t only have to be conscious of my audience but I have to be even more conscious about my subject.

This last Thanksgiving, I had an article published in The Huffington Post about Sammy, entitled, “Mommy, I’m Just Not that Type of Girl.” It exploded on the internet in a way I didn’t expect. Most of what I write goes to journals and while hundreds of people may see it (maybe), I never expected tens of thousands.

I had taken some precaution. I did not put Sammy’s last name, which is different from mine. She doesn’t go to a public school and at her tiny therapeutic school everyone knows that she is transgender so I wasn’t outing her there. In fact, after the article hit (with her picture) she proudly showed everyone in her process group. She often complains that she doesn’t have much to say in process group because her life is pretty easy. Some of the kids who go there have very difficult lives, including parents who are not understanding about their mental illness (Sammy is bipolar – another thing I disclosed in the article) or gender variance. She has a very supportive immediate family and we see to it that she lives in a bubble. A big help in that, ironically, is that she is dyslexic. She could maybe get through most of the article but only with help – she didn’t bother to try to read all the comments. Thankfully. While most were supportive, there were a distinct handful which were mean-hearted and even cruel. My older children got very defensive and initially my older daughter was trying to respond to them. We told her to stop. As Taylor Swift wisely tells us, “Haters gonna hate.”

I want to describe my daughter in my writing – how she has my husband’s soft curls, and, under the blue she has dyed most of her hair, she has my sister’s rich chestnut brown color. But where is she in that? Will she read that in ten years and feel that I failed to see her for who she was? Or will she read that in fifty years, after her father and aunt have died, and will it make her feel closer to them and to me?  Everything is a balancing act, informed by my desire to be a good and supportive mother… who doesn’t screw it up.


Judy Hall is a writer and itinerant teacher of writing who has lived in such far flung places as Iceland, Sudan, Germany and New Jersey. Her MFA is from William Paterson University. She has been published in Literary OrphansSplit Lip Magazine, The Huffington Post and many other places. She is currently seeking representation for her novel about a mother raising a child with bipolar disorder. You can read memoir and creative non-fiction by Judy at and most of her recently published work at