“There is much left unsaid” Mimi Lemay says about book following her viral essay to her transgender son

by | Jul 27, 2021 | What’s Happening

Originally published in the May 10, 2021 issue. 

Wednesday, May 12, noon, via Zoom, free

Robyn Sidersky

After Mimi Lemay wrote a letter to her son, Jacob, she realized she had more to say.

The letter, turned into an essay that went viral, led her to write a book, What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation. Lemay will join the Tidewater community on Zoom as part of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.

Lemay’s son, Jacob, adamantly told his family when he was two-and-a-half that he was a boy. On Jacob’s fifth birthday, Lemay wrote the letter that many know her for today.

“There was so much left unsaid, after the essay, so many moments of transformation for me as a parent, and for my son as a transgender child,” Lemay wrote in an email. “The essay was a love letter, a birthday letter to my son, but it did not explain how my past, raised as an ultra-Orthodox woman, enabled me to be the mother Jacob needed.”

The book was a way to share their journey.

“To me, the book was an opportunity for me to invite readers to experience every significant moment on this journey alongside me—from the confusion, despair, to the moments of revelation and redemption. I often feel that if we were able to view the world through one another’s eyes, there would be greater understanding and a shared sense of the value and dignity of every living being.”

Lemay weaves together narratives of faith and motherhood in What We Will Become.

Transgender Activist Gavin Grimm praised Lemay’s memoir.

What We Will Become is a triumphant, introspective story about being and becoming. It beautifully reminds us of the challenges, but also the necessity, of unconditional love, both for ourselves and for those we care about. It gives me hope for the future of transgender children.”

Grimm, from Gloucester, came out as transgender during his sophomore year of high school. His use of the boys bathroom prompted the school board to rule that school restrooms and locker rooms were reserved for students of the “corresponding biological genders.” The case has risen to the high courts and the school board asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ban.

In her memoir, Lemay hopes readers take away a sense of wonder, and that while there is much that may not be understood about gender and identity, the journey can and should be a beautiful one.

There is much Jewish communities can do to be more welcoming and accepting of transgender people.

“First and foremost, we must understand that transgender people, too, are born B’tzelem Elokim, in the image of God,” Lemay says. “They have much to teach us about who we truly are—beyond the guf, body, into which we are born. Be sure that they, too, feel welcome in our communities. People of the Jewish faith have always taken it upon themselves to fight for justice. Today, transgender people are fighting for equality and justice in legislation, in the courts and in our society. It is time to stand up for them.”

Lemay says there is much to relate to in her book, even for people who have no connection to the transgender community.

“Experiencing life, if only for a brief while, through someone else’s lens is a deep spiritual experience—it makes us all more human and connected,” she says. “We can all relate to struggling to fit into gender norms, we can all relate to loving our children beyond all measure.”

To register to hear Mimi Lemay speak, and for more information about her appearance and the book festival, visit jewishva.org/bookfest or contact Jill Grossman, director of Arts + Ideas at jgrossman@ujft.org or 757-965-6137.