S2 E2: Laurie Frankel: Local Author on Parenting Transgender Kids

Laurie Frankel Social.jpg

What You’ll Learn…

  • Laurie Frankel’s perspective on being an author in Seattle, including her feelings about the general writing process and her thoughts on Seattle’s writing community in particular.
  • Frankel’s experience as a parent to a transgender daughter, her opinion on the recent transgender bathroom bill legislation, and her advice on navigating the transgender world (both as a person and a parent).
  • Frankel’s hopes and concerns for the future of Seattle, and how you can win a copy of her newest book, This is How it Always Is.

Born and raised in Maryland, best-selling author Laurie Frankel has called the back end of Queen Anne in Seattle her home for twelve years now. A former teacher, she moved with her boyfriend to Seattle and has since married, had a child, and written three novels, Goodbye for Now, the Atlas of Love, and her most recent, This is How it Always Is. Her stories are primarily family-based, with a focus more on a group hero than one individual heroic figure. Though her work has won awards and appeared in numerous well-known publications, Frankel remains humble in her writing process.

Frankel knows that there is a lot she has learned from her writing, but feels that she somehow does not carry that knowledge with her to the next project. Each work she starts seems just as daunting as the last and makes her wonder if she even knows how to write at all. Luckily, she has found a strong support system in Seattle’s writing community. Through her book tours, Frankel has reached the conclusion that Seattle has the best writing community in the country (an opinion that, she believes, is what drives a lot of writers to move to Seattle). Her organization, Seattle7Writers, for example, not only works to spread reading, writing, and literacy throughout the community, but is also there for fellow writers to commiserate on issues with agents, editors, and everything in between. With the added support of so many great independent bookstores, Frankel feels that no writing scene beats Seattle’s.

While Frankel does feel that she has certainly learned more about the business side of writing and publishing (getting agents and editors, etc.) the actual process of writing itself continues to surprise her. For example, in her latest novel, Frankel ended up cutting out enough words to fill up nearly two or three additional books from her initial draft (she is a big believer in writing terrible rough drafts and in the magic of editing!). However, all of those cuts paid off and led her to be able to publish This is How it Always Is, a novel that holds a significant connection to Frankel’s real life.

Frankel’s novel tells the story of a family of seven unpacking the experience of their youngest child transitioning from male to female. Frankel’s own child is transgender and she has been lucky to live in a progressive environment like Seattle where her daughter can transition safely. The transition itself has been a slow process, but even the most significant changes have not shocked Frankel too much, as she knows that children make enormous changes all the time (this is where the title of her novel comes from, the knowledge that change is how it always is with kids).

Having a transgender child has certainly exposed Frankel to much of the transgender world, including (unfortunately) the negative side, like the recent government legislation banning transgender individuals from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identities. According to Frankel, this bill, in essence, fails because it tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist (a fear that men will dress as women, sneak into bathrooms or locker rooms, and molest women) with a solution that cannot be enforced and actually exacerbates the real problem going on (unsafe environments for transgender individuals). If people could learn to embrace differences and accept a wider range of what is considered “normal,” things would drastically improve.

The best way to begin embracing differences is to first learn how to navigate in that world. Frankel knows that things like language are real issues in the transgender community and that in today’s society, gender exists on a spectrum (an obvious example of this is with the existence of intersex individuals). The goal, in her opinion, is to reach a place where being different is celebrated and where everyone realizes that we are all on some end of some spectrum at one point in our lives, so nothing about anyone should ever have to be fixed, changed, or hidden.

As a parent, Frankel understands the fear factor of sending her child out into the world unsure of how she will be treated and while her immediate fears about her transgender daughter coming to school in a dress have subsided, she still worries, as any parent should. However, she knows that when making a decision that will affect the longevity of her child’s life, she has to choose between what could potentially keep her daughter safe and what will make her really, truly happy. Frankel’s advice to parents (and people in general) is that if we all can learn to let go of structured plans and support our children no matter what, the happier the world will be for everyone.

Frankel has high hopes for Seattle in the future. She loves Seattle with all her heart and adores not only the numerous independent bookstores in the area (which she recommends you check out), but also the balance it holds as a bustling city without the issues that often make city living difficult. She would love to see Seattle dig its heels deeper into problems like traffic and the growing homeless population, but overall she is happy she chose Seattle as her home and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Laurie’s novel, This is How it Always Is, is available now, and if you share this podcast on Facebook and tag Rise Seattle, you will be entered for a chance to win a copy!

About the Interviewee

Laurie Frankel is the best-selling author of Goodbye for Now, the Atlas of Love, and This is How it Always Is. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, People magazine, and the Sydney Morning Herald. She currently resides in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with her husband and daughter. You can find copies of Frankel’s books at the Queen Anne Book Company and other local independent bookstores. To learn more about Frankel, visit LaurieFrankel.net. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Andrea Dunlop

Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey

“From He to She in First Grade” (article published in the New York Times )