Alexis Knox was just 11 years old when she came out to her parents as transgender in February 2014.
“I am a girl trapped inside a boy’s body,” the Ottawa, Ontario-based sixth-grader wrote in an email. “More than anything, I want to be a girl. Please try to understand. Don’t be mad. Please help me.”
Mom Amanda Jette Knox never saw it coming. “We used to describe Alexis as a ’softer boy,’ but in many ways she was no different than her brothers,” Amanda tells Us Weekly. “She wasn’t rough-and-tumble, but she wasn’t asking to wear my dresses or shoes, either. She played with everything from Barbies to Transformers. She took both dance and tae kwon do.”
Alexis’ brave admission left Amanda terrified: The contemplated suicide rate among trans people in Ontario is 50 percent. “I was scared that she would be bullied, or assaulted or spiral into a depression,” Amanda tells Us. And her fears weren’t unwarranted. “We had to pull Alexis out of school near the end of sixth grade,” she says. “The kids who were her friends started to ignore her. She felt shunned and alone.”
But now, two years later, Amanda says her 13-year-old daughter is “thriving” at a public middle school that boasts an all-gender bathroom and LGBTQ “safe space” stickers on all the doors. “Alexis still struggles with anxiety, but it’s far better than it used to be,” Amanda says. “Everything has gotten easier for her. She didn’t have to struggle with this internal conflict. She’s so much happier. The change is remarkable.”
Alexis, who is on hormone blockers to arrest puberty, has very understanding support. Her other other mom Zoe came out as transgender to Amanda on July 2, 2015, after 19 years of marriage. “Zoe’s sadness and anger were chronic issues.… I knew whatever she was keeping from me was big and the idea of sharing it with me frightened her,” Amanda reveals. “But I had no idea she was trans, not even after our daughter coming out 18 months before.”
Amanda and Zoe’s other kids — Aerik, 19, and Jackson, 9 — were supportive of their Alexis and their dad right from the start.
“They easily embraced their sister’s news, and while there were tears when their mama came out to them, they immediately wrapped her up in love,” says Amanda. “They are class acts in resilience and acceptance.”
As for Amanda and Zoe’s relationship? “I am more in love with Zoe than I’ve ever been,” gushes Amanda, who blogs about her family at The Maven of Mayhem. “I get to love the entirety of her now, not just the part she was able to show me.”