We Are Family Podcast, Episode 2: Parenting Trans Kids, With Ally Sheedy and Her Son Beckett
June marks Pride Month, and we're celebrating here at Parents with episode 2 of We Are Family, a new podcast celebrating diverse families of all shapes and sizes. This week, co-hosts Shaun T, creator of the Insanity workout and dad to twins with his husband Scott Blokker, and Julia Dennison, executive editor of Parents.com and single mama, chat with The Breakfast Club actress Ally Sheedy, her son Beckett Lansbury who is transgender and was assigned female at birth, and the journey they've been on as Beck has transitioned and Ally has found new ways to be there for him.
From Beck's coming out story to Ally accompanying him to clinics and educating herself to better support him, the episode goes deep into what LGBTQ families really go through, how parents can support kids who are transgender, and how informing yourself can help make you a better ally.
Wait—missed episode one, all about Shaun and Julia and what makes their families unique, plus how they're parenting during the pandemic? There's still time: check it out right here.
Upcoming episodes and topics this season include:
- Episode 3: LGBTQ Parenting
- Chosen family
- Foster Care
- Parenting with disabilities
- Divorce, co-parenting and blended families
- Single-parent households
- Multicultural parenting
- The family you didn't know you had
Listen to episode 2 right now: Parents.com/FamilyPod-Ep2
Plus, follow along here:
Beckett: So much in our society is just telling every fiber of trans kids’ being that what they are is not right and is not true. It's such an empowering and beautiful thing to be able to stand with your kid in the face of all of that and just, you know, hold true and support them.
Ally: My journey with him has been a back and forth of a balancing act of wanting to support him, being scared for him. Um, recognizing that I need to learn from him, letting go of feeling like I need to protect him from the world and just trusting him and going along with his journey.
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Julia: Hi, I’m Julia Dennison…
Shaun: And I’m Shaun T…
Julia: And this is We Are Family, a podcast from Parents magazine. This show is all about celebrating the different ways there are to build and be a family — and how beautiful that diversity is.
Shaun: It’s Pride Month, so we’re excited to bring you some stories about LGBTQ parents — including me and my husband Scott, who have toddler twins! But we also want to talk about what it’s like to be parented as an LGBTQ person, and how as parents, we can support kids who are transgender.
Julia: That’s why we’re so excited about today’s guests, Ally Sheedy and Beckett Lansbury.
Shaun: Ally is a mom, an actress, and a college professor — she starred in The Breakfast Club, High Art, and more. Her son Beckett is a teacher and works in sexual violence prevention.
Beckett is trans, and was assigned female at birth. Five years ago, he started taking hormones to medically transition.
As Beckett shared his journey with Ally, she was fiercely supportive. But she also realized she had a lot to learn. And Beckett realized he had to be patient as she did that learning.
I spoke to them about what that experience was like, on both sides.
Julia: I can’t wait to hear their story.
Shaun: Julia, they both have so much wisdom to share… for anyone, whether you’re the parent of a child who’s trans, or you just want to be a better ally.
Julia: Awesome. Let’s hear it!
Shaun: Ally, Beckett, welcome to We Are Family. We are so thrilled to have you on the podcast today. I would love for you to introduce yourselves, talk about your pronouns and why pronouns.
Beckett Lansbury: My name is Beckett Lansbury. I'm, I use he and his, or they, them, their pronouns. Um, and pronouns are important, uh, because they let the speaker know how to refer to you in the third person. Um, if you're not around or, um, just, you know, how to respectfully refer to you.
Shaun: And Ally can you introduce yourself for our listeners, please?
Ally Sheedy: Hi, I'm Ally Sheedy. Um, my proudest role is that I'm Beck's mom, Beckett's mom. I call him Beck. I am an actor. I'm a book editor and I'm a professor at CUNY, uh, where I teach film in New York. That's, my bio is kind of long, but that's it in a nutshell.
Shaun: And we love your bio. I have to just say this because you know, my husband is a huge fan, so I just wanted to tell you that.
Ally: Oh cool, that is nice.
Shaun: Guys, here’s where I goofed — I meant to ask Ally her pronouns too, but I forgot! Maybe I was a little starstruck. But it’s important, because as Beckett explained:
Beckett: Everybody has pronouns. And we're kinda moving away from, um, the terminology of like, of preferred pronouns, with the general understanding that pronouns aren't necessarily preferred, they're what people want to be, want to use.
Shaun: Cis people have pronouns too — and by sharing ours, we make it easier for trans and nonbinary people to share theirs. So Ally’s pronouns are she, her and hers, and mine are he, him and his.
OK, now back to the interview. When I talked to Beckett and Ally, we were all social distancing, so I wanted to check in. They were staying not too far away from one another, in upstate New York.
Shaun: I feel like Ally, I should be asking you questions about how to raise a two and a half year old in times like this, but I'll first ask, what does life look like for you guys right now with this, this social distancing and quarantine. Hashtag stay home, stay strong time?
Beckett: It's been hard not to be able to go see friends. Um, but also I'm also particularly lucky ‘cause my partner and I are living together, so I'm not necessarily completely alone. We do have each other, And we also have two cats, which is great, you know, finding new ways to, um, have time and spend time with friends. So it's been a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, a lot of, like online dance parties.
Shaun: I love that. And um, if you want to join mine, I have a Friday night wine night with my husband Scott on our Instagram.
Beckett Lansbury: Absolutely also. Absolutely. There's also, on a, I'm not sure on Twitch. There's, um, the digital drag show every Friday, Bitch Pudding, who's a wonderful, wonderful performer. Um, she runs it and it's awesome.
Shaun: Well, my husband loves RuPaul's Drag Race, so when I tell him this, he's going to be like, grab the wine, and there, and let's go.
So Ally, we would still like to know how you’re dealing with the quarantine and social distancing?
Ally: It's been OK. As the weeks have gone by, I'm relaxing a little bit cause all my students so far are doing all right. And I can keep my eye on Beck sort of up here. And I know my mom is high risk and she's OK. So, so far we're just, we're just managing.
Shaun: Beckett grew up on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and he came out as queer when he was around 14. His grandmothers — Ally’s mom and her partner —are in a same-sex relationship, so he had a lot of support from his family.
Beckett Lansbury: I remember, um, when I first came out I did call myself bisexual, and I came out to my mom and I was terrified. And I didn't know why I was so scared. There was never necessarily like a fear of rejection simply because like I had been exposed to, you know, to queerness and my grandmothers who were queer.
It was more so just like speaking in the truth and being like, "Oh, God, I'm different." Like I actually have to start realizing this about myself. Like there's something that has to happen.
Shaun: In his teens, Beckett began learning more about gender identity and terms like genderqueer, gender-fluid, and nonbinary. He started thinking about where he fit in along that spectrum — and talking to his mom about it. Later, in college, he decided to use masculine pronouns, change his name, and medically transition by taking testosterone.
Beckett: Coming out, in terms of sexuality, wasn't difficult. Coming out in gender was hard just because it is just not as, not as spoken about or wasn't spoken about. I had spoke to my mother, about being gender queer and you know, I had a lot, a lot of conversations about gender queerness and kind of, you know, being outside of binary. But then suddenly I was like, “Oh no, what if I'm actually at what if part of a foot is actually in the binary?”
And suddenly I actually am like, “Oh no, now I'm finding myself that I am going and being drawn to this idea of like having some association with like maleness and being, turning male.” So that was actually probably the more difficult part and probably like the more kind of difficult, like social adjustment.
But I guess I'm in terms of being able to, you know, have this experience with my mom, it's wonderful.
Having that support lifted burdens for me and has made my journey much, much easier.
Shaun: Ally, first of all, thank you so much for being so supportive. And I mean, cause it's really amazing because we don't, not everyone has that. And you know, I would like to, I would like for you to talk about, you know, what it's like, what it has been like to support Beckett and learn from him over the course of the journey. And what are some of the things that you needed to understand to take your, you know, your relationship and the journey a little bit further?
Ally: Well, to begin with I respect Beckett. I admire him. I think he's just a wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, fabulous person.
Shaun: Ah, so great.
Ally: Which was unfolding since the time he was little. I basically, I think my journey with him has been a back and forth of a balancing act of wanting to support him, being scared for him. Um, recognizing that I need to learn from him, letting go of feeling like I need to protect them from the world and just trusting him and going along with his journey.
So Beck is always at least a step or two steps ahead of me. And my biggest challenge with Beck was for him to, I needed him to, bring me along. I needed to learn. I needed to let him kind of let me walk beside him a little bit so I wasn't playing catch up all the time, which made me incredibly anxious.
It was especially scary in the beginning because, um. I didn't understand anything about the hormones and I didn't know it was going to happen. I didn't know if he had researched it. I didn't like the clinic he found, you know what I mean? This is mom stuff I didn't like that he hadn't explained it to me as if, you know, he's not responsible for explaining it to me but at that point, I really thought he was.
I just needed some teaching is the way I would put it right now. So we had to find that balance because there were things that I didn't know and I would get defensive. And I'm beginning to understand more now that this whole thing of, it's not the responsibility of somebody who is trans or anything else really to educate those of us who, I guess, occupy a position of privilege in society, whether that's gender identification or race or class or whatever. Um, I'm learning as we go along here that it isn't the responsibility of others to educate me. It's my responsibility to educate myself. But this has taken a while, right?
And I, in this particular instance, felt like Beck needed to take me through the steps that he was going through which I think was probably an incredible pain in the ass for him. I told him that he had to take me to the clinic. I had to meet everybody at the clinic. This is when Beck, you were still in college then, right? Weren't you? 2014.
Beckett: Yes, I was a junior.
Ally: Right. So we're going to go down to the clinic and I wanted to get some, uh, information from everybody there. Tell me about the hormones, explain to me what's going to happen, all of this. And, and they, at the clinic, they basically said it wasn't their responsibility to explain anything to me. That Beck was of age and he could do what he wanted and they didn't exist to serve me. And that was, you know what, they were right. But it threw me into this kind of disoriented place.
Shaun: Ally had to learn that one of the best ways to support her son was to educate herself. More on that after the break.
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Shaun: Welcome back to We Are Family. I’m your host, Shaun T.
Julia: And I’m your co-host, Julia Dennison.
Shaun: Our guests today, Ally Sheedy and her son Beckett Lansbury, are sharing the story of what it’s been like for both of them to navigate Beck’s transition. When he was in college, Beck went to a clinic in New York to start taking testosterone — and that tripped off some of Ally’s protective mom alarms. She wanted to know everything about what was going to happen next.
Luckily, a staff member helped do some of the explaining that Ally needed.
Ally: The second clinic we went to was Callen-Lorde and Callen-Lorde, I have to say is really an incredible place. There was somebody there named Finn...
Shaun: The patient coordinator.
Ally: He's trans, female to male, and he was, you know, obviously deeply educated in all the issues, but he took a little time to just sit and talk with me. That was huge. I wasn't looking for a fight with Beck. I just was scared because I just didn't have enough information. I didn't know that he had a place to go where they actually knew what they were doing. Once I started to get that there was this center and they did know what they were doing, and Beck knew what he was doing, and it was OK to ask questions, it was OK to be scared. Beck got really good at bringing me along and, and giving me the information. All of that was really, really important because I didn't know what was going on. I mean, honestly, I thought I did, but I had no idea.
So I would guess as a parent, um, rather than thinking, you know everything, and you know what's best for your kid and it's, it's just important to examine your own, for me, it was important for me to examine my own thought processes. What biases I had instilled in me, what I didn't know, where I was ignorant, where I needed to learn, where I needed to get brought along.
I mean, all of those things, were just kind of inner dialogue with myself, but being able to have it shifted me over. And then I felt that I got more in harmony with Beck.
Shaun: Ally and Beckett agree that for parents, it’s on us to learn about what’s happening with our kids. Check out the available resources, do your reading, and build that trust to talk openly in the first place.
Beckett: I could list off so many resources that are out there and screaming for parents to learn, um, about trans issues and about trans kids and about the issues that are affecting trans youth. You know, learning takes time. I did have to learn to be patient with my mom. I did have to learn that there was a learning curve. There was this like earnest like want to meet in the middle and not that there was, that she was coming from a space of aggression or of, you know, of rejection. It was a space of fear and it was a space of like, I don't know what's going on. And it was, the hard part was that I didn't either, necessarily and like, as the kid, like, I had so many things to figure out for myself before being able to meet in the middle, which did, you know, did make it difficult, but like we absolutely pulled through.
Shaun: You know, a lot of times when you hear, you know, your child is gay or trans, to hear it from them could be a little bit emotional. But if you do some research and hear from a third party, it makes the parent feel like they're not alone. And I think that's, uh, something that really helps parents out there.
Ally: I did do as much research as I possibly could so I could actually know what I was talking about a little bit when I had a conversation with him, or when I spoke to a counselor or this or that. But I needed to, subjectively, I wanted to understand what exactly Beck's steps were, what exactly was going on with Beck. And I think in any situation to have your parent want to, you know, be super involved in your emotional [Laughs] development would be infuriating. Um, in this particular instance, I just needed enough information to be on the level with him when we're having a conversation. Do you know what I mean? I wanted to know.
So I can read about how hormones affect the gender transition. I can read about that. This happens, this happens, this happens, this happens. But what I want to know is, what's going on with you? You know, I really appreciate it when Beck would say things to me, like, he was experiencing anger flashes or whatever that was. I needed to know that, you know, especially if we were having a conversation about something that some of that was hormones, I would like it when, love it actually, when he would get on the phone, he would send these pictures to me of his gradual transition, like the ways that his body was changing. Um, and I would see it when I saw him, but I liked it when I could be, seeing it bit by bit.
Shaun: Beckett documented his transition online — which helped Ally understand exactly how important that journey was.
Ally: Fortunately, he actually let me go on to follow him on Instagram because, [Laughter] he posts all these pictures on Instagram and I could see all the changes, but mainly I could feel how he was settling so much into himself. This groundedness, confidence, this way of moving up in consciousness. And it was interesting to him and his life and what he, this belief that he could do what he wanted to do at work, at school, here and there. I mean, it was a huge shift. It wasn't just, you know, hormones suddenly made your torso look different. Or hair on your face. It's an emotional, sort of biochemical, a whole person transition was going on. And I appreciated that in him. I could see all of that in him, but it was really important. Listen, if you're a parent out there, step one is you got to drop your agenda on this completely.
Open up, try to educate yourself and ask your kid to bring you along step by step.
I'm just gonna say this Beck, it was an enormous thing to me that when he got the top surgery that he wanted me to come and be with him during the healing after the surgery so I could be there and feed him and like hen peck around. I wanted to have that and it meant a lot that, to me that he wanted me to be there, annoyingly, um, you know, hovering, soup and this and that, and you know, just the, just the mom stuff you do if your kid had an operation. So that, it meant a lot to me. It made me feel much more, um, woven into what was happening with him and his life.
Shaun: Beck went through the transition a little bit older, but there are some younger kids out there, and Scott and I, we sit around a table and we play with our kids or they're eating breakfast, or we have picnics inside because it's social distancing.
And sometimes we sit there and talk and we're like, hey, like, how do we handle if one of our kids comes and says, they're trans at a young age, and what do we do with younger kids who want to come out and really can express themselves at an earlier age.
Beckett: Your child knows who they are, even if they're two, even if they're three or four, it does not matter the age, your kid knows who they are.
If they're experiencing something, that is what they're experiencing. If they grow up and then their gender changes, gender is fluid, like that doesn't mean that at any point you should take any identity less seriously than another. Just as people change, people evolve and if your kid’s coming out young, it does not, that does not mean it's a phase. That means that they're telling you, this is my reality right now. Um, and, and in the moment, like, whatever that reality is their reality.
Just being there and meeting them and, you know, it's difficult, you know, just as my mom was saying like it's hard. It's scary, but like, and you know, in there is like this difference between reading online and then like, you know, having the subject be your child or somebody you know.
We don't know everything. We don't, we don't have the answers. There were questions that my mom was asking me I remember that, like, I wish I knew the answer to, you know, now I probably did have the answer to, you know, like, why did I want, you know, like, what was it about? Um, you know, the hormones that I wanted, like at the moment in time, like, I didn't know.
And it is going to continue to be a journey. Like my mom, we're still on a journey, like just, I've been trans, I've, um, then I'm hormones for five years, but like, there's always more stuff coming. There's more stuff to learn so it doesn't stop.
Shaun: Why do you feel it's important to share your story? Uh, Beckett for you as a trans person and to Ally for you as a mom of a trans person? Why do you think it’s so important to just share the story?
Beckett: I mean, I feel it's important, just so people know that these stories are happening constantly. They're happening everywhere. And like, you know, the risk factor’s not the fact that we're trans, the risk factor is the fact that society is not accepting of varying genders.
Ally: The question that came up for me is, what, what is it that's the most of paramount importance, um, is the, is what's of paramount importance to me, my relationship with Beck? Is Beck the most important thing in the world to me? Which he is? Is my, my relationship with him, the most essential thing to me? And the answer to that is yes. Then these questions of am I attached to a specific gender? Or for any parent, are you, are you attached to a specific gender? And that becomes, is that paramount to you over your relationship with your kid? Are you attached to a particular sexual orientation? Are you attached to your kid's career? Are you attached to what your kid makes you look like?
I mean, there's all these kinds of things that go on with parents that are so, so unimportant when you think about the long road and that you. At least for me, I want to have this relationship with my child. He's a blessing. He's a gift. He's the best thing that ever happened to me. I tell him that all the time. That's the most important thing in my life. All the rest of this is, can get sorted out. You know, all of them. It makes it, it makes it worth it. Going through the sorting out, and the understanding and the tensions and the hills and valleys, all of it.
You know, I couldn't be more proud of him. I just couldn't. And this is, you know, he is, he is himself, and he does what he does. And he's wonderful at his work and I admire him and respect him. Um, everything else kind of falls around that particular shape, if that makes sense.
Shaun: I love it. Well, thank you all both so much. I appreciate both of you coming on and sharing this experience and being so transparent and just being a force of positivity for people out there who may, you know, maybe have a little fear of what's happening with their child. Or how to, you know, come to their parent and express themselves and what they're going through.
Ally: Thank you so much. Thank you. It's an honor being with you on this podcast, honestly.
Beckett: Absolutely, thank you
Julia: Wow! Shaun, I’m so impressed by Ally and Beckett — I want to have a relationship like that with my kid when she grows up.
Shaun: Me too, Julia. I’m gonna be texting Ally for parenting advice when the twins are teenagers because it’s clear she’s been doing something right.
Shaun: And that’s all for this episode. I’m Shaun T.
Julia: And I’m Julia Dennison. Next week, we’re going to hear more about Shaun and Scott’s path to parenthood, and talk to their surrogate, Ashley. It’s going to be a great conversation, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.
Shaun: And we’ll catch you next time on We Are Family.
Julia: Thanks to our production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, Susie Armitage, and Lene Bech Sillisen. This show was recorded in New York and Arizona, edited in New York City, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
Julia: Can you say Happy Pride?
Ezzie: Happy pride, happy pride, happy pride [sings]