What? What the hell is that? What is wrong with kids these days? Can’t they just pick a gender? Why do they have to make everything so complicated?! If it was my kid …

So it is. It is my kid. Now what?

This isn’t a place you expect to be. I never thought i’d be here with my kid after more than a decade of dressing them, helping them with their hair, arguing about how their hair should be, enforcing the ‘brush or cut it’ rule. But we are here now.

When my son came out to me a year and a half ago, I went through a lot of emotions, the first of which was love and acceptance. The next phase of “now what” was a little trickier. When I was figuring out our new normal, I joined a FB group for parents of LGBTQ kids. I was exposed to so many different kinds of families and acceptance stories and scenarios I’m sure not one parent ever expected to be in. I read about much more tricky realities than my own. I read daily about struggle and heart break some of these parents were going through and it put my little world in perspective. I would accept and take on my son’s gay declaration over a trans kid who self harms despite all the love and support possible from one or both parents because the world can be a shitty place.

More than once I had to turn off the posts because I was getting overwhelmed thinking about these families.

One thing that always came up in my own head and in discussions with family or friends was the whole “non-binary” option. It seemed foreign and kind of silly, if I’m being honest. Like really? Pick a gender. How hard could it be?!

Then my 11 year old tells me recently that they want to use they/them pronouns.

“Really?” “Yes.” – and this transitioned into a longer conversation and it was spread out over months. (Evidently this also meant by default that they are non-binary)

Are they sure? I have no idea. They are sure as of this moment.
Do I think there is an aspect of wanting to be part of their brother’s LGBTQ identity? Likely.
Have I had to go back and re-type the correct pronouns? 100%. More than once.
Is this something I am going to allow? Yes. My kids are individuals. They are not mine to control. Can I guide them? Yes, and I will, but ultimately it is their life.

Here’s what I do know:
1. It’s ok for me to change my mind. Meaning I was judgmental before out of ignorance and not knowing more about it. It’s ok to inform myself and have a change of heart about where I stand on the matter.
2. If i’m supporting my son who is gay, I will not draw a line and become unaccepting of another kid because they check a different box.
3. My kids do not owe me their lives. I chose to have my kids, therefore I gave them life. Not life “if” you do [x, y, and z]. Not, “I will only respect you if you do the things I {did not get to do in my own life, so I force you to do them}. Or “You are only accepted by me if you stay in the box I have put you into, and only follow the expectations I have established for your life.”
4. It does make me uncomfortable. I do question inside my own head what their real reason for doing this might be
5. I know that if I’m supportive and accepting of this declaration, if they change their mind later, it will be that much easier to do so without fear of a parent telling them “I told you so” about their own heart. And I am not expecting them to change their mind, but it needs to be open to the possibility.
6. Being an ally does not mean “I’m an ally ONLY to homosexuals, but not transgender or nonbinary.” An ally is an ally.

None of this is simple or easy or uncomplicated. I do have my own opinions about it. It was not an automatic flow that began the minute they established their identity. It was questioning calls to friends, it was conversations to blow off steam, it was selfilsh concern for my own comforts, and it was conversations with my son, their brother. There was struggle and there still sometimes is. That’s ok. I’m human!

My first reaction will not be judgmental, however. I do all of the above away from them. I have to process away from whichever kid is giving me giant news. They will get enough judgment outside of our home. I ask questions. I want to know their feelings about it. I want them to be prepared for the outside world and their judgments. They know it wont be something that will switch over at the snap of the fingers. Using one pronoun for twelve years is not an easily changed habit. (we have known their gender since they were in my belly)

I know that my expectation of my children is to not go forth as long as it’s how I envisioned their lives. I know that when I said “You can be anything you want to be” I didn’t have conditions on that. When we read children’s books to our kids that teach: “Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.” and “today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you!”

When the kid turns out not to fit a mold of what you expected, does none of that matter anymore? Does it make for some uncomfortable conversations? Indeed. But you know what? I can handle uncomfortable. I can do hard things. If my kid is willing to walk through life declaring their truth as something that not everyone is going to understand, I will support them. If my kid has the courage to be themself regardless of what others think, I can handle parenting them. I’m not the one doing the hard thing, they are.

Please allow yourself space to accept. If you don’t understand something, just ask respectfully. None of this is easy, but I definitely have the easy end of it. I’m a cis white female married to a cis white man. Our struggles don’t come close to what a lot of LGBTQ folks have to deal with all. the. time. Allow yourself the opportunity to become aware of something you didn’t think you had to consider before. I’ll tell you a secret here; my son who is gay and has a boyfriend and is embedded in a strong LGBTQ social group at school with trans friends, non binary friends, etc etc is unsure of his sibling’s situation. He’s struggling with it. And that’s ok. He is still supporting them.

Accepting someone else’s situation does not mean you have no concerns or anxiety about it yourself. It’s simply, “I respect you enough to acknowledge your truth without judging you for it.” And that’s it. They are not trying to indoctrinate you or convince you to live their life. They are simply asking you to acknowledge that their life is also valid.

A big ask right now is to stop assuming when you see a flag, or you hear someone talking about their LGBTQ kid, it’s for attention. It isn’t to convince you of anything. It isn’t to trick you or to turn you gay. No one is asking for a vote here. I am simply speaking truthfully about my life and my normal. I am not asking your permission for my kid to exist. My kid is not asking permission for you to allow them to be who they are. I’m not looking for permission, i’m expecting respect. If you hear me talking about my family, it’s because having amazing friends that support my family helps me be more comfortable accepting my kids. If I am at work and talking about my children, one of the reasons is because i KNOW there are other parents who are not accepting of their kids. I KNOW there are other adults who are unsure or don’t understand someone in their own family. If I can show them how saying the words, “My kid is nonbinary.” looks. I did not spontaneously combust. I didn’t follow it up with an eye roll and negative comment. I didn’t put them down.

At the end of the day, it’s just a pronoun. My child is not asking me to vote for a Republican, or to tell them more about the KKK. My child is simply asking to respect a pronoun change. There are much harder and scarier things they could be asking.

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