It has been a rough few weeks trying to grow whole, kind, thoughtful, decent human beings who make good choices because it’s the right choice, not just because someone told them to. And I’m doing it at my emotional lowest. I have so little right now in terms of effort, energy, or motivation.
My youngest is non binary. We began the back-to-school chaos today. This began with clothes and ended with a new haircut. All things directly related to their blooming identity. During our much needed and deserved midday sustenance recharge, we sat and chatted in the car over lunch. They admitted feeling a bit “weird” talking to me about their gender identity, gender confusion, and all around peer opinions on the topic. We discussed the difference between gender identity and sexuality. They are about to turn 12 and I felt it was a pretty reasonable conversation. My kid feels like any pronoun “fits” them with the exception of “she/her”. We discussed their view on being called “daughter” and they decided the only old reference that will stick is “Tito’s Mom”. Other than that, it’s “anything BUT she”. The references made in one’s life in terms of their long haired chihuahua are monumental, people.
Then we chatted about friends and where they’re at and what they’ve all discussed together. The subject of “bisexual” and “pansexual” came up. They like to feel the need to describe and define these terms for me, despite knowing I already have had endless convos with my son who is a 16 year old gay boy. So I told my youngest that sexuality is different than gender identity. They didn’t understand the difference. “Gender identity is how you yourself feel about your own gender. Sexuality are the feelings of wanting to kiss and cuddle and eventually have sex.” “OooOOOohhhh. Ewe.”
So we continued and I told them that sexuality is not something that is on a schedule to be declared right now. Just because they are getting more comfortable with labels, there is absolutely nothing saying they need to declare anything about their sexuality right now. Hormones literally just began trickling into their body. Their frontal lobe has not and will not be fully developed for thirteen more years. There is NO rush. I told them I myself did not even fully understand what sexuality was when I was in high school. I knew what it was, but it did not necessarily occur to me that it was happening around me. (I went to a Catholic High School and know there was all kinds of horizontal mambo happening, but didn’t at the time) They seemed relieved after talking about it, but made sure to throw in a few “it’s weird talking about this”s. We defined that idea a little more and it seems it is just strange to say out loud some of the things that had been rattling around only in their head for what has felt like a long time.
It was a great conversation, and one of those things that only happens when the planets align, no one is hangry, and there is just the right ratio of quiet opportunity, comfort, and bravery.
The day concluded with a new haircut to help fit the comfort level on the inside of their head. We found an ambiguous hair style that was shorter than they are used to. I bit the bullet and opted to take them to my fancy stylist and not a chop shop. (Hair Masters, Supercuts, etc) The price tag was worth the professionalism, the coaching, and most of all the use of the correct pronouns without any fuss or explanation. The angel stylist just rolled with what she had already heard us saying, asked if that was preferred after I had already left to go sit down, and just did her thing.
It was hard sitting there watching my youngest start making their own decisions. Decisions I would not have necessarily made for them, but they were still the right ones. At 11, who am I to dictate how they can have their hair? If they are old enough to have an opinion about it, they are old enough to decide how to have it feel good when they look in a mirror every day. Being a female passing human in this world is hard enough. There are SO many opinions based on your looks and how you present yourself to society. The earlier we understand our power and what we control, the more practiced we will be at it when it is inevitably challenged.
This path is not an easy one. Considering I am doing most of it alone makes it even more difficult sometimes. I know it’s the right thing because I have to earn it. The chat I had with my kid today did not happen because I forced it. It didn’t happen because I tell them “I know better!” or “you just don’t understand yourself yet.”
I know this topic makes people uncomfortable. That’s ok. Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad, it just means you have a space to ask questions and an opportunity to understand a different perspective in the world. As a parent, do I have to be right about it all or know better? Absolutely not. It just means I am willing to listen and learn and admit that I have space to grow. Showing my kids that I’m willing to figure this out the best I can is tangible evidence of unconditional love. I don’t only love them because of their gender. I don’t only love them if they conform. I don’t only love them if they make ME comfortable.
I love them simply because they are my humans. No matter what.