“How do you feel when your daddies call you a boy?”
The world froze for a moment, I stared at my 3 year old. Our 3 year old had been saying they were not a boy and not a girl for a few months now, but I had thought/hoped maybe it was a game, it didn’t really matter, we still had time before gender became A Thing. “Sad.” I was struck by my own hubris, hoping that if we’d raised a child without limits the words wouldn’t matter for at least a few more years. I wondered what the hell gender is that a 3 year old can have dysphoria despite full freedom to wear and act and play. I thank my lucky stars that we still haven’t seen physical dysphoria. So many voices ran through my head, speaking out in pain and fear. Statistics on depression and joblessness and suicide. Parents who got CPS called on them for allowing a transgender child to be themself.
The world started again.
I apologized. I promised we’d stop. My kid went back to playing.
6 years ago now, I wrote an open letter to parents of gender diverse kids. It generated some response, including a few people pointing out that I wasn’t a parent. Well, I am a parent now. I’ve been a parent for 4 years. I’m the parent of a vocally non-cisgender child as well. And I’ve read over that post a few times with my evolving viewpoint.
I smile sadly and shake my head, knowing that my self from 6 years ago would be rolling their eyes at me.
I’m glad that I wrote it before having kids, I don’t think I would have been as harsh now. That would have been a disservice. It needs to be harsh. It needs to make you think. It needs to make your stomach squirm.
I now have far more sympathy for how complicated and difficult parenting can be, yes. I also believe even more strongly that parents can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to gender creative, gender variant, gender diverse, transgender kids.
We have to question ourselves, we have to face our discomfort and fear.
I am scared for my child, and I’m also worried for myself. I worry what people will think of me. I squirm with uncertainty, not wanting to be seen as pushing my lifestyle on my kid. Sometimes I wish my child were normal. Sometimes I wish my kid could just be a trans girl instead of “a kid”. Our kid asked to wear a skirt to school one day and my partner and I both breathed a sigh of relief that we honestly couldn’t find the skirt. Neither of us were ready for that. But our kid was.
I hope that sharing this will bring a bit of solace to any parents reading this. Because this can be tough. Those feelings can come up in anyone, and it’s important to recognize them and honor where they’re coming from. But those feelings? They’re me problems. I have to work (actively, with difficulty) not to let those feelings control how I act towards my child.
We have to be brave enough to conquer our own discomfort and pain and fear. And when queer, transgender, gender variant adults tell us that what we’re doing doesn’t work- we need to listen.
We don’t need to take it as 100% fact. We need to listen. We need to look at what we’re doing and question it. Can we be doing better? Are we letting our own preconceived notions, our own fear, our own ego blind us to our child’s needs? Sometimes, the answer to that will be “yes”.