There is beauty in accepting our transgender, non-binary, or gender fluid children (TNBY). Here you are, your child has shared their authenticity with you, and you have chosen to take the red pill. Having been jettisoned outside of the Matrix, outside of the gender binary, you can no longer see the world as you did before. You are learning how to navigate and protect your child, to shield them from the harsh, dangerous reality of the world as it is. As Morpheus says, “after this, there is no turning back, you take the blue pill, the story ends, and you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Welcome to Wonderland.
Now what? Whether you choose face-to-face meetings, email, FaceBook announcements, text messages, or phone calls, it is a very vulnerable, potentially volatile conversation to have. I am not here to advise you about the best option. Each of us must determine who we tell, how we tell, and at what point we draw boundaries in the best interest of our child and family. I do want to note that no matter how you choose to share, this must be a child-led process. Revealing your child’s identity, sharing their story, prior to them being ready, is harmful. Don’t do it.
When my daughter shared her story with me in November of 2015, she did not want anyone to know. Testing the waters with one adult is common. It did not take long until she was ready for our immediate family (literally her father and two brothers) to change pronouns and become a sister. Little by little, she was ready for more intimate friends and family to learn the truth. As we danced through those delicate waters, I remember distinct points in time when people either surprised or disappointed me.
Survey 20 proud parents of TNBY kids about their story of sharing their child’s authenticity, and their steadfast love and support, and you will find we all have tragedies and triumphs. We have lost friendships, parental support from grandparents, people have just stopped being available to get together or talk on the phone. Those that fall away without a fight are sometimes surprising and sad. We also have those who purport to support us for a while. Then they suddenly turn, sometimes violently, several years into the process.
I challenge my fellow parents to stop fighting to change those who do not support our children and families. To see the marvelous beauty in accepting our TBNY children. For me, it used to be difficult to draw firm boundaries. Being the proud mother of this precious child, who I was entrusted to shepherd into the world, has made that process quite a bit easier, I have to admit. When I was a new parent, I found myself drawn toward people-pleasing, especially to my elders. I am no longer the same parent I was in November 2015.
If you are struggling with extended family acceptance, I want to challenge you to reframe your paradigm. Here are some thoughts I want you to consider:
- We are an incredibly privileged group of parents. As I mentioned in my post, The Grief Narrative and Our Transgender Children, “you are part of a special group to which 79% of families don’t have access. How lucky are we that we are granted access to the most private, core part of their being- their identity? Let that sit for a moment. The HRC’s Youth Behavioral Risk Survey shows that only 21% of lgbtq teens have shared their identity with their family and a mere 6% disclose to grandparents. ~HRC 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.
- We have an amazing community, and I am so glad you are part of mine. As I mentioned above, once you leave the Matrix you cannot unsee it. It is refreshing and empowering to hear the stories of fellow affirming parents. Whether I attend family camp at Camp Aranu’tiq or I see a trans-inclusive Pride flag on the back of a minivan in the mountains of Colorado. Elated, I knock on your window while you are in reverse (you know who you are), a friendship is born. We have an incredible community.
- Modeling unconditional love is a gift to our children and to ourselves. Choosing to love, even when we do not understand, is a common thread running through proud parents of TNBY children. Having seen the world through cis-normative eyes, I must seek to understand my privilege. When parents look to network and educate themselves, they grow as parents. They become advocates who carry that perspective into the world.
- When life gets tough, and it will, we have each other’s backs. Recently my daughter had a particularly hard day with dysphoria. I immediately messaged her best friend’s mother. Despite living in Peru, our girls were virtually together within five minutes. While all of this was happening my tight-nit friends who live closer jumped into action, formulating a plan for bringing everyone together in person. The time I have spent seeking and creating community is invaluable. I have authentic relationships with people who love our family unconditionally.
At the end of the day, I try to leave room for people to grow. To learn the error of their judgment about my child and/or my parenting. To let them see that there is beauty in accepting our TNBY children. However, I will not waste anxiety, sadness, or time trying to convince anyone of their error, not even for blood relatives. Instead, I choose to live in the light. The red pill has allowed me to see the beauty outside of the gender binary. I was scared when I started this journey. Six years later I wouldn’t have it any other way. She is unapologetically her authentic self, and I am unapologetically her proud mother.