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Five Examples of Being an Affirming Parent

Today we are going to look at five examples of being an affirming parent.

I am sure you have heard the phrase “performative ally.” So, what does it mean to be a performative ally? Technically speaking a performative ally is just as it sounds, a person, company, or organization that makes it appear that they are supporting a group but in practice does not. A good example of this is a person who professes, “well, I have a gay friend” but does not advocate for equal protection or access. On a corporate level, an example would be a company that sells rainbow apparel during June, but funds homophobic or transphobic campaigns or organizations. Or even tolerates discriminatory words or practices within their organization.

As a parent, I have had an issue being called an ally. Call me arrogant but as the mother of a transgender child, I struggle to be in a category with people who just show up for a parade in June or show up to support a person’s wedding. Parenting a transgender child is much more than rainbows and flags.

Here are five examples of being an affirming parent

  1. Being an affirming parent means putting aside the binary worldview in which you were likely raised. It means believing your child. Whether that child is 5 or 15 or 55, it means leaning into letting go of the belief that you know better than your child. It means believing them when they share their identity.
  2. Affirming parents place appropriate boundaries around their children and families. Sometimes even to the exclusion of those closest to us. We do not allow our children to be deadnamed, or misgendered. Or verbal abuse by those who claim to love them.
  3. We recognize that being cis grants us the privilege and access that our transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid children, family, and community do not have. Because of our privilege, it is incumbent upon us to LISTEN more than talk. Listening to the needs, stories, and perspectives of our marginalized children is essential. Seeking relationships with transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid people to learn how to be a better parent is also part of my “must do.”
  4. Some parents advocate by visiting Congress and speaking to Representatives about TNBY issues, but this isn’t the only kind of advocating we must do. We need to show up at school and ensure safety and affirmation. Doctors’ offices, identification, and even dealing with peer relationships and neighbors. We need to lean into courageous conversations, so our kids are exposed to negativity less.
  5. Seeking out peer relationships. I know I speak about Camp Aranu’tiq frequently, and for good reason. Attending family camp when our daughter was early in transition gave us a tremendous support network. Now the kids all go camping together and have friendships outside of our parent groups. Kids need peer groups where they feel seen. As we run into puberty, we discuss ways for the kids to come together to mentor each other. To talk through hard topics.

Dr. Yaba Blay introduced me to the concept of “accomplice.” “The word accomplice is an adjective but also a verb because it requires movement that is present in real-time.” To be an accomplice, “there can be no concern for your reputation, what your friends and family may think, or even what your co-workers may assume about you. Sign up to be an agent of change- by any means necessary.” This is an accomplice according to Dr. Blay. An ally can put it back up on the shelf for another day. You check the box and do the work. As a parent and accomplice, there is always more to do. Moving the needle is more important than the comfort we used to know. Ensuring a better future for our children is paramount.

So, here are my five examples of being an affirming parent. My readers, are you an ally or an accomplice? Tell me what you are doing to move the needle.