Today is National Coming Out Day. I didn't even know that was a thing, until I saw it posted on Facebook this morning and went to Google it. As a parent I've tried to be so careful; so deliberately woke, but, like the term 'woke', I'm watered down.
When my kids were little, I consciously referred to their future partners as a genderless "they", or "he or she". I wasn't very familiar with trans culture at the time, and my only gender-defying parenting feats were to encourage them to play with all manner of toys, and to dress themselves in every colour, and every style of clothing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have encouraged them to choose their own pronouns, too. Some brave souls are raising kids that way, now. And in 2016 the province of Alberta presented schools with guidelines for allowing students to choose and live by their own preferred pronouns. Amazingly (or not, when you consider the culture we live in), both of my kids subscribed to gender stereotypes from very early ages, and defined themselves as cis-straight. I defied - just in case - and kept telling them that was fine, but that I would love them and their partners no matter what genders or pronouns they may happen to use. I wanted to be sure that there was never a day when my kids questioned their sexuality or gender, and didn't feel safe talking about it. I didn't just wait for the conversations, I started them.
my trans cousin committed suicide just after Trump was elected, I
started even more conversations. Can you imagine knowing that your
cousin felt so unwelcome in society that he no longer wanted to live,
and then perhaps discovering you might be similarly different from the
norm? I don't know what my kids' place on the spectrum of gender and
sexuality is, and they had only met our cousin once, but I needed them
to know that they had a safe space; that their feelings would always be
valid, even if they change, and even if they don't want to talk about
them. The necessity of being an accepting parent became deeper and more
desperate for me.We attended Pride like it was our special family
party, having finally had a taste of the loss from which pride is
cultivated; the ashes from which humanity is trying to rise.
When my kids were little I was told that if I didn't help them identify as cis and straight, I was damaging their sense of self-worth, messing with their identity, and setting them up for bullying. Those comments terrified me, because what I'm trying to do is the opposite. But I carry on anyway, because you know what really damages kids' self-worth? Feeling like they're not acceptable to their own parents. All kids are potentially going to question their sexuality or gender. Everybody should question those things, just so we can know ourselves and live our best lives, with open eyes. If we want our potentially-LGBTQ kids to feel self-worth, we need to openly accept and advocate for LGBTQ people in our community, so they can see people they may or may not identify with, and feel safe around them. Even if our kids are consistently cis-gendered and straight, they need to know that it's normal not to be, as well. They need to have no fear about identity, love, or their belonging in community. So no, I'm not messing with their identity - I'm refraining from messing with their identity. Because it's theirs to determine. Not mine.
is scary. I'm telling you, as the girl who knelt, eating weiners off
the floor, being kicked by my classmates, while my teacher stood at the
font of the room looking through her papers. You know what I did when
they stopped? I went outside and I told a younger kid that I'd magically
turn her into a frog if she didn't give me the swing. She ran away
crying, and I took that swing and my pride and rode it all the way
through recess. I felt terrible about becoming a bully, myself, and it's
what makes me so determined to raise children who feel secure enough to
be neither victims nor perpetrators. Fear is what makes bullies.
Fear is what makes victims. The only way to give our kids a ticket out
of this dynamic is to make sure they know they're safe in who they are;
that they can always come home to a pair of loving, accepting arms. No