After the Atlantic published a cover story by Jesse Singal Monday entitled “When Children Say They’re Trans,” I received an email from Caroline Kitchener, an associate editor at the magazine. It read, in part:
I’m looking for parents of trans or gender non-binary kids to respond to our latest cover story. Much of the piece reads almost like a letter to this group—of which I know you’re a part—and we’d like to start a thoughtful, productive conversation around it. I read your great essay in the Detroit Free Press, and am wondering if you might want to participate: What does Jesse get right in the piece, and what does he get wrong? What could be the potential implications of a piece like this? Continue reading
Thank you, Detroit Free Press, for publishing my opinion piece online today (and in the print edition Sunday, 6/3): I am the parent of a non-binary child. And thank you to editor Jewel Gopwani for recognizing the importance of this issue and asking me to modify the original blog post for a wider audience. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Yesterday I received a comment on my post, On Parenting and Pronouns, that I want to share, reflect on and, ultimately, argue against.
Here’s the comment:
There has to be a better way. Using they is too confusing. You are not communicating. My solution: don’t use pronouns at all. To the waitress: I’ll take a coffee, but my partner won’t. Is Scooby upstairs? Tell Scooby dinner is in 10 minutes. Yeah it is awkward, but not more awkward than “they” and is miraculously clear.
Maybe English will develop a gender neutral pronoun. Until then, find a way to make a gender neutral person comfortable AND communicate without confusion to that person and all others. I spent my career in corporate communications and when this came up successfully eliminated hurtful pronouns and wrote text that communicated. No, a crowd is not coming downstairs for dinner.
Here’s my response: Continue reading
We like to ask, “What can I do for you?”
Frequently the answer is, “Nothing… but thanks for asking.”
How can this be? If I am sick or lonely or sad, and you ask what I need, shouldn’t I speak up?
A gallon of milk.
A basket of laundry, clean and folded.
We answer, “Nothing, thank you,” because we don’t know what we need, or what we need is too much, or we can’t imagine how we would ask for the thing we need.
You didn’t even ask what I need, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I need something big. Continue reading
If you spend any time with me at all, I will talk about my children. I will tell you about Josh’s latest cooking adventures, about Sammy’s internship and about Miriam’s plans to move to California.
And I will correct your pronouns.
My oldest is non-binary – neither male nor female – despite appearances, name and everything you think you know about them.
We have learned to refer to them with the pronouns they, them and their, which, I will admit, makes for some awkward sentences, but the underlying issue is one of identity. As a parent and ally, I can learn to live with (and eventually even let go of) this discomfort. For my child, being mis-gendered (or mistaken for the wrong gender) is a daily occurrence, and it hurts.
The essay I have been looking for either hasn’t been written, hasn’t been published, or is hidden beyond my search engine’s reach. I have been composing it in my head for months, but now I can write the first draft, because Friday my child came out to the world.
The essay I’m not done writing is about becoming the parent of a queer, non-binary, young adult child. I say becoming because until my eldest came out, I told myself I had a daughter. Now I am getting used to the idea of having a non-binary child. And while that distinction may seem merely a clumsy trick of the English language, the implications run deep. More on that another time.
My husband and I are experiencing something that is both utterly unique and increasingly common. Here’s a peek into the types of conversations I’ve had during the last year with well-meaning relatives and friends. Continue reading