My eldest child came home from school yesterday as I was folding laundry and zoning out to a documentary sort of thing on the Hindenburg.
I have seldom had my hand shaken by the Big Kid since the days of teaching the skill, so I was quite surprised to receive a firm handshake, accompanied by the words, “Hello. My name is [slightly altered spelling of a plant]. My chosen pronouns are they/them/their.”
I can’t say I was surprised, at least not completely. They (I do have trouble using a plural pronoun for a singular person, and would much preferred they had chosen “ze” or “xe”, but it wasn’t up to me) have several alternately-gendered, or non-binary, friends, as well as a few LBGT pals. They’ve been going to their school’s GSA meetings. This is not completely out of the blue, but, that said, I was still not quite as prepared as I thought I would have been.
One of the shockers for me has been/is all the questions that arise in finding out exactly what their coming out means. Are they trans*? Gay? Pan? Do they plan to pursue transition? Are they interested in others in a sexual/romantic way at all?
Not all the questions have been asked or answered. Some of the answers are unknown, and not pressing, of course, in these early days of youth. We humans do like to classify and pigeon-hole, though!
Another set of questions surround the coming out process itself. Their school has a procedure, which I did not know until yesterday. Apparently, the kid’s guidance counselor sends out an explanatory email to all the teachers explaining the gender/pronoun/name thing once the young person has come out to close family. Then, the teachers are supposed to use the person’s chosen name and pronouns. (At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old person, that never would have been the case in my day. I think today’s way is better.)
While discussing all this, I asked if they had been worried that I would not be accepting. I was delighted that they said they knew I would be okay about it, and would support them no matter what. (Score many parent points!) It was still scary, though, according to them. (Of course it was!) I told them that I was proud they came out and that I thought they were brave to have taken the risk. Also, that I would and did love them no matter what.
They have not yet come out to my husband or their grandmas, aunts, uncles, or other extended family. They indicated that they would like my support when they come out to my spouse, and I am happy to be there for them. (Plus, and this should be obvious, I wouldn’t miss it for the world… It should be an interesting conversation, to say the least!) I know that my esteemed spouse will be fine about it fairly quickly. The grandmas? Well, they will be mightily confused. That also might be worth the price of admission.
I do not anticipate being perfect at the altered pronouns and name right away. I don’t think it’s necessary to be perfect about it, as long as I try. And there is, inevitably, some sadness and mourning for the girl I had, since it’s impossible to be completely sanguine over what feels a little like a rejection of the identity they once had. Of course, it isn’t really. They are the person they’be always been. It will take a little settling time, I think, and then it will become the new normal.
Really, this “change” is an outgrowth, in part, of the acceptance we have tried to cultivate. That’s a good thing.