Parent of Gender-Nonconforming Child Speaks Out

Over the past 24 hours I have been able to observe and contribute to discussions carried on about my post “Where, oh, where are the queer children?” Some readers suggested that I am overreaching that my daughter is gay or that I am reading her behavior with some wish for a gay child. Fortunately, the bulk of the readers recounted their own stories of being 4, 5, and 6 and having a first gay crush. Most of those who told such stories recounted that they just didn’t have the concepts or the language to describe how they felt.

The dialogue that has started is exactly what I hoped it would be – people contemplating and raising awareness that kids are coming out earlier than ever before. It is vital to know that these kids exist and need their own support.

Save Your Two Cents

Nevertheless, I would like to convey is that until you are in the shoes of a parent whose child does not fit society’s notion of “appropriate” it’s probably better to default to grandma’s old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Writer and mother Sarah Hoffman’s column today on the Gay Voices page of the Huffington Post addresses comments made by Fox News’s on-air psychiatrist Keith Ablow about a transgendered child and his belief that her parents are failing her and in fact may be unduly influencing her desire to be Tammy, not Thomas. In “Keith Ablow: Until You Have a Gender-Nonconforming Child, Stop Condemning Those Who Do” Hoffman describes her own life as a mom of a gender-nonconforming child and reveals:

that when you have a child who defies expectations, you find yourself making choices you never thought you’d have to make.

Parents, most parents at least, love their children deeply and want the very best for them. What’s best for an individual child may take many forms and be decided under extreme cultural pressure. Yet parents nurture children, sacrifice for them so they have every opportunity and live the healthiest, happiest, and safest life possible. Why would any parent choose to forge an identity for their child that would put them at odds with society and expose them to prejudice and danger?

Hoffman goes on to say:

A bigger mystery is why Ablow thinks any parent would want their child to be different in this way. Parents like Tammy’s are demonized; children like Tammy are ostracized and bullied. The notion that parents would try to make their children targets galls many parents.

She touches on two points here. First, most parents are floored to be accused of crafting their child’s identity so they are singled out for ridicule and aggression. Secondly, when children are very young the parents bear much of the brunt of the prejudice. C.J.’s mom at Raising My Rainbow recounts many stories about all kinds of strangers weighing in on her son’s gender-nonconforming clothing or toy choices and her parental failings.

Out in Front

The parents of a child who is gender-nonconforming, transgendered, or vocally outspoken about their lgb identity endure scrutiny, disdain, and outsiders telling them how they are failing as a parent. As a parent I want to be on the front line. I want people to question me or criticize me, because I don’t want my daughter questioned about her identity. I want her to enjoy being a little girl without being harassed for being who she is.

Raising kids is hard enough without bigoted strangers offering ignorant opinions about how to parent our kids.


2 Comments on “Parent of Gender-Nonconforming Child Speaks Out”

  1. It doesn’t matter what age they are, as a parent you always want to protect your child from harm. I have to say that I admire you as a parent and as an advocate for your child. The more I talk to kids all over the world, many still firmly in the closet, the more I understand that this discussion is the most important one.

    So many kids are currently sitting in homes and schools around the world hearing only negative messages about something that is core to their very existence. This message that their very own parents are effectively giving them is that they are bad, evil, disgusting, going to hell. They hear that God doesn’t love them and that they will never be accepted by society. My challenge to parents out there is this – next time you are talking in front of your child or any child, imagine replacing the word “gay/queer/lesbian/etc” with *you*. Some examples of things I have heard myself. “You are going to hell”. “You should be taken out and shot”. “You are disgusting and evil and god hates you”. Imagine your child hearing these messages day in and day out. This is why there is such a high percentage of LGBT youth with depression, self harming tendencies and suicide.

    Raising Queer Kids Mum – you are the answer. Creating this dialogue is hard, it’s difficult, it’s draining, but it is SO necessary. Education is the key, discussion is the tool, and we are the answer. Stand strong – you are loved and supported.

    • Queer Kid's Mom says:

      Thanks so much. You are the answer too – you are there to give MamaLove to all those who need a dose. That is so very important. In fact, you have made an well-founded observation, kids who are denied love and abused by their parents for being gay kill themselves at a much higher rate.

      Even if we can’t change the parents it is so important to make sure kids know that there are other adults who will support them and nurture them just the way they are. News of some of these suicides and “It Gets Better” videos have filtered down to my daughter and it has her distressed. Rightly so. I then became worried that she would think that being gay and being suicidally depressed where inextricably bound.

      I said as much, and she replied “I know they don’t always go together. I’m gay and I’m happy.” Then I reminded her that your son came out in high school, managed to navigate it as well as anybody (i.e. not without some unhappiness, but okay overall), and has turned out to be an amazing, sensitive, smart, gorgeous man.

      I love this: “Education is the key, discussion is the tool, and we are the answer.” You are wise. Thanks for your constant love and support. Right back attcha!


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