I’m pretty confident in my guess that my child is a boy. Most babies assigned the male gender at birth are. The odds suggest my child is a cis boy and probably straight, not because those are more natural but because they are more common. But part of my job as a parent is to keep an open mind, to let my child grow and change and tell me who he is. So while it’s likely my son is exactly who I think he is, I need to give him space and opportunity to tell me otherwise if I am wrong.
So far each time I’ve asked he’s said he was a boy, but I do ask. Once or twice a year I remind him of transgender friends we have or celebrities we know, and we talk about how parents can be wrong about their child’s true gender. I never tell him that a trans girl “used to be a boy”. Instead I tell him that people “used to think she was a boy, but they were wrong”.
As a lesbian mother, a gay child would be easy to accept. I was a founding member of my high school chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance back in the 1990s. I frequented a lesbian-owned coffee house throughout my teens and twenties, where I read feminist and queer literature from the bookshelves lining the walls. In some ways, despite my tendency to date men through my twenties, I’ve been part of the queer community for more than half my life. I could help a gay child find community and help them navigate the subculture. I know gay.
But transgender and transsexual issues are not so familiar to me. I have trans friends and have for years, but I am not a part of them. I’m not one of them. I don’t belong to the community and while I try to be a good ally, I know I couldn’t help a trans child as much as I could help a gay one. (And of course, one can be trans and gay at the same time.)
If my child comes to me one day and tells me I’ve been wrong about his gender all this time, I will adjust. I will do the best I can. I will struggle with new terms and ideas, but I will prioritize that learning for the sake of my child. I will find peer groups for my child and parent groups for myself, and learn how to be the best mother of a trans daughter I could be.
If my child is queer, I will do everything I can to make sure my child knows I love them, accept them, and want them to be happy. If my child is queer, I will fight for them and all their rights and needs, including freedom from violence and whatever medical care might be appropriate. If my child is queer, I will make sure they have queer friends and don’t feel alone. If my child is queer, I will remind them that I am queer and that queer is okay. If my child is queer, I won’t consider that a failure on his behalf or mine. If my child is queer, they won’t be thrown on the streets for being honest with me.
Since the days when I was a young queer teen, the average age of “coming out” to parents has dropped dramatically, from just after college graduation (24-25) to during high school (15-16). As a result, more queer kids than ever are dealing with homelessness and abandonment. “It gets better” but only if adults make it better for queer kids. So I want all the parents and potential future parents reading this to make a vow.
“If my child is queer, I will love them, house them, feed them, and care for them. That is my JOB.”