In early spring of 2021, my youngest came to me to let me know their preferred pronouns were they/them. It was the end of their senior year of high school, in the middle of the global pandemic, and was the last thing I expected to hear. It wasn’t shared too much with others, mostly because we weren’t seeing other people due to lock-down, and because not everyone in my family was a safe person to be around when it comes to this matter.
My oldest would call me out all the time, because while I tried my best to use the preferred pronouns while my youngest was around, the inner grammar nerd had a hard time using those pronouns in “proper conversations”. I was more likely to catch myself if I was writing something, since I could see my error, but in conversation, it just was easier to not use them, and lazier, and harmful to my child, because I wasn’t taking their choice seriously.
After graduation, my youngest proceeded to dye their hair electric blue and prepare for college. They were going into an art major, it didn’t bother me, and they were almost 18. Since they were also almost 18, they began to talk to me about how they were interested in hormone blockers and were scheduling an appointment with a local clinic to discuss it. The appointment came after their 18th birthday, so even though I was the one with the insurance card, I wasn’t allowed to attend and ask any questions or see what the options were. And I got cryptic answers from them once we got home. The hardest was they said I wasn’t a safe person because my emotions get in the way of me being able to hear what they need. I had to take that one up with a lot of my community, the last thing I want is my kids to not feel safe around me. I had enough of that in my own family of origin, I don’t want it to carry over to the next generation.
National coming out day – Oct 11, 2021, my oldest called me and asked if I’d seen the Facebook post. My youngest posted, in a very “militant way”, she is a bi-sexual trans female, and if anyone had a problem, they could unfollow her. She shared her NewName. None of my family commented or reached out to me. Our supportive friends did react on the post, and some commented their congratulations for her. My recovery friends reached out to me, let me know how lucky my daughter was to have me as a mom, since they knew I was supportive. Our area of town has a more visible and vocal LGBTQIA+ community, so that was a benefit for her. And it also helps we are tall and big; most people don’t try to come at us with anything since we aren’t easy to intimidate.
Thanksgiving was our first major family gathering since she came out. At our first stop, my in-laws were very welcoming, using her correct name in conversations. At our second stop, my family either didn’t use her name, or, as I found out afterwards, my stepsister was walking behind and deadnaming her to the rest of the family. My daughters are two of the oldest of the cousins, and several of the younger ones would use her “deadname”, which she corrected. No one said anything directly to me, but I have heard one of my brothers commented “my kids will never go trans”. His boys are still finding their own places in the world, I hope they remember our home is a safe one.
Christmas was our next gathering. Now knowing about the deadnaming, I told my girls, if anyone in my family decides to show their ass, we will leave together. My husband, their stepfather, is a quiet man, but he did let them know he loves them, and has their backs. My youngest pushed the edge, coming in a short skirt and fishnets, but she said she liked the way she looked and was comfortable. I said it was a bit much and would have told her older sister the same thing, but in we walked together. There was much eye rolling and side eye, but no one said anything. It helps one of the other older nieces was there with her girlfriend, so solidarity was showing within that generation. When it came time to leave, as my dad was hugging me goodbye, he asked if “Deadname” was okay. I said “NewName” is doing fine. He said, “he will always be X to me”. And I replied, “she is NewName to us”.
In January, we took a family trip together. Because we have not taken the required legal steps to change her name over, things like airline tickets and reservations still have her deadname on them. But any time we were able to, we used her new name. She understood and thanked us.
Adulting is hard enough, my girls complain about having to make their own doctor and dentist appointments. I remind them, the healthcare community can’t share any information with me, since they are both over 18, unless written permission is given. This is both a blessing and a curse, since my inner helicopter/bulldozer mom wants to protect my girls at every step in their lives, while my inner recovery mom knows they need to spread their own wings and figure out how the world works, with me as support when needed. And I’m still awkward about it as well. Trying to share how something made me feel, I choose my words poorly, and she told me they were hurtful. I apologized, stating we are working on this together, and I will make mistakes. In a recent family therapy appointment, my therapist stated, “when a kid comes out, a parent goes in”. It makes sense, my daughter has spent months if not years thinking about who she truly is, and I’ve only had a few months to try and change my mindset of who she is.
This weekend, we went shopping together for school supplies. While we were out, I stopped at a clothing store, because there were some things I wanted to look at and have her try some things too. We both managed to find items we liked, and she was genuinely happy, thanking me for getting her some clothes, and that she felt comfortable trying them on and how she looked in them.
And that is what I want, my child to be happy and comfortable in who she is.