Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and your family structure?
I’m a cisgender, heterosexual mom of 3 kids; 2 boys and one non-binary person. We moved to the Sydney area from Denver, Colorado in 2018.
When did your child come out to you as trans or gender diverse (TGD)?
My kid came out to us when they were 12. They came out as non-binary and began using they/them pronouns when they were 16. They changed their name when they were 18.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt from this experience and from your child?
The biggest thing I have learned is that variation in gender and sexuality is real. I have also learned how important it is to acknowledge and validate. Sometimes it is simple to talk about this to others… sometimes it is more difficult. I have also come to see the connection between gender essentialism and misogyny.
Are there any big hurdles you’ve faced? What were they and how did you overcome them?
My husband and I grew up Mormon, a conservative Christian denomination based in Utah. We have found allies and LGBT friends within our church community but I have felt deep hurt and betrayal, too.
Religious freedom and traditional families are two platforms our church seems ready to defend to the end of time. When I attend church, I get to practise patience and storytelling. My kid is out now, so I am able to share our story openly. Which has opened doors and allowed me to meet all the LGBT people and parents of LGBT kids.
At church I push back when traditional marriage is held up as the only option. I point out all the people we leave behind when we carry the banner of religious freedom. I attempt to expand the preconceived notions of gender essentialism.
Speaking up at church has allowed me to speak openly with friends and acquaintances, too. Once I spoke to my arborist (when using they/them I’m often explaining what non-binary means). He was very grateful, saying “Wow, thank you for being so open and explaining everything so patiently. We’ve got a neighbour whose kid is transitioning.”
Over the years I have found it increasingly difficult to sit at church but I know that no matter where I go I will need to explain to someone about my kid. I know to engage only when my cup is full. But because I can openly speak about our kid, I have met other parents of trans kids at church and even in our neighbourhood.
As a parent, what’s something you wish you’d known before your child came out to you?
I wish I had known how many other parents of LGBT kids there are out there. I knew that statistically ours wasn’t the only family with LGBT people in it. I did come to understand that many of us simply cannot talk about our kids to keep them safe.
That is where social media has helped me to connect with other parents of LGBT kids. The FB group ‘Mama Dragons’ is really great for parents who come from a religious background. Most ‘Mama Dragons’ are Mormon moms of LGBT kids but the group has many different religions represented.
What advice do you have for parents who feel they’ve just jumped in the deep end of navigating their child’s gender exploration?
I always like to remind parents that no matter how many LGBT people we have known and loved in our lives, we need to continually work on our hetero superiority and even some anti-LGBT feelings. To do this I follow folks like you over at Sock Drawer Heroes and I’ve recently begun following @theJefferyMarsh a wonderful non-binary person. I like Jeffery especially because they are a person in a male presenting body wearing dresses and fabulous makeup. Their videos and posts really help us cisgender folks to see beyond the binaries.
Together as a family we have watched Queer Eye, Schitt’s Creek, and my kids loved Steven Universe. For those with more difficult family members, Star Trek: Discovery has several wonderfully layered LGBT characters along with all the other Trek-y goodness!
Not everyone who comes out as gender diverse or queer has support at home. Do you have any messages you’d like to give these people?
Some may not appreciate how brightly you shine when you enter the room. That brightness may feel uncomfortable for you (and them). But I’d argue as the years progress (and maybe in the different rooms you enter) what you may feel as your uncomfortable and obvious rainbow hue will be what draws people to you.
Photograph by Stacie Smith
The Parents of Trans and Gender Diverse Kids blog series interviews parents/caregivers of trans and gender diverse kids, with the aim of creating connection and advice that can help other parents navigate this with their own child and family.
If you'd like to share your story, please get in touch here.