I don’t often post personal notes like this, but I have had a revelation, and this is my only real “blog” to post on. So although I usually just post book stuff and adult stuff since I write adult books, please take a moment to listen and try to understand something I’ve never spoken about publicly before. It has to do with my life as a parent, which is very separate from my life as an author.
As I said, I have had a revelation.
I am not the shining example of an LGBTQ ally that I wanted to be.
I advocate. I teach. I accept. I befriend. I’d escort any transperson to any bathroom they needed help entering.
I discovered the gap in my ally-ness when I said something along the lines of, “I’m totally cool with whatever my child is! But I would never wish for my child to be transgender. It’s a lot to deal with.”
It made sense as I said it. After all, who would wish their child to face a less-than-ideal life?
But I wouldn’t say, “I would never wish for my child to be ____ (athletic, geeky, smart, mechanically inclined, etc).” I wouldn’t say, “I would never wish for my child to be blue eyed with brown hair and a great sense of humor.”
I had such flawless rationale for the statement: “Those are all positive things that won’t make them face adversity in life. It’s not the same thing.”
But are any of the letters – L,G,B,T, or Q – negatives? Or is the adversity itself the only negative in the equation?
Parents never want their children to face negatives: discrimination for being gay, or having a hard time finding a peer group as a lesbian, or dealing with the double standards bisexual people deal with, or enduring the teasing that transgender people do. I get that. No parent wants their child to struggle to be accepted for who they are. And once an accepting parent experiences the “coming out moment,” they often feel pressured to defend their acceptance by talking about our natural reluctance to deal with the stressful issues.
We, the parents of non-conforming children, are supposed to be the greatest LGBTQ allies. Is an ally someone who points out the negative in the demographic they claim to defend? Is an ally someone who expresses reluctance at the necessity of being an ally?
In saying “I would never wish for my child to be queer,” how am I helping my queer child feel like he is every bit as valuable as his athletic/smart/geeky/musical/mechanical/humorous/blue-eyed/brown-haired cis peers?
Every time I say I’d never wish for my child to be queer – whether I have a queer child or not – I am furthering the attitude that queer = less valuable. That the double standards and persecutions of LGBTQ people are inescapable realities of life, and that the world is never going to change to embrace my child as every bit as valuable as a straight cis athletic comedian with wicked computer programming skills. That the negatives my child faces are acceptable.
My youngest child is valuable. She is imaginative, stubborn as hell, beautiful, and creative.
My middle child is valuable. He is hilarious, charming, noisy, and the most loving soul.
My oldest child is valuable. He is smart as a whip, prone to nuclear meltdowns, confident, and a book review blogger.
My best friend has four children, and not one of them even batted an eye when my oldest child declared he would like to be referred to by male pronouns. They rattle off a few names at a time to get it right, just as we do when we can’t remember which child we’re yelling down the hallway at when it’s bedtime. They don’t even really care that he now has a new name and is a brother rather than a sister. They just accept, without pointing out any potential negatives of his identity.
It’s not the kids who make a big deal out of these things. The children know the truth: my child’s gender does not detract from my child’s worth in any way, nor is it some hushed, negative secret about my child’s overall being.
I know it, too, and so do all of my incredibly, stunningly supportive friends and family members. I’m just still learning how to properly say it when I’m still fighting the social training of my generation.
If we are going to change the way the world views sexuality and gender, we must become more accepting than simply accepting. We must celebrate. We must be as proud of the possibility of our child being LGBTQ before they come out (of the closet or the womb). Just like we are as we wonder if maybe he’ll be a pilot, or maybe she’ll be a doctor. If we treat their sexuality or gender as something to be feared because of what the world might do to them, we are, in a way, giving the world permission to inspire that fear with continued cruelty.
And we are teaching the world that our children expect to be persecuted, not that they expect to be treated equally. We are showing the world that we just accept our child’s sexuality or gender, rather than that we’d never have things any other way.
We cannot just show this unconditional love of our child’s identity/sexuality at Pride parades and through clever filters on our Facebook profile pictures. We must show the next generation of parents – by our example – that an LGBTQ child is a gift in our words every day, both in and out of earshot of our children. That they are a unique breed of human immune to the closed-minded bigotry that possessed so many in the previous generations.
The kids… they already know this. My friend’s children are the perfect example of that, and it’s so clear to me that they’ve been raised to accept absolutely anyone for every reason. Discrimination isn’t even a thought in their heads. Only by speaking against the normalcy of our LGBTQ children can the adults change and close their growing minds.
Many parents mourn the loss of a daughter when they discover he is actually their son. Many parents ache, deep within their hearts, as they trade their transgender daughter’s soccer balls for ballet shoes. The sorrow is valid. We’ve bonded with a name, a pronoun, a spirit, and the true identity of that spirit shocks us. We’ve been taught to expect certain behaviors from our children when they pop out of their mothers’ bodies based on whether they come with a penis or a vagina. Of course we feel sorrow when we can no longer stand beside a parenting magazine and present ourselves as a shining example of normalcy to society. Of course we feel loss when our calendars become schedules of hormone treatments and psychiatrist visits instead of baseball practice and singing lessons.
Of course we fear the worst for our children in a world where our LGBTQ children are not treated as the best. Of course we grow angry and feel horrified as friends fall off our social media lists because we choose to support rather than condemn something our children cannot change about themselves.
But this sorrow doesn’t have to continue into the next generation of parents and children. If we teach our kids to be excited about their gay friend or lesbian cousin or transgender brother like it’s the best thing that could have ever happened…
Well, just picture it! Imagine a world where having a transgender child is something so rare and precious you are celebrated for it, rather than forced to endure the loss of friends and family members who think you’re trying to influence your child’s development in a negative way. Imagine a world where your daughter comes out as lesbian and you receive congratulations cards for it. Imagine a world where your son comes out as bisexual and you can’t wait to call and tell your mother: it’s just what you’ve always dreamed he would be!
Imagine a world where you browse parenting magazines as you wait for the ultrasound on your unborn child and see a family on a magazine cover with a gay father and an intersex child below a headline reading “Quick Recipes for Busy Families” or something else totally chill, and you think to yourself, “Wow, are they ever a lucky family. I wonder what we’ll have.”
Imagine a world where every single parent – like my friend’s children – doesn’t even bat an eye at someone’s gender, sexuality, or other expression of their identity.
That is not some far-off fantasy world. That is the world we can create for our children. It is the world we can teach them to create. And it starts with us: the parents of the next generation, whether we or our children are cis, straight, L, G, B, T, Q, or anything else. Let them be dragons if they want to be.
It’s already starting. I see it every single day in groups of parents accepting their children and celebrating their true selves.
Hope for your baby to come out healthy. But also, go ahead: hope for him to come out gay. I give you permission. The same way you might hope for him to be athletic, or a successful entrepreneur, it is okay to hope for your child to be gay. Wish for her to be transgender. Wish to have a son and a daughter all in one lifetime, one body, one soul. Pray she will be bisexual, and not discount the possibility of a relationship based on the gender of her love interest. Wish that he will be happy no matter what he discovers about himself along the way.
It is a gift to have a queer child or friend or neighbor or sibling. Instead of saying, “I would never wish for my child to be anything other than heterosexual/cisgender because of what he will face,” say, “I would never wish for my child to be hateful. I would never wish for my child to discriminate others based on things they cannot control like race, birthplace, sexuality, or gender. I would never wish for my child to feel they are anything other than exactly what I wanted, queerness and all.”
Those are the true demons to wish against. Take the power away from fear. Take the power away from hate.
I am not saying it’s realistic to not feel sorrow when your child’s life takes an unexpected turn. I think I felt more fear than sorrow, and it shows in the words I’ve chosen to use.
I am saying that we can shape the world – today, in the changing landscape of our entire human society – to embrace our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in such an all-encompassing way that we no longer need to feel a shred of sorrow when our children come out.
If we don’t treat our queer children – and the queer children of our neighbors – like they are exactly what we wanted, then the world will not want them. If we talk about our queer children like they are accepted, but their situation is not ideal, the world will treat them as though they are not ideal. If we talk about the medical interventions for transgender kids as something we wish was unnecessary, the world will view it as unnecessary. If we act like we’re afraid our peers will judge us for celebrating our child’s homosexuality, then that’s exactly what they will do.
We can change that. It starts with the parents of today’s children. It starts with me. I’ll never again say I wouldn’t wish for a queer child. I didn’t know how to embrace it with the flawless acceptance of a child. I hope I do now, and I sure as hell will keep trying. I asked my queer child to read a Word doc draft of this post before I published it, and you know what he said?
“Oh my God, Mom, you can’t honestly think you’re not doing a good job at this stuff.”
…Okay. I can deal with that. It really is as simple as the children say it is.
So go ahead: wish for a gay child. I promise you: we can teach the next generation to embrace him with the simplicity and purity of today’s children. We can, and we will.
Because they already know how.