To get some of the background from this post, check out Time Flies and Times Change – Part 1
**note: I have permission from my child to share the content**
June 2020 was a big month for my family – not only did I turn 50 (best party ever – thank you Marion & Galen Enns) but my brave girl was able to tell us their truth.
After tucking my youngest in one night, I noticed a beautiful picture that my oldest had left for us in our room. I did not think anything of it but just carried on.
The next night, my oldest girl said to me “Mom, did you see my note?” When I asked what note, they said they left it on my table. I went into my room to look at it and said it was a beautiful picture. They said, “Mom, turn it over”. This is what I saw…
I went back to Hannah and said, “What does that mean?” Cause I had no hot clue. Hannah explained to me that being non-binary means she did not identify as male or female and pansexual means she loves the person for who they are not how they identify. Of course this happens at 8:30pm so that was a lot to process. I look at my husband and said “Now what?” Then I sent a text to my therapist to get an appointment with her as soon as I could cause I needed to talk stuff out. The second text was to our youth pastor because as I have said in my previous blog the church has not been very open when it comes to members of the LGBTQ+ community and I wanted Hannah to be safe.
The next afternoon, I was chatting with my therapist and working through some of the emotional turmoil (and there was a lot) going on inside me (I will get into a bit more of that in a bit) but yet there was so also much peace. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone in this world. Reflecting back, I saw my beautiful girl struggling with something big but they kept it inside and could not put it into words (just like their Dad). I saw them struggle and struggle on the verge of tears but was helpless to know how to help them.
Steve and I sat down with Hannah the next day and had an open, honest communication with her. She explained, with much more wisdom than a lot of 11 year olds I know, about who they are and how they identify and what that means. She also informed us that she would like to go by the pronouns they/them. Steve and I approached it and said to Hannah that this is their truth now and we love her and support her. We also recognized and told her that this could change – they are only 11 – and we will continue to love and support them no matter what. For those of you who understand countenance, my girl had a grey/black countenance on them for MONTHS. During that conversation, I watched, literally/spiritually however you want to put it, it roll back and the light from the inside… how beautiful it is.
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During that conversation, I watched, literally/spiritually however you want to put it,
it roll back and the light from the inside… how beautiful it is.
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As we navigated this “new normal” with our family, I had a number of sessions with my counsellor over FaceTime and with our youth pastor in person. All of my Christian life, I have been told “this is wrong”, “it’s not what God created”. Now I have it right in my face in my own child. How do I deal with that? For me, it was digging into sermons, blog posts, podcasts, books and lots and lots of praying.
Shortly after Hannah came out to us, I was listening to a sermon that Steven Furtick from Elevation Church preached – don’t ask what it was called because I can’t remember – I just remember him talking about not putting God into boxes and looking at context when you are reading Scripture. I learned that in my young adult life. I heard someone say “don’t just read just the black and red writing but the white spaces too”. That has always stuck with me. Scripture is truth – I believe that 100% – but just reading the words without understanding to whom it was written and when is only getting part of the picture. There is so much more to learn… that is a whole different blog post. LOL
The same day I heard that sermon, I opened my Instagram and saw Jen Hatmaker‘s post about her beautiful daughter Sydney and their journey together – listen to that podcast here. In the podcast, Sydney talks about knowing she was lesbian when she was 11 (the same age as my child) but not being able to tell anyone until she was 17. She talks about sitting in her room with her Bible and her journal struggling; sitting in youth group with this “secret” and not knowing what to do. Can you imagine that? Sitting for 6 YEARS in a place that you are supposed to be the most comfortable – your church – and not knowing if you could speak your truth! My heart BROKE. How many more youth are sitting in our youth groups with those same feelings?
Many, many young people go through a stage in their growing up and start feeling attraction to the same sex – talk about freaking out. They don’t know what to do with the feelings, they don’t have anyone to talk to, they don’t know… they just don’t know. I have walked many, many junior and senior high kids through this. You don’t always have the words but sometimes the easiest thing to do is just listen and let them talk.
For some, it is a “phase” and they come out on the other side. For others, it is their TRUTH but they still don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know who to talk to, who to turn to, who is safe. That BREAKS my heart! Parents, no matter what we may FEEL, we need to make safe places for our kids, we need to make it OK for them to come to us no matter what. I did not experience that as a kid and it is so vitally important for me to create that in my home.
Pronouns – WOW! Those are still so hard. When for 11 years, you have said she/her to your child and now they want you to use they/them (singular form), that is a difficult switch. When my husband chose Hannah’s middle name as Grace, it was a divine inspiration. Hannah is the most gracious person I know. We struggled with the pronouns (we also told them we would and they understood) but they did not (and still don’t) freak out when we screw it up. It was our 9 year old, Emma, who corrected us more than Hannah. Emma would call us out on it all the time – those of you who know Emma will not be surprised at all with that.
The next change came a few months later. In November of 2020, Hannah told us that they would like to change their name and be known as Ace. When we asked why they chose that name, they said they liked the name and they find it is a gender neutral name. Steve and I both told them that we found that Ace is a much more masculine name but it is the one they chose so we will respect that. Another big change but it’s their truth and we will support it. We, again, told them they are 11 and that may change so we are not going to legally change it for a long time. There are some decisions that I feel, as a parent, I need to take out of their hands.
I started to read books about families who have gone through these changes. Most of the books I have found are books about family with children who are transgender (for some reason they put transgender and non-binary as closely related – I need to understand that more), meaning they were born one sex but want to change to the other sex. I have had that conversation with Ace a few times in the last few months and they have told me they are not transgender.
As I have slowly worked my way through the books, it has brought us so many emotions in me. Damn, this is HARD! There is a grieving process that I have gone through – I doubted that for quite awhile but then had a conversation with one of my best friends, Tania, and she affirmed that it is totally a grieving process.
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There is a grieving process that I have gone through…
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What do you mean grief? How are you grieving? I had someone ask me that – perfectly understandable question but difficult to put into words. I am going to fall on a scene from GLEE. Kurt is trying to change who he is to please his Dad. He sings Rose’s Turn and then Kurt and his Dad have a beautiful conversation (see it here). Burt talks about when his son was put into his arms, did “he dream about taking him to baseball games and talking about girls. Yeah all fathers do”. But that changed when Kurt has the courage to come out to his Dad as gay. As a parent with a non-binary child, I understand that scene even more now.
When Hannah was put into my arms, I imagined dressing her in dresses and playing with girlie things (not that I knew what that was LOL) and for 6 years, I was able to do that but then things started to change. I did not realize the significance of that change until 5 years later. I remember driving downtown for an appointment and having a tightness in my chest – the same one I had when I lost my Mama. I recognized it as grief but did not understand why. Through my chat with Tania (thank you so much, my friend), I realized that the child I had, the child that I “planned out” in my head does not exist anymore. That’s a kick in the teeth – that’s a harsh way to put it but it’s the truth. It hurt! My little girl did not exist anymore. My plans for HER do not exist anymore. That’s hard. I remember crying in the car and feeling that grief in my chest calm – how beautiful is the peace of God.
I remember having a conversation with another friend one day and I felt like Holy Spirit dropped a truth into my heart. He said, God gave me this child, the way they are for a reason. I know God does not make mistakes so He has given them to me for a reason – I am still working through that. 😀
In one of the books I have read, the mother talks about talking to the school and having their name changed so they can be called but their preferred name. I thought, “hey, I can do that” so I did.
The other phone call I made after Ace came out to us was to the junior high they would be attending in the fall. I spoke with the Resource Teacher to get their IPP set up (Ace was diagnosed with ADD in March 2020 as well – oy, what a year) and due to COVID, we were not able to get it set up before they left elementary.
I spoke with the teacher about their identity and if that was going to be a problem. He assured me that it would not. He advised that the teachers in the school are trained to use the kids’ names rather than pronouns as there are many who choose different ones. He told me they had a strong GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) at the school as well. You have no idea what a relief that was to me! To know my child would be safe at home, at school, and at church? Oh, thank you, Jesus.
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What a relief that was … to know my child would
be safe at home, at school and at church.
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Speaking of God’s plan, the support, the classmates Ace has in their grade 7 class is incredible. There are kids in the class that identify the same way as Ace or are in the LGBTQ+ community as well. What amazing support! God knew this when He created them and knew that this is the class they needed to be in. I love that. The main teachers that Ace was put with are big on mental health and speaking with kids openly about it.
Ace has had the opportunity to stand up against bullying they have received with their classmates more than once this year. They have handled it with grace and patience. They have had the opportunity to educate both classmates and staff on the LGBTQ+ community and Ace’s identity. As parents, we have also had to have the conversation that some people, no matter what you say to them, will not agree with you and your choices. Those are people you just have to let go of – it’s a difficult thing to do but it needs to be done.
The other huge fear I had was what is my church going to say – yes this is totally my own fear (I discussed that more in my previous blog). Well, I am so happy to report that our church leadership has been amazing. No one has said it’s wrong, and no one has said we need to “pray for them (that’s code in Christian-ese)”. They love us and our kids and that means the world to us. Ace & I stepped through the doors for the first time in a year on Easter Sunday to help with kids’ church. My child was called by their preferred name Ace and they did their best to use their proper pronouns. I am so thankful for that.
I think that’s it for now. LOL There is so much more to this journey and I will speak to it as it comes to me to do so.
I want to wrap this out but referring back to the scene from GLEE. Burt says to his son, “Your job is to be yourself and my job is to love you, no matter what”. That says it all right there.