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My Child is Non-Binary! Now What? A Mother's Perspective.

Black and white photo of mother and infant child looking at each other.

In August 2021 my oldest child, Beau, came out to my husband and me as bisexual and also (more importantly), non-binary. First, let me tell you that we sat and listened and then we hugged and held “them” and reminded them how unconditionally loved they are (no, I'm not talking about more than one person. I'm using the correct pronoun which is they/them).

Over the next few weeks, my husband and I began to process all of the information we had been given. We were fortunate that open dialogue, questions, and the need for us to be educated on this subject were well received and welcomed by them. It’s been a different journey for each of us and I can only truly speak for myself and my experience.

Before I go any further I feel the need to convey that this is me coming from a very vulnerable place. While my sharing light often shines brightly, this is different, I feel protective of my child and I'm acutely aware of the judgment out there. I implore you to look through the eyes of a parent when you read our story. This is about my child, my firstborn that brought my dreams of motherhood to life.  You may not understand or agree, and that’s okay. But negativity and judgment are not welcome.

I’ve always told my children that their sexuality does not matter to me. I just want them to be happy, safe, and respectful. So Beau being bi-sexual was a complete non-issue for me.

But I knew in my core that more was coming. So when they told us they were non-binary, it all started to make sense.  In really simple terms, a non-binary person is someone who does not identify as exclusively a man or a woman. Someone who is non-binary might feel like a mix of genders, or like they have no gender at all.

Let me back up a bit.  When Beau was in 4th grade, they started to withdraw.  They hated having their photo taken and would get very upset if I did take a photo, much less post it.  It became a hard rule; No pics or posting pics without their approval, ever! I just assumed this was an awkward adolescent phase. They began spending a lot more time alone in their room, they seemed more frustrated and less confident, and they often had stomach aches. This also occurred during a time that we moved out of state so I was able to rationalize the change in behaviour with all sorts of things. New home, a new state, a new school, leaving friends, puberty, etc…

So when Beau came out to us during their sophomore year, it all made sense. Now that they are able to articulate their feelings and understand it all, they can trace these feelings back to 3rd / 4th grade. They just never felt right in their body but didn’t know how to communicate what they were feeling. I can tell you that both my husband and I felt so much guilt and hurt over the few years that Beau was struggling internally and we didn’t know. We have a pretty open household, our kids talk to us and for that, I'm so grateful. But that made this hurt that much more, because something so important, and Beau wasn’t able to come to us for years. As a parent, I want that time back. I want 10-year-old Beau to know that it’s all okay and changes NOTHING when it comes to how we feel about them. I was, I am, and I always will be their number one cheerleader.

When Beau first came out, I remember sitting at the dinner table one night that week and explaining that both their dad and I needed time to grieve. Time to grieve the life we had imagined for them. Beau told us that nothing had changed, they didn’t really understand why it was such a big deal. That they could still live those hopes and dreams we had.  But for us, everything had changed. While the same person still lives with us, we lost our son. The first big change was their name. They haven’t always been Beau (those of you who have known us a long time know this). One of the hardest things for me was getting used to the term “deadname” when referring to their birth-given name. I still don’t like the term but I'm learning and trying to accept it. After all, they didn’t coin the phrase!

My husband struggled for months. Feeling like if he had just spent more time with Beau when they were little, more time playing ball, riding bikes, etc maybe this wouldn’t have happened.  I had to remind him repeatedly that Beau wasn’t “broken”, there was nothing to fix. What our child needed now, more than ever, was our love and support, and the space to be who they are truly meant to be. My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, he’s a lot more conservative than I am. And this rocked our worlds. How would our families respond? How would our friends respond? We slowly started telling those that are in our inner circle and they were as amazing and supportive as I imagined they would be.

Fast forward a year and along came prom. Beau was excited about a suit they had but a couple of weeks before Prom, they asked how I would feel about them wearing a dress. I tell you this because, for me, this was a defining moment. I was either going to show them that I truly do support them unconditionally, or I was going to squash their confidence and trust in me by saying no. That simply wasn’t an option for me. So, in May 2023 they went to their senior prom wearing a gorgeous dress (and it even had pockets.  If you know, you know)! For some additional perspective, Beau is 6’2” with a deep voice and usually wears gender-neutral clothing (think hoodies and pants).  My husband and I were nervous wrecks. It wasn’t going to get more public than this. But Beau was ready and that’s all that mattered to me. I realized that I could either timidly show up at the park for pre-dance pictures, waiting for the backlash, or I could hold my head up high and support my beautiful child at this important moment. And that’s exactly what we did! And I'll be damned, humanity showed up big! Everyone was so supportive and gracious. I was blown away. I never heard any of the talk that I'm sure took place behind our backs. I’ll be forever grateful for that. But more importantly than that, can we talk for a second about the bravery it took for Beau to live in that moment as the person they felt like on the inside? I will forever be in awe of them for that.

This isn’t an easy path for anyone. As a parent, it’s terrifying because this world can be a cruel place to those who are “different”. Beau now uses the pronouns she/her/they/them and often feels more comfortable presenting as female. Will Beau decide to medically transition down the road? That’s their choice. For now, we love them, we support them, and we embrace them for who they are. It’s taught us a lot and opened our eyes. And at the end of the day, they are still the amazing child I brought into this world. Nothing will ever change that.

I’m sharing our story because this month Pride Month and there is a great need for parent support and education. Society has a long way to go, but there are many who have paved the way for people like Beau to live openly today. As I said before, you don’t have to agree with it but you do have to remember that everyone out there is someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone's parent. Kindness costs you nothing.

Are you ready to be an ally? Ready to educate yourself on this topic? Please visit this page from The Trevor Project. It is a fantastic guide that breaks down the difference between sexuality and gender (yes, they’re very different), pronouns, and more. Please educate yourself before you choose to judge from a place of ignorance. Commit to do better! Please feel free to come to me with questions.

Additionally, CIR has some terrific pre-recorded webinars that are available 24/7:

Transcending Gender presented by Orion Block LSW, CSWI

Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth presented by Al Killen-Harvey, LCSW

Working with LGBTQIA+ Youth presented by Lunx Girgado

In closing, I'd like to share some lyrics with you from a song I recently shared with Beau called “No Matter What” by Calum Scott (if you haven’t heard it, give it a listen, it’s beautiful). It’s about his experience telling his parents he was gay and their reactions of loving him “no matter what”.

“She said; “I love you no matter what. I just want you to be happy and always be who you are”. She wrapped her arms around me and said; “don’t try to be what you’re not ‘cause I love you no matter what”.

- Calum Scott

This article was written with Beau's approval.