Your Guide to My Child’s Changing Gender

Back some 25 years ago, a pregnant me went in for her very first ultrasound to find out the gender of the beautiful creature growing inside my ever expanding belly. I say beautiful because this is motherhood and that arrow to my heart was instant. I say creature because, to this day, that pregnancy made me wretch at the mere thought of opening a can Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. This kid completely ruined my favorite childhood food from the moment of conception. 

It took us more than a few minutes to figure out what was between my child’s legs because they kept hiding themselves by turning round and round and crossing their legs. Looking back, it’s quite clear my kid was sending a message. Look all you want, but you won’t really know until I let you know. 

As things usually go, they tell you your child is one or the other and that’s exactly how this went. There are only two genders out there and you believe that particular piece of information because that’s all you know right now! Your baby is one of those genders! Congratulations! Dress them accordingly! 

And so we did until that fateful day in the kitchen when I was folding laundry and they were sitting at the kitchen table informing me otherwise. It was a pretty uneventful conversation. I confirmed to them that gender and sexuality, as far as I knew, are most likely on a spectrum. Therefore, they could be pretty much anything they thought they might be because that’s what my radical leftist agenda forces me to believe. Or so I’ve been told. 

So when that same beautiful creature made a recent public announcement that they are gender fluid and go by they/them pronouns my husband and I were not surprised. I’ll go a step further to say it was a huge sigh of relief for us to see our child feeling free enough to be more of who they truly are. We’re a bit biased, but we think they’re pretty damn spectacular, even if they eternally ruined an American food icon for one of us. 

Now I’ve had nearly a decade to get used to the idea that my kid did not neatly fit into the binary box. For you, though, this announcement may come as a shock. Maybe you have questions. Perhaps you were riveted by that one episode of InfoWars where Alex Jones spat nonsense about the government turning frogs gay and you were wondering if my child is now a gay frog. Whatever your questions are, I’ve got the answers for you. So let’s get started!

How do you know your child is the gender they say they are?

Because they told me. It really is that simple. No one ever had to tell me I am a woman. I already know. I’ve never felt another way. And when you look back in history you can see that there are many cultures around the world that recognize a ‘third gender’ and have for centuries. It’s not like Barack Obama became president and suddenly we have infinite genders just to piss you off. It’s been happening for eons.

And while gender is generally looked upon as a social construct, intersexuality is not at all uncommon in the animal world. Yes, some of the frogs might be gay, but not because the government made them that way. 

Singular they/them is hard for me to remember. What if I screw that up? 

Oh, you’re going to screw it up occasionally. I gave birth to this person and I still screw it up. Making a mistake because using their previous pronouns was a habit that has been seared into your brain folds is understandable. Intentionally misgendering my child because you ‘don’t believe in it’ is an entirely different thing and will not be tolerated. 

Singular they/them is grammatically correct. We use it all the time. But if you’re used to assigning particular pronouns to one person for years and years it can be a big change. It’s important to remember that it’s not impossible, though. You acknowledge the mistake, pledge to do better next time, and move on. You can do it. I have faith in you. 

Which bathroom will they use?

I don’t know. And I don’t really know why that is any of your business. I don’t care where you’re dropping a deuce. They’re your bowels. You do you. As for me and my bodily fluids, I’ve never really thought about who was in the stall next to me while I was taking care of business. I’ve only ever prayed for each and every one of us to have a sufficient amount of toilet paper to get the job done. Ramen.

Plus, an extensive  study of 17 U.S. school districts who allow transgender students to use whichever restroom they choose has shown no increase in ‘harassment or inappropriate behavior’ in those bathrooms. So, there’s literally no need for you to be the genital police at your local Target. Everything is fine. 

But what about your kid ruining sportsball for everyone?

I mean, that’s definitely not going to happen. We’re not much of a family for the sportsball. My husband played baseball in high school and he was quite a skilled player, but I can barely walk through the house without injuring myself. The children seem to have inherited my level of physical dexterity. 

But even so, transgender folks are doing absolutely nothing to ruin sportsball for anyone. Like the bathroom thing, it’s all in your head. Here, I’ll let one of my favorite TikTok people explain it to you. (Warning: contains language your boss might not appreciate bellowing through the halls of your office. Put in your ear buds.)

My ‘I identify as…’ jokes are funny, right?

No. I hate to break it to you, but they are not. I know you thought sharing that ‘I identify as translender’ meme was hilarious and you don’t understand why everyone is so easily offended. It’s just a joke!

Not really. The funniest jokes punch up, not down. Transgender people face higher rates of poverty, discrimination, harassment, and violence and, therefore, higher rates of suicide than their cisgender counterparts.

So when you post memes such as this one or the one I usually see around Halloween where the basketball ‘identifies’ as a pumpkin, you’re punching down at some of the most marginalized people in our society. Your ‘joke’ is dismissive and passive aggressive, at best.

What it really may be doing is feeding into the hysteria that transgender people are not legitimate. That they are the joke and are not deserving of respect or legal protection, which deepens the societal drive for discrimination.

If your kid is a they then we all have to be theys and I can’t use the term mother anymore!

Because of a simple change to some terminology used by midwives in the UK, there is an odd myth circulating that gender neutral terms used for non binary and transgender folks will somehow extend to us cisgender folks and it will become law that my children will have to call me parental unit instead of mom. I don’t even know where to start with this one. The reach, it is extensive.

This change in language, in particular chestfeeding instead of breastfeeding or pregnant person instead of mother, is meant to be inclusive. It is an option for patients who want to use that terminology. If you don’t want to use those words, you don’t have to. It’s really that simple. It’s not against the law to say the word mother. And I certainly hope not because that’s one half of my favorite curse word.

I just don’t understand any of this!

That’s okay. Thankfully you don’t have to understand any of it in order to be respectful of one’s gender identity. I certainly don’t understand Algebra, but that doesn’t mean I get to tell my high school math teacher their job is fake and they are only doing it to seek attention.

You want to make fun of someone, go for the math teachers. They’re the real enemy. Solve for X. Oh, okay. Sure. That’s a real thing.

If you are interested in understanding any of this there’s a vast ocean of knowledge out there for you to try and ‘get it.’ You can download an ally guide from The Trevor Project. It has basic information about how you can respect and support your transgender friends and family.

You can follow Jeffrey Marsh on Instagram. Or read their book, How to Be You. There are so many other resources out there. They’re one small Google search away. And if you still don’t understand it, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you will never understand it. Keep trying.

As I said before, not understanding doesn’t equal not being able to respect someone. And respecting someone is the purest and simplest form of love. Deciding to affirm my kid’s pronoun change might be the easiest thing you do today. Especially if you’ve had to do any Algebra because that stuff is just freaking impossible.