Parent Contribution: Accepting vs Being Supportive
This is an anonymous parent contribution as a response to my last post. I recommend reading this even if it doesn't personally concern you. This is a great read on inclusion at home for neurodiverse readers as well.
Proactive safe space starts at home! A lot of spouses of ppl here, mine included, used to think “okay fine but don’t encourage it”. For example, only offer pink when insisted on but otherwise choose gender-neutral or blue otherwise. Like you said, kids are smart. They are very apt at reading between the line and they are better at reading your actions than your words. “Don’t encourage it” and quietly affirming their assigned gender tell them that “I really want you to be your assigned gender, and I prefer you as your assigned gender. Your gender identity is like junk food. It’s not good for you. I ain’t going to get out there and buy you junk food unless you ask for it every time and beg for every candy. Then, I will get it for you because I want you to be happy but I am very reluctant.” If this is you or your spouse, they are accepting but not supportive. This can be easily determined by the kids. “My parent knows I like cheese in my pasta and puts extra on my plate without me asking, but buys me boy clothing behind my back every time even though they know I like girl clothing.” You are setting your child up to hate themselves and when they are older, you, because they know you are merely accepting.
The question parents need to ask themselves is that is gender identity superfluous? Is gender expression bad for them? Or is gender identity a fundamental human right, like food? Are you starving your child and only begin to prepare meal when they tell you or begging you that they are hungry? What type of relationship are you establishing with your child when they think you hate to feed them and their hunger is not important to you?
My husband has always been accepting of my child’s identity but he learned the differences between accepting and supporting this month. Choosing clothing for school causes my child a lot of anxiety. Sometimes she choose a dress only to turn around at the door to change into pants. This went on for the whole year. Finally, my husband stepped up. “M, it takes a lot of courage to be who you are. I think you look beautiful in dresses and I think you SHOULD wear them because you like them.” The next day daddy got a pink work shirt drove our kid wearing a dress to school and walked into the classroom together.
The clothing anxiety just disappeared. Our hour-long morning ordeal just disappeared. Pants or dresses just don’t matter anymore. My husband now learned that he was partly to blame for the anxiety. By doing nothing, he was showing my kid that he really would rather not. My child finally embraced her gender identity this week. If her father didn’t step up, she wouldn’t have done so.
I make a strong point of not forcing my child to advocate for herself. That’s my job. It’s parents’ job to anticipate the child’s needs and meet them in a timely manner. I don’t even offer a boy option when presenting choices. I don’t give off the well-known stank that I somehow held this secret hope that my kid might somehow change her mind and go back to being a boy. As parents, we cannot expect our child to walk this road alone and smile meekly on the side. I want my kid to know I can be counted on and I know this will pay off especially later when they are older and can articulate all this on their own. Love, /end random thoughts.
TLTR: you cannot change your child's gender identity by discouraging or encouraging it. Dragging your feet on supporting your child’s gender identity will only result in an anxious child, a self-hating teen, and a resentful adult.