I live in Florida and was a conservative. When my kid came out as nonbinary, the way I parent changed.

  • I live in Florida, and I used to consider myself a conservative.

  • However, after my kid Remy came out as nonbinary, I realized I no longer align with those values.

  • Now, the way I parent them has changed, and I am Remy's biggest advocate.

"Mom, I don't feel like my name fits who I feel like anymore. I want to go by the name Remy." The day my child said that to me three years ago is the day my life as a parent changed.

In the months preceding that day, Remy had shared they thought maybe they were bi-sexual or lesbian. Another day, they said they/them pronouns were a better fit. I acknowledged these comments as they came as part of their self-discovery. But the day my child came to me with a quavering voice and unshed tears asking to go by a new name, I knew this was different. My child was nonbinary. This was a path I wasn't expecting, and a path I wasn't prepared for.

My role as a parent changed when Remy came out as nonbinary

My child was always original. Even quirky sometimes, if you will. But any child going through puberty is going to have growing pains as they discover who they are, and their parent will have those pains along with them.

And now, my new role as my child's advocate is more challenging — and has much higher stakes — than that of the average parent. We live in a world where over 33 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the US last year alone, and acts of violence are on the rise.

I've always considered myself a conservative, believing in small government and less regulation, but I no longer align with the ultra-conservative political environment that surrounds my family and me in the state of Florida, where teachers are afraid to bring up the idea of gender identity in the classroom for fear of recrimination, and where I was forced to send in a permission letter so my child can be addressed by their chosen name.

When Remy was ready to be identified as nonbinary at school, we had a long talk before taking action. I honored them for wanting to share that identity with others, but warned them not everyone will celebrate with them. Our new school year tradition still includes meeting the teacher, but now those teacher conversations focus more on preferred names and pronouns. Most teachers are very open and appreciate the communication. A few reveal their bias very quickly, and we make a note to be careful around them.

While run-ins with bullies are not unusual for any student, I pay close attention when Remy shares any issues they have at school and what precipitated them. I've always felt strongly that my child should manage these situations independently, seeking adult support when needed. But now, I'm more willing to step in with the school administration if I feel there is the potential for my child to be harmed in a hate crime.

JoAnn Chang's child Remy walking on a beach.
JoAnn Chang's child Remy came out as nonbinary three years ago.Courtesy JoAnn Chang

Some of our family friends have been supportive while others haven't

Unfortunately, we've also had a handful of family "friends" who will no longer let their kids spend time with Remy. My family didn't make any sort of grand announcement when it came to my child's gender identity. We've let Remy take the lead on who we shared this information with and when. Some were curious but also very supportive, and have made a conscious effort to use Remy's chosen name and pronouns.

Others were more interested in debating the idea of gender beyond the binary, forgetting that the words they were flinging reflect real people — including my child. These are often the ones who continue to use my child's birth name and ignore their pronouns, which many in the LGBTQ+ community refer to as "deadnaming."

I've made a conscious decision to take a step back from those who choose to be disrespectful. There have also been some who have chosen to drift away on their own, along with their kids. It's like they're afraid being nonbinary is contagious. I'm proud of my child for being their authentic self. If that's contagious, perhaps that's not a bad thing.

I think about what college will be like for my child

We're beginning to look at college choices. Remy has their heart set on staying in Florida, and there are certain advantages to that. Florida's Bright Futures scholarship will make the cost of college much more manageable, and we would love to have them close to family. But I worry about the environment they'll experience here in Florida in these changing times.

College has traditionally been a place that has been more open to diverse voices, a place where young people can open their minds to different ways of thinking. But with changes in Florida to diversity, equity, and inclusion on public university campuses, including the removal of sociology as a core requirement out of the Florida Department of Educations concerns of exposing students to "radical woke ideologies," I fear that those days may be gone.

Will my child be safe? Will the quality of education be the same? Before Remy came out as nonbinary, I wouldn't have given these concerns a second thought.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't always get it right. I worry I sometimes make parenting choices out of fear of how people will treat my child instead of what's best for their personal growth. I know my child has friends who identify in similar ways whose parents are not as supportive.

Remy knows they can share anything with me, and I'll listen, even if I don't always respond the way they may hope. We may not always agree, but we have honest communication. I do my best to guide my child, prepare them for the world around them, and teach them to be their own best advocate. In the end, that's the best that any parent can do.

Read the original article on Business Insider