By Tammy Plunkett
The first thing I did when my son came out to me was head over to Google on a frantic search for answers. Like most parents, my first concern was for his health and safety, and how this would affect his long-term happiness. I consider myself a smart person, I knew I could handle some lengthy reading and deep searching to find what I needed. But all my searches focused on getting my child help. At the time, I never even considered that my husband, our family, and I might need support as well.
It was by chance that I found a support group for parents of gender creative kids. When my husband and I attended, our goal was to see if other parents also worried this was a phase and how they dealt with their child’s distress. I finally realized that I could read blogs and news articles and medical studies online, but they were all one way, I couldn’t ask questions. This is what I got from attending a peer group like what we offer here in Airdrie at Parenting with Pride.
You are not alone
Walking into a room with a group of other parents facing the same issues with the school, with their child’s friends and their parents, and with extended family is reassuring, to say the least. Though our numbers are growing as kids find their brave voices and society creates more room for them, we are still a minority. Knowing you are not alone is very comforting.
Gender affects everyone
Another realization that came to us quite quickly is that having a child who questions their gender affects every race, every socio-economic status, and every family configuration. Single parents, adoptive parents, educated parents, rich parents, and those struggling to afford new clothes, we all sat around that circle. The magical part is that because we all shared the love for our child that the world sees as different, we bonded despite any other labels.
All families are complicated
Something else that united us was that we all had to deal with someone in our lives who didn’t understand our decisions. Most often they were family—an ex-husband, a mother, an uncle. Knowing what to say to our loved ones, and what to tolerate from them in response, is very difficult and having a group of us sharing that lived experience was precious.
Stop putting yourself last
This was my biggest lesson then and continues to be my lesson as I facilitate Parenting with Pride. All the support I ever looked for was for my son, I never took the time to acknowledge that I might need to feel less alone. I was worried about him being bullied and didn’t realize that some of the snide remarks I dealt with were veiled prejudice and hurtful to me as much as they could be to my child. As my child’s number one supporter through this journey, I need to replenish my energy and I need someone to have my back too. And, so do you.
Whether your toddler or school-age child is declaring they are not the gender they were given at birth, or your tween is asking you to use They instead of he or she, or your teen has come out as pansexual, we would love to welcome you to attend Parenting with Pride to find people just like you and have your questions answered by someone with lived experience.