Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Talking About Things I Know Nothing About: Raising Gender Queer Kids

UPDATE: Read this, also, about how parents talk about their genderqueer kids on Nightline. It's a great analysis.

One of my goals in life - and I am going to make this happen, dammit - is that I'm going to adopt a bunch of queer kids who are living in homeless shelters like the amazing Trinity Place. So, so many queer kids get kicked out of their homes, face abuse and sexual violence, and drop out of school. Sassafras Lowrey has done some amazing work documenting this tragedy, and also points out that family reunification might be the worst thing for these kids, because their families might be the ones victimizing them. So, being a queermo myself, and understanding that queer people aren't born into communities of other queers the way other marginalized people are born into communities of people like them, I think it would be cool to start a queer family. I'm hoping to recruit other queer adults into this project so we can get the work done together.

But even though queer kids are born to straight parents, there are straight parents out there who really want to do a good job raising their kids and helping them navigate this extraordinarily heteronormative world. The first letter of this Cary Tennis column, sent to me by Alert Reader Megan, was written by one such parent. Yes, it could be seen as problematic that this mom uses female pronouns for her child, but her child is six and she is just learning about trans and queer issues, it seems, and standing up for her kid in the face of some horrific backlash from neighbors.

Tennis gives her some good advice, and points out that this child is a miracle, part of the unlimited potential of human existence, and backs the mom up in her struggle against the judgmental assholes of the world. I wish I could give this mom a hug and whisper into her ear that she should talk with her child about pronouns.

She should also talk to the remarkable woman who writes Raising My Rainbow, about her adventures in raising her genderqueer son, CJ. CJ is very young, but clearly gravitates towards stuff we'd consider girly. His mom is amazing and supportive and writes openly about her own struggles with this. Her letter to her husband about what to do if she dies ripped my heart open. If you like reading about queerness, or child raising, or just good writing, check out this blog.

I've never raised any kids. The prospect is one I find terrifying. I admire the hell out of good parents who are raising their children to be intellectually curious, flexible, and honest. It's got to be challenging, but if we're going to keep the homeless shelters for queer youth from being overrun, if we're going to make the world safer for all kinds of people we should support parents who are raising their kids to appreciate the beauty of queerness, no matter how they identify.

Image via.


  1. I love this post. You HAVE to love your child for who they are, not who you want them to be or wish them to be. My little girl is my life and my heart, and I will always be her daddy no matter who she chooses to love, how she self-identifies, or however she turns out. There is nothing that could change that.
    I could even still love her if she broke my heart and became a Yankee fan.
    Seriously, though, what you propose sounds like a wonderful goal. I hope you achieve it!

  2. Just yes to the whole post. Thanks, on behalf of a trying parent. Adopt-on, sister.

  3. Thanks, y'all. :) I'm sure I'll be looking to both of you for parenting advice someday when I suddenly have a teenager on my hands.