When was the first time you heard the word “nonbinary“?
If you roll with fifth graders or middle schoolers OR watch TikTok videos for long enough, you’re going to hear the term.
Gender fluidity might be a new concept for most adults, but not for today’s youth.
Kids today know that just as sexual orientation can fall anywhere along a spectrum between gay/lesbian/queer at one end and straight/heterosexual at the other, so can gender expression fall anywhere on the continuum between male and female – or beyond.
Nonbinary means that there are more gender options in this world than we adults were taught as kids. It means that not everyone can check a neat and tidy survey box marked “male” or “female” – some folks fall somewhere between, or beyond, those binary notions.
It’s finally time to move beyond the black and white world of he and she. Welcome to the wonderful, rainbow-hued world of they and them.
For the record, I didn’t always have a mind this open to differences in gender and orientation. Like most of us, I wasn’t necessarily brought up this way.
In fact, I was brought up mostly Christian, so part of me actually feared that the “gay lifestyle” was a sin until a dear friend came out to me as gay in college. He quickly assured me that gay is not a lifestyle – you’re actually born this way. I realized instantly that I must have been taught wrong.
Years later, I was cool with the GLB acronyms but still pretty unsure and nervous about transgender individuals. That is, until a very special friend came out to me as trans and told me she was born this way, too. I realized I still had so much more to learn.
Now, even 20 years later, I’m still learning. Another beloved person in my life has honored me by coming out to me. And this time? It’s our amazing nonbinary kiddo.
E and I were blessed with the opportunity to step up and respond with love, empathy and celebration when our own child came out to us – and I’m proud to say we nailed it! Z has taught us well.
When our kids find the courage and strength and trust within themselves to share their innermost feelings and identity with us, how can we not respond with love, acceptance and congratulations?
Even though the world becomes more open and accepting all the time, it is still not easy to come out. Every single time someone has the bravery to do so, it becomes a little bit easier for those around them.
I am so proud of our Z for having the strength to do at 10 what many cannot accomplish in a lifetime. E and I are now getting used to saying our child instead of our daughter, and they and them instead of she and her. A few language changes are a small price to pay for helping to ease the anxiety, stress and heavy burden that our sweet child was carrying on their shoulders.
We are so relieved and happy that Z took this step and shared with us. We’ve already got them in a gender-diverse support group with other like-minded kiddos ranging in age from Kindergarten to fifth grade. We also cannot wait to take them to their first Pride celebration in June!
Really, all you need to know is that nonbinary is just another word for awesome, unique, individual and brave. Leave it to our creative, amazing kiddo to find the most interesting path forward in this life of ours. We are so very, very proud of our Z today and always.
Got questions or tips for parents of nonbinary kiddos? I’d love to hear from you, as always, in the comments below or over on Facebook.