When my oldest child Ember first came out as gay in high school (they are bisexual), I was still a member of the Catholic Church. At the time, I was starting to question where the church stood on issues such as women in leadership roles, support for LGBTQ and divorced members, and several others. I felt like it was time to find a new church, but guilt and decades of tradition kept me there. I'd like to go back and talk to my thirty-six-year-old self. I would tell her she is allowed to change her mind.
My friend Meghan says, "You are allowed to think one thing and change your mind. Clarity and perspective can change what you once knew as absolute."
This goes for what you believe about your faith, child, and family configuration. Having two transgender children has opened my eyes to how nothing in life is absolute. Twenty years ago, I moved to a small town in southwest New Hampshire with my husband and what I understood to be a young son and daughter. Today, I am the mother of a non-binary child and a transgender son. In the past, I would say, "I have a son and a daughter." Now I say I have two children unless someone asks for clarification.
I thought I would always be a member of the Catholic Church. I was the godmother of my good friend's son and two of my nieces. The Catholic Church no longer views me as a godparent now that I have left the church. They don't believe I can help these young people grow in their faith if I am no longer a practicing Catholic. Forget that I have decades of experience behind me and a rock-solid faith to stand on. I haven't changed my mind about God, but I have changed my mind about the Catholic Church.
You can change the way you think about your child. That doesn't mean you change the way you love them.
When your child comes out as transgender, it requires you to rethink how you see your child. If you stay stuck in how they've always been, you risk damaging your relationship with your child. Your child may have hidden from you for a long time, afraid to emerge as their true self. It will be hard to see your child with new eyes, using a new name and pronouns. Do the work. It will take a while, but it will be worth it.
You may have some preconceived ideas about what it means for your child to be transgender. Or maybe, you grew up thinking certain things about the LGBTQ community. Perhaps your faith community taught you that being LGBTQ is a sin. It's okay to change your mind. You don't have to keep those beliefs forever, especially if they will harm your child.
Those ideas you had about gender and pronouns and how you viewed your child aren't absolute. If your child grew up playing with Barbie and now wears suspenders, it's not wrong; it's just different. You aren't the same person you were as a child or even a teen or young adult. We can't expect our children to pretend to be who they aren't, especially if it comes at a high cost.
Love is absolute, and it helps us connect with ourselves and each other.
Changing your mind is an act of love. It shows your child that you are willing to learn and grow as a person. It's a visible way you show your child you aren't stuck in harmful beliefs or thought patterns. Before you become an ally or an advocate for your child, it's an outward way to show your support.
If you change your mind about something, share it with your child. Be sure to share what you've been thinking about and what led you to your decision. Tell them why you couldn't see that point of view earlier. For example, "I've changed my mind about the way the Catholic Church views the LGBTQ community. I can now how harmful their point of view is. I couldn't see it before because that's what I was raised to believe, and it was continually reinforced by people I trusted. I'm sorry."
What is something you've changed your mind about? Did it have to do with your child coming out as LGBTQ? Please share it in the comments.
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