So, the other day, Bean and I decided to take advantage of the first really nice day since October to go for a walk. She was on her way to a three-day field trip the next morning and needed some supplies to contribute to the community meals, so we grabbed the backpack and headed for the grocery store.
On our way there, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about school (natch; hers and mine), we talked about how excited she was to take this trip (which, I’m thrilled to say, was just about everything she hoped it would be), and we talked about some of her concerns about the privacy she feels she needs but doesn’t get on account of the open-door policy at Chez Chili and the fact that she shares a room with her often overbearing sister.
That was all on the way to the store.
After our shopping was done, we made back for home. Before we even got out of the parking lot, Bean told me that she thought I was a great mom, and that she had no idea what she would do without the relationship that we share.
Allow me to pause for a moment to say that the was, for all intents and purposes, out of the blue. We weren’t being particularly mushy or sentimental; nothing had happened on the way to or in the store that would have prompted that from my younger child.
Once I caught my breath again, I thanked her for the reassurance. Bean knows that I come from a very broken family and that being a good mom and making sure that none of the hell that has plagued my family for generations is passed through me into the future is my primary focus in life. Truly; there is literally nothing more important to me than doing this mommy thing right. Curious, though, I asked her what prompted that spontaneous bit of love, and she replied that, of all of her friends, she is only one of two or three girls who have strong, stable, and healthy relationships with their moms, “and even they don’t have a relationship like ours,” she said.
I told you that story to tell you this one. My younger daughter is queer. This is not a thing in our family; she is what she is and we love her just the same. That sort of matter-of-fact acceptance (not ‘tolerance,’ mind you, but total and unquestioning acceptance) is something that her friends apparently do not enjoy.
One of her friends in particular is having a hard time with her parents. This friend is questioning her gender identity, and her parents aren’t engaging with her process at all. Bean has told me that this friend has said her parents have insisted that she abandon this “nonsense” immediately, that there is no such thing as “questioning” one’s gender, and has forbidden all talk on the subject in any context, both within and without their hearing. Bean had put me on notice last summer that this girl may need to seek safe haven now and again in our home, and she mentioned on our walk the other day that we may need to up our proverbial alert level to orange.
I struggle mightily with the idea that a parent can deny their own child the support that they need for something that is so primary to that child’s very identity. I mean, I get that gender and sexuality issues are often difficult for people to comprehend, but is it not the loving and right thing to do to figure out how to work through your own issues as a parent so that you can be there to give your child the foundation and support they need as they figure out who they really are? I mean, isn’t that your job as a parent?
I fear that this kid is going to end up completely rejected by her family of origin – I’ve met and had exchanges with her parents, and I wouldn’t put that kind of behavior past either one of them – and while I can – and will – provide a safe and welcoming place for her to land when and if that happens, I know that, no matter how much love and acceptance I can layer over her, I can never undo the damage that her parents’ rejection of her very personhood will cause.