I have a transgender nephew. When he transitioned from female to male, I had no problem referring to him as he and him. He lives on the other side of the country from me. The first time I saw him in person after his transition was about a year after the last time. I found myself stumbling with the pronouns and called him “she” a couple of time. I was appalled. Why would I do that? I’d had no problem when he wasn’t in front of me. It really baffled me.
This week I have a guest in my Facebook group for parents of LGBTQ kids who uses zi and zer pronouns. This is a first for me. I know about those pronouns but have never had to use them. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was. I’d write a post or make a comment about zer but kept referring to zer as she and her. Thankfully, people in the group reminded me and I was able to fix my posts and comments.
It gave me a glimpse, albeit a small one, into what it must be like for a parent to change pronouns with their child. Genderqueer and non-binary kids often prefer pronouns other than she/her and he/him. Some of them use they/them pronouns and parents have a hard time with that. I’ve always told parents to respect their child’s preferred pronouns even if it’s hard. A child can see the parent trying so when they mess up, it’s not so hard on the child. They know their parent loves them and is trying.
When a parent throws up their hands and says, “this is just too hard for me” it sends a totally different message to their child. It then becomes about the parent and not the child. It’s not quite the same thing but when I changed the spelling of my name, many people embraced it. My mom never could get it right. She liked it the way she spelled it! It always annoyed me but it was a minor thing to me. For a child to be referred to with the wrong pronouns is not minor. As parents, we have to respect our child. One of the moms in my group so wisely said, “It’s about what comfortable for our child, not what’s comfortable for us.”
If you’re the parent of a child who changed their pronouns, how long did it take you to adjust. What did you do to try to remember to use the right ones?