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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

A note from the editor-in-chief.

Today is 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). It is a day not only to be acknowledged by the world’s trans community, but by the world as a whole. This is because trans people should not be pigeonholed to just their community, or even just to the LGBTQIA community. Just like cisgender people, transgender people are just … people.

Trans Day of Remembrance has been annually recognized since 1999, when it was established by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith. Smith started the memorialization in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was murdered the year before. In the years since its inception, TDoR has become a vigil not only for Hester, but for all the trans people who have lost their lives to violence in the years since.

Today, we can see that violence against the trans community has not changed much. In 2017, 25 trans people have been victim to a fatal crime, including Texas’s own Stephanie Montez, a 47-year-old trans woman from Robstown. The majority of those people were trans women of color; and those numbers are up by 2 from 2016, with still a month and a half of the year left to go before the beginning of 2018.

The names of the people lost in 2017 are as follows: Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow (28), Mesha Caldwell (41), Sean Hake (age unknown), Jojo Striker (23), Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond (24), Jaquarrius Holland (18), Chyna Doll Dupree (31), Ciara McElveen (21), Alphonza Watson (38), Chayviss Reed (age unknown), Kenneth Bostick (59), Sherrell Faulkner (46), Kenne McFadden (26), Josie Berrios (28), Ava Le Ray Barrin (17), Ebony Morgan (28), Troy “Tee Tee” Dangerfield (32), Gwenyvere River Song (26), Kiwi Herring (30), Kashmire Redd (28), Derricka Banner (26), Ally Steinfeld (17), Stephanie Montez (47), and Candace Towns (30).

Sadly, the attitude toward the trans community around the country is not generally improving – especially so with a president in the Oval Office who perpetuates antiquated and ridiculous stereotypes about the trans community by trying to ban trans servicemen and women from the military. From there, it trickles down. It trickles down to his supporters, those who are unsure of him, but who still listen, and then to the children of all of those people. Children who, if I might add, we should be educating about equality, about not seeing gender identity or sexual orientation or color or religion or nationality.

That’s why here at About Magazine, I’m making it a personal mission to make About Magazine + About News just as inclusive of our trans community as it is of the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and pansexual community. We will also be more inclusive of the intersex and asexual communities, so that no one is left behind.

To do so, we will be launching in 2018 our first page on the website for trans-only content, aptly titled About Trans. Currently, we are looking for trans writers and editors to be a part of this initiative. Until then, I will oversee it. However, I am a cis person, and in order for this operation to be genuine and authentic, it is my earnest belief that this portion of our site should be trans-run. If you or anyone you know would like to be a part of About Trans, feel free to email me at anthony@about-online.com.

Going forward, let’s remember what today stands for, and remind ourselves and our trans friends, neighbors, and loved ones that they are just as important as anyone else, and that we’re there to aid them if they should ever need it in any way. Give them your love, and give them your support, because they are just as much a part of the LGBTQIA community as anyone else that falls into any of those other categories. And if you don’t believe this to be true, read a little bit of our content today so that you can understand why trans people are so important to the queer cause. Because as genderqueer activist and musician C.N. Lester said, “Even when we are confused about someone’s gender, and don’t have a greater awareness of what it means to be trans, we have a choice to respond with kindness rather than cruelty.”

Choose kindness.

Choose community.

Choose love.

 

Anthony Ramirez

Editor-in-Chief

 

For more information on Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit the GLADD website here. 

By Any Other Pronoun ft. Nene Leakes

Pronouns,

How would it make you feel?

Let’s get a few things straight: we’re not worried about someone’s sensitivity. We’re worried about human decency. And a part of being a decent human being is understanding that pronouns are important to people – especially trans and nonbinary people.

More often than not, young children are raised under the impression that there is a gender binary. There are two genders: male and female. Males are supposed to like sports, and cars, and superheroes. They’re supposed to run for president and be doctors. Females are supposed to shoot for the stars, too. In fact, their role models are usually princesses from fairy tales who either inherited or married into money.

What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, that’s what.

There are two real issues with this. The first of these is that we’re still associating character traits with gender and sex. That school of thought isn’t just antiquated … it’s stupid. The second issue here is that just weeks out from the year 2018, we’re still looking at gender in the binary, or as having only two parts (male and female). The idea of there being a third, non-binary gender is nothing new. This year, California became the first state to recognize a third, non-binary gender. But centuries ago, many Native American tribes (or as I like to call them, the OGs of the continent) recognized as many as four separate genders (though this also could prove problematic, as they still dealt with masculine-feminine stereotypes).

Look, the fact of the matter is that (especially so in our community) there is a large chunk of people who identify as non-binary (meaning neither female nor male) or identify as male or female and just so happen to possess qualities that seem more masculine or feminine than what is considered to be the “norm.” Even I, a cis-gender, gay male who has chin-length hair, a feminine personality, and who sometimes wears makeup, am often referred to by strangers using the she/her/hers pronouns. And the truth of the matter is that it can be a little embarrassing, just like it can be for trans people and nonbinary people. And why? Because in spite of the fact that I am the most colorful fruit in the produce department at the Montrose Kroger, I am a cisgender male and identify as such.

Now let’s think about how that must feel for trans/non-binary folks. These are people who have struggled most of (if not all of) their lives with the gender they were assigned at birth. No matter how long they’ve been out as trans, or if they even are, a superfluity of emotions can stir inside a person when they’re called by the wrong pronoun.

I posed this question on my Facebook, where some of my friends chimed in.  

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The responses came in quickly.

Cis and mildly passive-aggressive:

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Non-binary:

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Trans:

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Cis and honestly trying to correlate: 

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Cis and understanding:

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So what does that mean you should do? 

 

giphy By Any Other Pronoun ft. Nene Leakes

ASSSSSSKKKKKKK!

It’s perfectly okay to ask. In fact, most people (whether they be trans, cis, or nonbinary) would prefer that you ask. I mean, you wouldn’t want someone walking around calling you a chef if you weren’t a chef. Would you? You wouldn’t want someone walking around calling you an octopus if you weren’t an octopus. Would you? Why would a trans man want you walking around calling him a woman?

He wouldn’t.

So, ask what your newfound friend’s pronouns are! It’s okay. And it will save you some embarrassment. Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable asking this person to the side or away from a large group of people. That’s okay, too. Ask and don’t be uncomfortable about it, and don’t put people on display.

OH, BUT HOLD UP! Here’s something you should never ask: 


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NEVER ask a person about their genitalia that you are not having a consensual, sexual relationship with. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S NOT ANY OF YO DAMN BITNESS.

So, here to explain to me some of the responses you might get when you ask these questions is our good friend Nene Leakes.

Woman – She, Her, Hers

fjbacatxchtmtrajszf6-300x169 By Any Other Pronoun ft. Nene LeakesA woman is any person who identifies as a woman. This can mean that maybe they were born in a male or female body, but now in their life identify as a woman. Use the she/her/hers pronouns here.

Man – He, Him, His

nene-leakes-58a6df187aa07c3c1b40a4ae-g-1-300x169 By Any Other Pronoun ft. Nene Leakes

Same goes for men. This is any person who was assigned a certain sex at birth, but now identifies as a man. Use the he/him/his pronouns in this case.

Non-binary – They, Them, Their

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Some people are assigned a female or male gender at birth (or maybe they aren’t) and grow up to realize that they’re not … well … either. Some people (despite the body they were born in) don’t feel like a boy or a girl. They just want to be a person. And that’s equally okay. For them, we use the they/them/their pronouns.

See? It’s that easy! Just ask. It’s just like asking any other question. Like what their sexual orientation is:

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Or what they do for a living: 

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But remember that it is a sensitive topic, so be respectful. Kind of like asking what size someone wears:

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Or what their beliefs are:

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And like all other things, everyone has the right not to answer your questions if they aren’t comfortable doing so.


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So what have we learned?

It’s okay to ask about pronouns! Just be respectful, and let the person know that you’re only asking because you care about their feelings. And remember: treat others the way you want to be treated. Oh, and that Nene Leakes is still a #kween.

We’re a community, and we have to love each other.

 

Community Highlight: The Montrose Center

the montrose center lgbtq houston community highlight community center

Recognizing local nonprofits for LGBTQIA people.

The goal of the following article is to provide information about the availability of programs provided at the Montrose Center. The following has been compiled with the help of the executive and administrative teams at the center. This information is also available on their website, as well is a more comprehensive look at what you will find if you ever needed help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Montrose Center if you ever find yourself in a position that you are unsure of where to turn.

(HOUSTON) – In 1977, the Houston Bar Association invited singer and anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant to perform at their annual conference in the city, and the local LGBTQIA community declared their intention to protest. While law enforcement was told to expect approximately three hundred protesters, somewhere between six and ten thousand community members and allies descended into downtown Houston. It was in this profound statement of unity that Houston’s LGBTQIA community recognized their power. This realization led to a conference of community leaders that met at the Astrodome, known as “Town Meeting One”. This led to the formation of entities that now make up the Montrose Center; this is their story.

MontroseDinerMontrose-Center-300x164 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterA Brief History

The Montrose Center was officially founded in 1978, beginning by offering therapy and behavioral health services. There were many setbacks in the formative years, especially in regard to funding, mostly due to the prohibitive cost of providing health insurance to those employees living with HIV/AIDS. In 1990, the Ryan White CARE Act was passed, and the center became the first behavioral health center in the US to be awarded federal funds under the act. Also in the 1990s, they became one of the first organizations to offer temporary housing and shelter to gay men and transgender people. They have continued breaking boundaries consistently since, and many thousands of people have found their way to the building on Branard Street ever since.

Today

The Montrose Center is currently the 5th largest LGBTQIA center in the nation, and continues to be a place where people can gather and respond to the pressing needs of those that cannot speak for themselves. They specifically target LGBTQIA issues through ever-changing programming and staff competency across its six areas of service- counseling, HIV, community wellness, women’s health, and senior services. It also provides social and sensitivity training for all incoming HPD cadets, while working on providing this same training for officers who have been in the Houston Police Department since before this was available. 

“More than 100,000 Houstonians find hope through our programs and services each year. Advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Houstonians is a calling, and the volunteers, staff, Board of Directors, and executive team are fully invested in the community’s health and well-being.”

– Ann Robinson, PhD, Executive Director

lesbian-health-initiative-houston-800x458-1-e1518564499514-300x111 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterThe first area of service that most clients come across when they arrive at The Montrose Center is known as “Life Counseling and Case Management”. This consists of mental and behavioral health counseling, substance abuse programs (CDR), and family and hate crime prevention and awareness (AVP).  A full 20% of the clients receiving these types of services are on the transgender spectrum, although all people identifying as LGBTQIA (and allies) are welcome with open arms, understanding, and compassion.

Of those served, 3% of total trans clients are seen every year for medical case management. This program is designed to assist those people living with HIV and AIDS while staying in care with a physician, paying for medication, along with a host of other services related to their specific condition. The goal is to create a care team that will stay in touch with the client and assorted medical providers to ensure they are given the most appropriate aid, catered to the needs of the individual.

The Hate Crimes and Anti Violence Prevention Program, or AVP is responsible for helping 26% of the yearly trans client population of the center. The volunteers and therapists in this subdepartment help identify threats, remove clients from harmful and dangerous situations, and teach life and relationship skills to ensure a safer future. The Montrose Center has a series of safe houses for those that feel they are in immediate danger and have been key in removing many people from violent, dangerous situations.

The “Way Out” substance abuse recovery program sees 5% of the trans client population graduate each year. This program is a way for people to seek help with drug and alcohol abuse in a safe, secure environment with people who understand the unique issues facing the transgender community in recovery.

All these services are provided by a team of therapists, counselors, volunteers, and administrative staff who have made it their goal to assist LGBTQIA people in the pursuit of a safe and healthy mental and emotional life.

“In the behavioral health (counseling, recovery, case management) services of the Montrose Center we follow the WPATH Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (version 7).  We use the correct name and pronouns for the true gender of our clients and provide a safe and affirming environment within all of our services. Our clinical staff is trained on transgender cultural competency and humility. We accept and value you as you are.

According to the WPATH standards, a mental health screening and/or assessment is needed for a referral letter for hormonal and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria but psychotherapy – although highly recommended – is not a requirement. The Montrose Center can provide the screening and referral letter for hormones and surgery.

The standards also describe ways psychotherapy and mental health services can be helpful for people who are transgender. These include:

  • Supporting clients throughout all phases of exploration of gender identity, gender expression, and transition.
  • Clarifying and exploring gender identity and role.
  • Addressing the impact of stigma and minority stress on one’s mental health and human development.
  • Facilitating a coming out process.
  • Aiding in alleviating any co-existing mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression) identified during screening and assessment.
  • Assistance with coming out to family and community (friends, school, workplace).
  • Family counseling or support for family members.
  • Referring  adolescents for additional physical interventions (such as puberty suppressing hormones)

The Montrose Center also has several transgender support groups that meet in our community. Transgender people can also have the ordinary problems everyone else has. The Montrose Center provides an array of mental health services such as general counseling, substance abuse treatment and recovery, trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse and hate crimes counseling, HIV counseling and case manage, and youth and elder support services all in an LGBTQ accepting and affirming environment.”

-Chris Kerr, Med, LPC, Clinical Director of the Montrose Center

mcpride Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterSpecialty services are provided to the client population living with HIV and AIDS. These services include, but are not limited to: housing assistance, case management, community outreach, HIV education, and no-cost testing. Many people at the center come together to help clients stay in care and off the streets. The transgender population, especially trans women of color, are particularly susceptible to the ravages of this virus, and The Montrose Center assists these people with compassion and understanding. 4% of the client population seen by this area of service are transgender and are always treated with the respect that they deserve.

The Montrose Community Center is a department that centralizes many assorted areas of care.  

In order to help provide a better quality of life for the clients of the Center, they keep a food pantry, wellness classes, outreach and advocacy programs, and rental space in order to host events for leaders and organizations in Houston.  The Transgender Thanksgiving Potluck has been held here as well for the last three years, and it is a place for those trans people who may not have family to gather with during the holidays. This event sees about 70 people per year, and allows those that attend a way to network and socialize. There are several peer-led transgender support groups that meet also, and $13,955 worth of rental space is donated each year to trans and community of color focused groups and initiatives. Last year alone, 1,253 events were held at the center for a total of 64,438 individual visits.

All restrooms in the center are gender-neutral, with several single occupancy options as well. All guests are greeted with gender neutral pronouns until they specify otherwise. Great care has been taken to respect all people regardless of their journey in life. There are two trans organizations in the center’s non-profit incubator, giving them time and space to grow to help others.

“Finding spaces that are truly inclusive has always been a challenge for the transgender community and even more so for those of color. The Montrose Center is not only a hub of resources and services but a safe haven for the transgender population here in Houston.”

– Atlantis Narcisse, Community Projects Specialist Volunteers  

hatch-300x300 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterHatch Youth Services are available to gender non-conforming people of varying ages. From the weekly meetings that have seen 532 visits in the last year, to the programs designed to help homeless LGBTQ youth, many teenagers have seen their lives improve from being a part of the Hatch system. They also host a yearly prom, Vision Quest, and projects to teach individuals to be comfortable with who they are. While Hatch is a public program, these meetings and groups are all confidential, and the attendees are treated as patients with all the rights that go along with that, regardless of age.

“When I first went to HATCH, I was homeless, in high school, and had no support system in place. Now, I’ve just graduated college, I work at the Montrose Center, and I have a place to call home. None of that would have been possible without the strong support system, resources, and assistance that HATCH Youth Services provided. My story is only representative of a fraction of the immeasurable impact that HATCH and the Montrose has had on hundreds of youth all over Houston.”

-Crimson Jordan, Montrose Center VISTA Member

 

The LGBT+ Women’s Services include six educational events attended by 51 LGBT+ women, and programs targeting these women saw 18,193 served in the last year. These are designed to include not only trans women, but trans men as well who may be in need of reproductive health, or mental health services.

 

“Our priorities with LHI is to center our work and advocacy around those who are the most marginalized by structural systems in the US. Therefore, much of our programming is geared towards building community around trans, nonbinary folks, poc folks, religious minorities, bisexual womyn, persons with disabilities, and especially all who especially lie at multiple minority intersections.  Our hope is to provide service for and create community and celebration around those who are most often shamed and “othered” in contemporary society.”

– Naushaba Patel, MPH, Women’s Health Education and Outreach Specialist

spry-300x300 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterSPRY Senior Services keeps a diner for seniors, hosts trips and outings, and assists those in need with housing. The diner, last year alone, serves 3,233 hot lunches at no charge. This is open to all seniors, but as with most of the programs at the center, cater specifically to LGBTQ+ people.

There are so many more things that you can find through the Montrose Center website. The ability for the transgender community to have a safe haven, a place to feel like they belong, can do so much to save lives. So, if you’re curious about what’s on offer, check them out.

Raising Kiki, a Genderfluid Child

Kiki the Genderfluid Non-Binary Child Gender

Moco & Maize Steinman of art duo Mandem give insight into raising a genderfluid child.

Raising children isn’t a task anyone is up to. They come into the world completely unpredictable. You can’t say if they’ll grow up to excel at math or at mischief. Their sexual orientations will begin to reveal themselves at unknown times. It’s impossible to know if they’ll be artists, or scientists, or humanitarians. What’s also impossible to predict is the gender – if any – they will identify with.

The latter was the case for young Kiki, the gender-fluid, sometimes non-binary child of parents Moco and Maize Steinman-Arendsee. Kiki prefers the pronouns they/them/their, and as an aside from being non-binary (not a defining factor of who they are), they are also extremely talented in art and linguistics. They are loving, kind, and possess the brains of well-attuned adult.

Kiki’s parents (and Kiki!) sat down with About Magazine to discuss what it’s been like raising a non-binary child, how it’s changed them, and the pride and humility their child brings to the both of them.

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About Magazine: Let’s start by hearing a little bit about your child, Kiki.

Moco & Maize: Kiki is a super-affectionate and clever child with a tendency to hyper-focus on research into their interest of the day (currently ant-keeping). They’re also bouncy, hyper, and resilient in the face of tragedy, though easily made sad by failure or rejection. At the end of this semester, they’ll have just turned 7-years-old and will be in third grade. They’re in public school via a virtual/online option, which allows them to work through things at their own rate and (more importantly) allows them to do math while jumping on the trampoline, wear pajamas all day, and take sanity breaks whenever needed. It’s a great system, and Kiki is doing well with it. They want us to add that they have multiple imaginary friends who are very important to them, and that they’re a very kind person.

Kiki’s pronouns are they/them/their. Kiki is, presumably, non-binary. Correct?

Yes, that is mostly correct. If you were splitting hairs, I think you’d say “non-binary spectrum” because they alternate between being a boy, or a girl, or both a boy and a girl, or agender. Under some classification schemes one might call this gender-fluid, but non-binary works.

Tell us a little bit about how that discussion came up between the two of you as parents, if you don’t mind.

We are asking Kiki all of these questions because we don’t want to speak for them, but when we asked “how did you realize you were both a boy and girl,” they express confusion because that’s just how it is. I think most six-year-olds when asked “when/how did you realize you were a <gender identity>” would be confused – it’s just how they are. And Kiki has been outwardly expressing this gender identity since before they can remember. So we’ll try to answer without them.

But to be honest, this is hard to answer – it didn’t come up between the parents, it developed naturally with getting to know Kiki. They brought it up. So you get a narrative.

We started with the awareness that we didn’t actually know their gender. We did originally use their “designated at birth” pronouns (which we’re not going to mention here), but with the psychological awareness that we were open to whatever gender identity they developed. We also were choosing mostly non-gendered clothes (to the best of our ability) and such early on because we wanted this to be something that could develop naturally.

Before they could talk, Kiki started developing a strong preference for clothes and toys that were coded for the “opposite” gender; and as soon as they could talk they started saying they were the “opposite” gender of their assigned-at-birth sex – and correcting people about that. So, we started using the pronoun “they” because we weren’t sure what gender was going to stick. Around 3 1/2-years-old, Kiki started going through a six month femme stage, and at the same time started identifying exclusively as a boy. At that point they’d explain to everyone “It’s okay, boys can wear dresses too,” and correcting us whenever we misspoke or referred to “boy clothes” or “girl clothes.” But they grew out of the “all femme all the time” stage when they were around 4 to 5-years-old, and then they verbally articulated that they were BOTH a boy and a girl, and sometimes neither a boy nor a girl, and that they just wanted to be able to change between them. Consistently since then, they have been fluid in their identity – mostly settling on “both a boy and a girl.”

You two also began using the they/them/their pronouns, and you mentioned to me previously that Kiki asked this of you. Can you tell us a little about how that conversation and decision went?

The entire family did transition to using they/them pronouns, though it’s not as simple as “Kiki asked us,” per se. We have both self-identified as “genderqueer” for over a decade (we were both gender nonconforming), but within the context of being in a queer relationship and not in the context of changing pronouns or thinking much about that aspect. When we were queer youth, the idea of changing one’s pronoun was a lot more niche than it is now (we are a bit older than most people think we are) and trying to survive (as disowned queer teenagers) was more on the forefront of our mind for a long time. And it also seemed to us before that being trans was a very binary thing, that there wasn’t space for someone to be “not a boy and not a girl.” But talking through with Kiki how they felt about gender helped both of us realize that this was also a more authentic way of thinking about our own lives as well. I suppose it helped that Kiki would frequently ask us our pronouns/genders (“Today I’m a girl. What are you today?”) and no one had ever asked either of us that in a safe environment before. (Plenty of, “So… are you a boy or a girl?” from street harassers, of course!) So just having a reason to interrogate that was amazingly healing.

I’ve met several parents, actually, that came out as trans or began to identify as trans after seeing that their children were gender nonconforming and thinking “that’s just like me as a kid” – and then realizing that they could love their children regardless of gender or binary presentation. A good parent with a trans kid can come to this line of thought: if I can love my genderqueer kid, then the problems I had as a child couldn’t have been my fault – it was a societal fault, or a parental fault, or whatever… and if my child should be proud of who they are, then how can I try to repress it in myself?

We’ve both had this experience along multiple vectors of abuse, while watching our child grow up. There are all these little moments that have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with love, such as “when my child breaks things and cries about it, I just want to cuddle their little heart and make them happy again…. how could my parents have hit me when I broke things?” And then you forgive yourself for having been a “bad child,” because you never were.   But that’s getting a bit off topic.

kiki-3-169x300 Raising Kiki, a Genderfluid Child

Do you think that more parents should adopt the ‘they’ pronouns? And what are the more important aspects of it that you would stress?

Kiki feels strongly that parents should start with a gender-neutral pronoun – we’re all fans of “they” for that – and switch to he or she (or keep they) when the child becomes aware of their own gender identity. Kiki says it can negatively affect a child to be misgendered, and that if you call them he or she they might be mad that their parents have been using the wrong pronoun.

From a slightly more adult perspective, keeping in mind how slowly society changes and what challenges face a child, we would suggest a more moderated answer.

So, yes – more (all) parents of gender nonconforming children should ask their children if they would like gender-neutral pronouns and be willing to support that if the answer is yes. There is sometimes a rush to assign children to a binary gender – even with trans kids – and this shouldn’t be so parent-driven. Parents already say, “You were born with this genital configuration so we’re going to gender you thus,” and switching over to, “I see you have these gendered interests so we’re going to re-gender you this other way” isn’t the answer. Allowing kids to have the space to explore their gender while using non-gendered pronouns is a really good measure that takes into consideration the concerns regarding young transition while also acknowledging the reality that trans kids often know their authentic gender very young. And of course only a non-gendered pronoun is going to be an authentic fit for a child whose gender exploration is going to also end with a strongly non-binary identity. This needs to be youth-driven in that parents should ask and listen about their children’s authentic gender expression.

Kiki is probably right that it’s also true that more parents should start out saying, “We don’t know for sure what my child’s gender is,” and that starting with a gender-neutral pronoun and waiting to see what gender develops would be a brilliant. But in real life, this is a battle that may not be worth it in most cases. Using a non-binary pronoun means you have to defend the pronoun and face transphobia really early on, and there’s also this sense that then you’re putting a weight on a child to pick a gender ASAP because everyone is asking about it. For us, when Kiki was very little, it was easier to use a gendered pronoun until such time as they expressed a preference, even though in terms of clothes and toys we mostly gave them non-gender-stereotypical things. That said, I think what would be really glorious would be if parents could avoid aggressive gendering of children (i.e., buying them only toys marketed to one gender, adhering to gendered colors or styles, etc.), and then just check in occasionally to see if they have a preference on gendered terms and pronouns.

Did having a non-binary child change your opinions about things like gender-reveal parties, and learning the sex of a child before birth?

Learning the physical sex before birth can help parents prepare to take care of that particular configuration of physical body parts, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially since parents need to be prepared for the fact that doctors are going to try to pressure parents into gential-altering surgery if the child is born with a penis or intersex genitals, and parents shouldn’t go uninformed into that situation. Knowing what physical parts the baby is going to have can be totally separate from assuming gender.

That said, to be honest we were never very comfortable with gender-reveal parties. I think people assume that a kid’s genitals are going to tell you a great deal about their personality and that’s just not a given… so there’s a sense that the kind of person who cares so much about the infant’s genitals isn’t going to be very able to let go of those preconceptions and be happy to allow the kid to develop into whoever they want to be. But maybe it’s just something neurotypical people do that we’ve never grokked. It wouldn’t be the first thing that seemed confusing.

When people asked us, “what do you want?” assuming we’d answer boy or girl, we used to respond, “A clever kid.” It threw people for a loop when we answered that way.

Also, a name-reveal party would be more fun.

How supportive have the reactions of other parents, teachers, and children been about the non-binary pronouns?

It’s a mixed bag. Concern about that is a small part of why we’re doing virtual school (though to be honest that has more to do with Kiki’s learning style).

Kiki says that the teachers at the Youth Club they attend have been very supportive but still don’t pick up on using “they.” However, they are not being bullied about it and that’s pretty cool.

Kids are often confused — they ask Kiki a lot of questions about “how does that even work, being a boy and a girl?” and Kiki tells them “I just am.”

When we use “they” casually in conversation, we get a lot of “wait, there’s more than one?” and then people trying to explain grammar to us, which is frustrating. Of course we’re prepared with the entire linguistic history of singular they, but even people who have within minutes used the singular they without realizing (as in, “I don’t know who left these keys but I’m sure they’ll come back for them,” or even “Are they a boy or a girl?”) then act confused when we used the singular-they to refer to Kiki! Despite common usage, people seem reluctant to use it for people who self-identify as such.

Online we get a lot of support — a lot of questions, a lot of people seeking to understand, and that’s really encouraging.

kiki-6-169x300 Raising Kiki, a Genderfluid Child

Aside from the use of the they pronoun, you could do anything to adjust the school of thought on gender identity, what would that be? Either as parents or as people.

Kiki says everyone should use “they” for people they don’t know and only use he or she if they have confirmation that’s the right gender identity/pronoun. Kiki says they wish people would not use physical appearances to assume gender identity – like long hair vs. short hair.

And Kiki says they wish other parents would realize that they’re hurting their children by not letting them choose their gender. They said that if their parents didn’t respect their gender, “I would be sad and have to wait until I was an adult with my own house to get out of their presence! I would have to lie to my parents … but I would tell my friends in secret that I was nonbinary.”

We think this question is more complicated than it first appears, because in asking about “adjusting the school of thought,” the question assumes that there’s just one school. And there are people on every side of the aisle that do think that there’s just one school and everything else is wrong. But we’re more inclined to think that gender and gender identity are both societal constructs… that the reason we have gender nonconforming folx appearing all across society is that almost all of the schools of thought are attempting (metaphorically speaking) to draw a round, 3-D world on a square, 2-D map, and necessarily that means warping elements and flattening elements and also choosing an “up” and a “down” and a “center” in a way that reflects all kinds of biases and false assumptions. Making a 2D square map is an inherently biased process. Likewise any school of thought on gender is going to have biases based on the culture it comes from, the gender of the people making it, and all kinds of religious and social and class issues.

If there was one thing I wish people knew, it would be that their school of thought was a construction – a flat map of a round world, or a classical mechanics system that doesn’t explain quantum-level functions. It’s good enough to get around with, but it’s not going to be 100% true or accurate, and the more granular your resolution (e.g., the individual rather than the masses) the less it will hold up. Likewise the more binary the school of thought, the more stuff in the middle of the spectrum that gets erased. But binaries are easy, and the instinct is to fall back into them (“cis” and “trans” are also binaries in many ways).

People who are genderqueer or nonbinary or “other” may find that they don’t have the words to describe what they feel and are, until such time as the construction and the language evolves. That’s why some people will talk about being nonbinary as “a fad” right now, because just ten years ago the language and ideas weren’t popularized enough that people “in the middle” had words for their feelings. Nonbinary people always existed; they just didn’t always have the language to describe their lives. So…. be kind to those who are struggling now to find the words. Be kind to yourself if you’re looking for this language. And if there wasn’t room in your construction previously to allow for a space between “boys” and “girls,” then do your research and make sure you really think your construction works…. because binary divisions are almost nonexistent in nature. There’s always a gradation.

 


Moco & Maize are artists of several varieties, collaboratively making up the duo Mandem. You can visit their website here.