When your child comes out as nonbinary, it can be hard to know what to do. One parent in this position turned to Reddit for advice — and many, many people came through with thoughts, personal experiences and encouragement.
“At first they wanted to be called he/them and referred to as a masculine version of their name,” the Reddit user wrote. “But now they told me they are a they/them with a different nickname. I’m struggling and walking on eggshells all the time because they often accuse me of deadnaming when I use the wrong pronoun (I kept slipping up and using he, I’d only just gotten used to it, I know this is no excuse but my memory is bad due to a brain injury a couple years ago).”
The user then posed the larger parenting question to Reddit. “I am sure I am not very good at this but I’m trying,” the parent explained. “I know this is about them, not me, but I am anxious from constantly being yelled at and being unable to punish them because it would be invalidating their identity. I want to be a supportive parent helping them with their gender identity journey but I don’t know how.”
Some offered some very solid, proactive advice. “To help with your memory issues, maybe get some wall art with the names of everyone who lives in your house,” a user suggested. “Hang it wherever you spend the most time. Visually seeing their chosen name often could help a lot.” Another seconded that suggestion, adding: “Even if you’re struggling to verbally remember their name and pronouns, something like this could show them you are accepting of their gender identity.”
Many had thoughts on dealing with the yelling and how to have an appropriate response. “You punishing their disrespect or establishing boundaries as a parent would not necessarily be invalidating,” one person wrote. “As long as your punishments aren’t directly attacking their identity, I think it’s fine (i.e. punishing them by using their deadname would be invalidating, but punishing them with timeout or grounding etc would not be). [J]ust make it clear that the punishment is not for their identity, rather their shouting and disrespect.”
One user jumped in with a suggestion on how to handle pronoun mistakes. “You might say something like, you know I am being as supportive as I can. I want some patience also from YOU to give me time to change old habits. So how about if I make a mistake, I correct myself and move on? If I don’t notice, how about you briefly correct me, and we move on?”
Others spoke from personal experience. “I have a non binary child,” a user chimed in. “We navigate it with clear honest communication – I tell them outright I respect and support them and if I slip up with pronouns and name its out of a habit of 10yrs plus or brainfog! I’m clear it’s not at all me trying to invalidate them – often kids need us to say out loud things we think are a given (i.e. of course I wouldn’t deadname you to hurt you, I love you).”
The parent added: “A year in I’ve formed the habit of the [preferred] pronouns and they understand it’s a journey we are taking [together] and we are on the same team.”
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