We Came Out LGBTQ as a Family. Here's What We Learned
If your social media stream is anything like mine, somewhere around the end of May your social feeds light up with a rainbow version of that Game of Thrones meme with Jon Snow. Instead of "Winter is Coming," however, it most certainly reads: PRIDE IS COMING.
The month of June was chosen for LGBTQ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots which occurred in the same month in 1969. Stonewall was a rebellion against police violence toward the queer community of color in New York City, and 50 years later, Pride has become a public demonstration meant to recognize the impact these transformative actions of members of the LGBTQ community to resist discrimination.
Originally led by transgender women and nonbinary people of color, Pride has paved the way for many of us to come out. This Pride Month, I wanted to share my family's story.
Coming Out Nonbinary
My wife came out as nonbinary not long after we started dating. Nonbinary people, also known as genderqueer, identify with a gender that is not exclusively masculine or feminine. It was within the context of our relationship that Mo realized their assigned gender was not in alignment with their actual gender. When Mo was prepared to come out, they communicated to me what they'd like to be called and the pronouns I should be using: they/their/them. I supported my wife by not interrogating their choice, affirming my commitment to abandoning their dead name, and use the appropriate pronouns.
Did I slip up ever? Sure. That's when we processed what it meant when I made a mistake in misgendering them, and how I should be supportive and engage in repair. Queerphobia and transphobia are dynamics of social oppression that are both internal and external to everyone. Despite my identity as a queer person, I owe it to myself and my community to explore social programming that may harm others.
Mo and I created a plan for how I could provide my support as a cisgender person (someone whose gender assigned at birth is congruent with my gender identity). We knew that our society often devalues and can even engage in violence against transgender and intersex people. For this reason, it was critical for Mo (and later our daughter who is transgender as well) to establish a plan for what they needed from other family members while acknowledging that we are also an interracial family.
Gaining the Support of Our Kids
The process for explaining the shift to our three children was far simpler than we expected. We, of course, underestimated the power of young people as many parents do.
When Mo explained their identity to our children our kids seemed unfazed. "Yeah we know—it is not a big deal," was the gist. We continue to grow in shifting how we frame the capabilities of young people to understand concepts that, very often, adults complicate for no reason outside of their own fears.
Our children continue to be the fiercest advocates for their transgender family members. We establish boundaries on social media by announcing Mo's pronouns (with their permission) and having check-ins with our extended family and support system.
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How We Can All Support LGBTQ Families
I never tire of scrolling through the myriad stories of LGBTQ folks "coming out." The stories are so diverse. Indigenous two-spirit folks tell the stories of how their cultures were shaped by their native heritage. Folks who are transgender recount how they are practicing self-determination around gender in a transphobic society. Queer families talk about their journeys toward marriage and children, and how they practice care in a political season of heightening violence.
But the pressure to be visible when coming out can feel overwhelming. Our family made a choice to come out in the same spirit as those who inspired Pride Month. We were already visible in our conservative southern town, and coming out created a path for us to build the community we needed, resist the gender standards placed on us, and define ourselves for ourselves.
Coming out, if you come out at all, is very complicated. Coming out as an LGBTQ family is even more tricky to navigate. I want you to know whatever choice you make is acceptable. No matter how you chose to come out, I hope you center it around your survival, dignity, and safety as a person and a family.
If coming out for your family is an act of power and joy, then celebrate it. If it's a contradiction of freedom and grief, create space for it. There is no wrong way to show up for yourself. The powerful transgender women and nonbinary folks of Stonewall taught us that.