It was a November morning, and as I was about to share on social media, I paused and re-read my words for the 10th time: “I’d like you all to meet Clark (formerly known as Claire). Clark prefers they/them/he pronouns and would like to be known as my kid/my son who is nonbinary. Clark asked us to tell our friends and family who they are now.”
My heart beat like a drum and my palms were pure sweat. Before this moment, I had only told a few trusted mom friends. My in-laws knew. But by sharing our new family holiday photo — my twins at a public garden in Pasadena — it would be clear that Claire was now Clark.
I took a deep breath and clicked, making my post live. I was scared of what conservative family members on Facebook would think. I feared people would judge my parenting choices on Instagram. The online world is far more terrifying than my liberal Los Angeles neighborhood where Clark is one of several nonbinary children.
Our family’s transition started with the most mundane dilemma — a pile of dirty laundry. It was a summer morning. We forgot to wash the kids’ clothes and it was time to go to preschool. Clark threw a fit that there were only skirts in their dresser while their twin, Chloe, was fully dressed. My husband and I cajoled Clark (then Claire) to “just get dressed.” After crying, Clark finally said, “I don’t feel like me in skirts.” It was the moment I realized that how we reacted would forever be cemented in my child’s mind. I dug a pair of shorts out of the laundry hamper, did a sniff test, and handed them over. Clark’s tears dried. Their smile appeared. I knelt down to my sweet child. “Do you want me to get rid of your skirts and dresses?” They nodded.
At bedtime, I introduced a children’s book I bought. When we read "It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity" by Theresa Thorn, Clark pointed to the page with the nonbinary description and said, “That’s how I feel. I don’t feel like a boy or a girl.” I borrowed "Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope" by Jodie Patterson from our local library. As I read it, Clark inched closer to the pictures of short-haired, tie-wearing Penelope. A bright smile took over their face. “I feel the same way too!” Clark exclaimed.
Next, it came time for a haircut. One hair stylist talked my child out of getting a short “pixie cut.” “You don’t want that,” said the stylist. I looked my kid in the eye and said, “You can have the short hair you want.” But Clark opted for a bob instead. I told Brendan, my husband, what happened. He found a salon with a nonbinary stylist, who walked Clark through what they were cutting with trimmers. When Clark came home, Chloe and I told Clark how awesome they looked with short hair. Clark beamed with joy.
Privately, I feared what Clark’s future might be as their body changed. Would they want to be on hormone blockers, or have surgery someday to alter their body? Would someone physically hurt my kid outside of our Los Angeles bubble? According to a survey by The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, “42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.” The statistics for LGBTQ youth of color are equally alarming — 67 percent of Black LGBTQ youth and 60 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity. I reached out to transgender friends and asked them about their journey, as if I could figure out how to handle Clark’s future. I was thankful they shared what choices they made. A few offered to talk to Clark.
After two months in kindergarten, Clark said the lunch lady had thought their name was Clark not Claire. Clark asked if they could change their name. We said, “Sure. Let’s try it at home and see how you feel. If you want to change it permanently, you can.” Of course, it took Brendan and I several weeks to get the name change right. Chloe was the first to correct us if we got Clark’s name or pronouns wrong. Then, one day, Clark said they wanted to tell their teacher and class. Brendan and I had already communicated with their teacher about the name change. She was super supportive. The school principal emailed me a form to change Clark’s name in the school records.
My brave kid stood up in front of their kindergarten classroom and told their friends that they were now Clark. They asked to use the gender-neutral bathroom at school. When we arrived at their after school program to tell the staff, one teacher said, “Clark already told us.” I was amazed to see that my kid’s name tags on the table and cubbies were already changed.
After I posted our holiday photo, I obsessively checked Facebook and Instagram, fearing the worst. Surprisingly, I saw the best. Comments rolled in, like “Hi Clark! We love you.” Or, “Welp, here I am crying happy tears. This is wonderful. You are all wonderful.” Hearts, likes, and hugs came through. In my DMs, friends reached out to connect me to other families with transgender or nonbinary kids. Other parents sent me emails applauding our support of Clark and how their authenticity inspired them.
I showed Chloe and Clark all the supportive comments. I read each one aloud. They were amazed that so many people said such nice things. Before they went to bed that night, I sat with them on our living room couch — a place where I used to tandem nurse them —and told Chloe and Clark I was very proud. Proud of Chloe for loving and supporting her twin, and of Clark for sharing their identity with people. My twins were mystified. “Mommy, why would anyone not love someone for who they are?” I struggled to answer this question. I came up with: “Sometimes, people are scared of what they don’t know and they let their fear get in the way.” Chloe and Clark were still baffled, but accepted my answer.
That night, I told Brendan I was amazed by how people responded. I felt so much lighter now that I had shared what I had feared. In my post, I had written: “I ask that if you disagree with our family’s choice — that you tell me privately in a message — rather than put it in a public comment.” I received zero negative messages.
My children’s bravery to express themselves boldly and lead with love led me to see that my fear was misplaced. I was scared to share their authenticity, but when I hit post that day, I reflected on their joy. When we’ve honored their choices to cut their hair short or wear clothes that feel like them, the joy and light on Clark’s face is what lets me know that we are doing the right thing.