Isn’t it funny how change so often happens? With our biggest and scariest life shifts, so often things reach a point in transition at which resolution seems almost impossible, even hopeless, and then — suddenly — the change is completely normal. Entirely commonplace. It’s as if life has never been any other way.
For us, this sudden awareness came at Christmas. All three Christmases, to be precise.
2020 meant Christmas was small and multi-faceted to keep everyone safe. We saw my parents (who we’ve seen regularly since late Spring) on Christmas Eve. Just my husband, my daughter, my sparkly son, my youngest son, my parents, and me. Concise but fun, festive and delightfully undramatic.
We ate. We sang (poorly and loudly) the requisite “12 Days of Christmas” with dance moves. We opened presents. Then, we were home by bedtime. Perfect!
On Christmas Day, it was just our little party of five opening gifts in the morning. Then, my father-in-law and step-mother-in-law popped by (masked and distancing, as per their comfort and needs) to see the kids.
My sparkly son came prancing down the stairs to greet them in the outfit he’d been donning all morning: the pink, glittery fairy costume with moveable wings he’d received from my parents the night before. It was a beyond normal sight for us, so I didn’t even register the attire.
Until later that day.
Quietly reflecting on the morning, which whizzed by in the usual festive frenzy, I finally processed the morning scene. My sparkly son in full tulle-and-sparkle regalia and my lovely devout Catholic, imigrant in-laws casually and sweetly complimenting his new garb. How had I missed it? How had I not seen it… felt it… processed it sooner?
He was FULLY accepted. Fully affirmed. Fully able to be his truest self and receive nothing — not a hiccup, not a head tilt, not a questioning dig — nothing but familial love.
Then came this weekend: Christmas Part III. My cousin and my aunt met with us via Zoom for a belated Christmas present opening. My aunt nailed the gifts: a keyboard with microphone for my daughter, a unicorn-mermaid- hairstyling Barbie (one I didn’t even think existed!) for my sparkly son, and a roaring stegosaurus for my youngest son. Not only were the gifts perfect fits for each kid, this was the first year that she’d gifted my sparkly son a Barbie. And not just ANY Barbie, it was THE Barbie.
And that evening, as I reflected on our family’s three Christmases, I realized something. 2020 may have taken and killed and contorted countless precious parts of our life, but it gifted us something absolutely priceless too. Something that could never have come, but through years of dedicated effort, advocacy, battles, losses, shifts, and an ocean of tears.
My sparkly son was accepted. Fully. Completely. His gender expansiveness was not only common knowledge but commonplace in its expression. He was fully affirmed in his current experience as an individual.
If someone had told me two years ago, three years ago, or even last year that this would be the case — this level of pure, unencumbered acceptance and affirmation — I would never have believed them.
So, if you are where I was five years ago with a child diverting from gender norms, know that there’s hope. Know that if you fight for inclusion, if you demand acceptance (not just backhanded “tolerance”), if you openly share knowledge, if you stand fervently as your child’s greatest unwavering advocate and ally, it will get easier. It will get better. The world WILL see the beauty that is your uniquely and wonderfully made child.
Be brave. For them.