A few weeks ago I received an article from a dear friend, an article about young kids who identify themselves as being agender, neither male nor female and their fight to gain acceptance. Being a mother myself, as I read the article I could not help but wonder all the emotions that transpired through the hearts of their own mothers.
As mothers, don’t we worry if our children will be accepted if they deviate, not just in the expression of their gender but in other ways as well? What if your girls hate dressing up or boys hate football? What if your brilliant child decides college is not for them? What if they are the ones in the class who sit alone? What if your children are the small percentage of introverts in this extroverted world? What if your child does not fit into a box?
This post is dedicated to all mothers whose children are true to themselves and do not pretend to fit in. It is a story narrated from the point of view of a mother who has just realized her child identifies as being agender and is a work of fiction.
It is a ghastly sight. A flock of birds, neither ravens nor vultures, (or maybe a species of either one), surrounds the carcass of the deer that lies alongside the road. The feathered creatures, black as a night when the soft white light of the moon does not shine and the twinkle of the stars does not gleam, rip apart the rotting flesh of the dead animal, in broad daylight.
As I drive past the scene on the way home from work, a glimpse of the gore brings tears to my eyes. Just as the birds tear the deer to shreds, I rip my motherly soul to bits. Every fragment echoes “Will my child ever fit in?”
The rant, like the buzz of a honey bee in our ears, infinitely plays ring-around-the-rosies in my head and I think about what you must be feeling, my child.
As I drive, my thoughts drift back to that day in our kitchen, to the time you and I frost your little sister, Lizzie’s birthday cake. She wants her cake to look like a playground with swings, slides and children at play. As I start to roll the dough to make a little fondant figure Lizzie asks me if I am going to make a boy or a girl. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it yet. Does it matter?” I ask. When I look up at you casually, you look sad. I know I have touched a painful chord somewhere. That look in your eyes …so much anguish in their blueness. Your thirteen-year-old eyes carry the sorrow of tortured souls. My heart sinks into the depths of the sadness reflected in them.
This is the first time you bare your soul to another. You identify yourself as being neither a boy nor a girl. Neither ‘he’ nor ‘she’ but ‘they’ is how we need to refer to you, you add. Tears roll down your chiseled face. Nobody understands yet, you say. They just know you are different. “This is who I am, Mom. Do you still love me?” you ask your voice quivering.
“I do, darling and I always will.” I swaddle you in my embrace just as I did the day you were born
Though what you do not know is I lie awake every night since then, to grapple with this truth. Even though I am your mother and you are a part of me, I cannot fully fathom what it must be like for you. There are many times before today when I have questioned why I am here, if there is an afterlife, if there is a God. There are many answers I seek but the one thing I know with certainty is I am a woman.
Every morning when I wake up I feel it in the very core of my being. It is so primal, I do not question it. I realize if I had to, the pain would be intense. It hurts that you must endure this every day. Will society ever understand if you if I, your mother, am struggling to? Will they ever accept you? Every pore on my skin shrivels up, every nerve in my body tightens at the thought that there will be people who dislike you immensely because you are different. Why you? Why does this have to happen to us? I want to go back in time to the day I worried about mundane things like you being a picky eater and not cleaning up your room, to the time I discussed my trivial worries with the mothers of other thirteen-year-olds.
As I reach home, the ravens still linger in my head, the shreds of my soul continue to agonize with the misery of your loneliness and the guilt of my inability to placate your anguish. I find you in the yard, playing with our pup. As the two of you bounce and frolic, I realize that beneath the veil of sexual expression, you are just like any other kid- full of love and hope.
What lies under the cloaks of our masculinity and femininity is a divine light.
Does gender really matter?
What matters is what we do with the life we have been gifted with. Of what use is gender if we pride ourselves in being a man or a woman, yet use our lives to harm or kill another? Irrespective of our garbs of gender, we need to let our light shine, to love and accept and leave this world a better place. I realize now your soul is just as pristine as it was before your revelation.
Nothing has changed. I see the warmth in your being in the way you hold our pup. I see the gentleness in your heart when you hop over the tiny bug to avoid squishing it. Later at your basketball game, I see the grit of your spirit when you shoot a three pointer in the last minute to lead your team to a thrilling victory.
You are the same spirited kid who enjoyed the rush of winning. When you smile at me, I get a glimpse of the strength you have within. It must have taken a lot of courage to accept who you are and let the world know. It is easy to hide behind a façade to make yourself fit in. It is hard to stand alone. Yet even as a young person, you realize that being authentic in solitude weighs far greater than being miserable in a clan.
It will take the world a while to catch up but some day they will see you in the same light as I do. Until then, I will stand up for you.
I see you, my child. I see YOU. Even though as a mother all I ever wanted until now was for children to fit in, I don’t anymore. I realize now I have to lead my children to a whole new world.
The black birds leave the precipice of my thoughts. the fragments of my soul, a mother’s soul begin to piece back together, bit by bit.
Author’s Note: An army of mothers who choose to embrace and accept differences and teach their children to do the same have the power to create a whole, new world.