Guest Post: One Mom, Two Coming-Out Stories, Part One
Late November, 2020: It was a Friday morning. I was having a quick breakfast before getting my kids started on their “distance education” school day (thanks, Covid), when I saw a folded piece of paper sitting on the kitchen counter. “To Mom and Dad,” it said. I opened it and read, but my brain seemed to be slow in processing what was written there in my oldest child’s handwriting. I read the short letter twice. “Nonbinary”? What’s “nonbinary”? I had a vague sense of having heard—or read—this word before, but I couldn’t remember when or where. Nonbinary? Involuntarily, I felt my eyes fill up with tears. Oh, I had cried so much that year—that tumultuous year of pandemic, religious betrayal, and political turmoil. That year when, only a few weeks earlier, I had submitted my official resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the religion I had been born and raised in, and to which I had devoted the first four decades of my life. Still reeling from this slow-motion free-fall from certainty into the unknown and unknowable, still searching for a solid place to land . . . my mind wanted to say: No. I can’t deal with this right now. There is too much going on. I. Just. Can’t. Process. One. More. Thing.
But of course, denial was not an option. So, I took the letter downstairs to my husband’s home office, where he had begun his workday. He read it, then looked at me. “Okay,” he said. “Okay,” I said. I told him I wasn’t sure why I was crying, which was true. In one sense, I had anticipated this moment for years, and he knew this. However, what I had anticipated was our oldest child coming out as gay, not nonbinary. For a great many reasons (which I won’t get into right now), for the past 11 years—since my oldest child was two—I had assumed there was a good chance she would be a lesbian. I had discussed this possibility with my husband quite a few times over the years. While he took more of a “Let’s wait and see” approach—as opposed to my “I’m tell you, I really think she’s gay” mindset—we both agreed that we would love and support our child no matter what. We agreed that we wanted both of our daughters to have love and romance when they grew up, and to have the opportunity to find a life partner and to raise a family. No matter the sex of their partner, and no matter what that family might look like. As might certainly be anticipated, this issue was a major factor in my faith transition. It was not the only factor, but it was significant.
I was prepared—or at least I felt like I was prepared for “Mom, I’m gay.” I was not prepared for “Mom, I’m nonbinary. I don’t feel like a boy or a girl. I want you to use ‘they’ and ‘them’ and to call me ——–.” But that is what happened. So yes, I cried. And my husband hugged me. And we hugged our child and we said “We love you. Thank you for telling us.” And I tried to think of how I could possibly explain this to my very devout LDS extended family. And then I cried some more, and then I found a therapist who could meet with me on Zoom, and she convinced me to take a breath, and to slow down and to just take things one step at a time. And that is what I did. And I thought, in wistful melancholy mingled with relief: “I’m so glad that we agreed not to force our child to go to church if they didn’t want to. I’m glad they stopped attending at the age of 10. I’m grateful they are not in Young Women’s now. I’m glad that I left.” And I don’t think I can’t properly convey the deep sadness that I felt in the midst of the solace these thoughts provided.
But my child is happier now. The more they come out to friends and family, and the more they are accepted for who they are, the more they feel at peace. And for that I am so thankful.