Dear Amy: My child came out to my husband and me as non-binary, using “they/them pronouns and a new name.
I am struggling to change the way I address them, but I am honestly trying.
My husband is not.
My husband flat-out told them that he doesn’t care if they identified differently; he will continue to use their birth name and pronouns.
My husband says he doesn’t care what other people call them, and that there is no negative connotation meant on his part, but I know it is and will be taken that way.
I told him that my child may refuse to interact with him if he refuses to address them in this new way, but he says he doesn’t care.
His partial acceptance confuses me on what to do.
Based on previous discussions, I believe my child will keep in touch with me, but not my husband, but I always said I would leave my husband if he showed hate to a child of mine.
This situation is confusing, because this isn’t rejection – it’s just not really acceptance.
Should I leave him? Torn
Dear Torn: I’m going to dodge the direct question regarding whether you should leave your husband – because it is too binary. And marriage – like gender and sexuality – occurs across a spectrum.
However, you say that he is not rejecting your child, but is just not accepting them. You see his response as a “partial” acceptance.
I see it differently. When someone says, “This is who I am. This is my name. This is my identity…” and another person responds: “No, it isn’t…” that’s basically the definition of “rejection.”
Many people in your (also my) generation would freely admit to struggling adjusting to non-binary gender and “they/them” pronouns. I think it’s natural to be thrown off when a child who you have raised with one identity announces such a change.
But accepting someone’s right to define their own personhood and identity is what it means to love someone. So, while addressing your child differently might be hard at first, accepting them should be easy.
Your reaction: “I’m struggling, but I’m working on it,” is an authentic statement, recognizing your child’s — and your — humanity.
Your child’s identity is not hurting anyone. Your husband’s response is.
Should you leave him? I don’t know. Maybe he needs more time to accept what is actually a very simple human right – the right to self-determination.
But is his response hateful? I believe it is.
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