“Do you still love me?”
This phrase is all too familiar to anyone who has come out as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a question often asked of parents, partners or friends during the process of coming out, and it is truly heart-breaking that at some point, most of us have had to feel this way.
No child, partner or friend should ever be made to feel that the love they receive is conditional and may be withdrawn by the other party based on who they turn out to be, so why is it that we are still made to feel this way? All evidence points to roots in our heteronormative, cisnormative and patriarchal society. A survey made recently by the Pew Research Centre found that in America, 39% of the members of the community interviewed have been rejected by family or friends because of their sexual orientation. 60% of responders admitted to being targeted by slurs in regards to their sexuality, and three out of ten responders also admitted to being physically attacked or threatened. Yet another sobering statistic in the United States is given to us by a nonprofit organisation which works to end homelessness, called the True Colors Fund. It found that there are 1.6 million homeless youth each year, and reportedly 40% of these are part of the LGBTQIA+. The LGBTQIA+ community however represents only 7% of the total youth population in America, which shows us the staggering disproportion between these two statistics.
Again and again statistics backed by each member’s individual experiences with rejection, both in the home and in society, help raise the question: what can be done? What can be done so that future generations do not have to feel that being ostracised is normal, that they are inherently deserving of unconditional love, that they are not born “wrong”? Sociologist Kyl Myers (she/they) is one of the first of this past generation to find a possible solution: gender creative parenting.
Myers is an award-winning, globally recognised advocate for gender equality and known for her
(unfortunately) unconventional way of raising her child. Myers is a first-time parent of Zoomer, a five-year-old she raised to be a compassionate and self-aware person, although without giving them any gender nominators and only disclosing information regarding their reproductive organs to doctors. They were therefore also raised away from harmful gender stereotypes and disparities, sexism, homophobia and so on, as the importance was placed elsewhere. “Zoomer wore all the clothes, played with all the toys and got to experience a free childhood” says Kyl Myers in a recent video that went viral on TikTok. Immediately she was attacked as being too extreme in their upbringing and accused of taking it too far, making a radical and unfair choice for a child far too small. But nonetheless, Kyl and her husband stayed firm in their belief that this would help the introduction of a good and happy person into the world. At the age of four, Zoomer said that he/him pronouns were the ones that fit him best and that he was a boy, a fact he had found out without so much societal pressure, but rather through an understanding of his body, his desires, and his gender identity. This way, Zoomer never had to face the question of “will my parents still love me if I disclose who I truly am?” and now lives happily as a boy, but with the knowledge that gender is not set in stone, and that his parents will support him no matter who he may identify as or who he might love in the future.
There are many other examples of gender creative parenting, for example the raising of Storm Stocker-Witterick. Their mother, Kathy Witterick, chose the raise the child born in 2011 as gender neutral, even though Storm has two older siblings not raised so. Their biological sex was not disclosed outside of immediate family and close friends and they were free to experiment with identities across the gender spectrum as soon as they saw fit, which led to Storm officially stating that she prefers she/her pronouns. Not everyone might be ready to raise their children without specifying their AGAB (assigned gender at birth), but this isn’t necessarily a part of gender creative parenting: There are celebrities such as Kate Hudson and Angelina Jolie who have expressed support for raising their kids beyond gender stereotypes. Hudson has openly stated that "I raise and will continue to raise my children, both my boys and girl, to feel free to be exactly who they want to be. To feel confident in their life choices and feel loved and supported no matter what."
It won’t happen overnight but moving forward there need to be more conversations and a normalisation for complete acceptance of the child’s own choice. Even small changes make a difference, a difference that prioritises happiness over societal norms. All parents should face the deconstruction of harmful gender stereotypes in their own way, whether by using gender-neutral pronouns, or letting their child freely pick out dresses or suits or dolls or trucks; the only pillar of this form of upbringing is the unconditional love that moves the parent’s choices and shapes the child’s well-being, and which will hopefully one day help children come out with the ease of someone specifying their allergies at a restaurant.
cbsnews.com transstudent.org lesley.edu kylmyers.com/book raisingzoomer.com thegenderbook.tumblr.com thestar.com theinsider.com www.independent.co.uk