A mum has revealed her heartreak after her beloved teenage daughter came out to say she wanted to be addressed as non-binary.
Non-binary or genderqueer is a term for people who don’t want their gender to be identified as male or female. In other words, they don’t feel that the gender they’ve grown up with fits their true identity.
According to research published in the American journal Pediatrics last year, almost 10 per cent of teenagers now identify as ‘gender diverse’ or non-binary.
A mother (who hid her name to protect her child’s identity) has now spoken out about when her 12-year-old daughter questioned her gender.
Mum, this is really difficult for me to say,’ the WhatsApp message from my 12-year-old daughter began. ‘… I don’t feel like a girl, but I don’t feel like a boy.’
Staring at my phone in shock and disbelief, I replied that we’d talk about it when she got home. Later, in our living room, Lizzie told me she wanted to be referred to with they/them pronouns.
She wanted everyone to call her Zack, to swap her skirts and pink tops for curve-concealing hoodies and obliterate nearly every aspect of her former life. She had been too nervous to tell me in person that she was non-binary, yet now she looked as determined as she did scared.” The mum told DailyMail
‘I, meanwhile, felt like I had been kicked in the face. Lizzie was the name I’d chosen for my daughter, the name I’d painted in pink on her bedroom wall, to suit the princess-loving little girl I adored. Surely this must be a mistake. A phase. A way of fitting in.
‘I’ve had three years to grieve for the little girl I loved — and get to know a completely different person, who I love no less but for awhile barely recognised. Raising any teenager is tough; navigating the process with a non-binary child brings up a raft of complex issues still poorly understood by anyone not directly impacted by it.
‘How many parents know what it’s like for their child to get changed in candlelight because they hate the sight of their developing breasts? For them to want to wear a binder, to flatten their bust, or have surgery to remove it altogether?
‘So many parents think being non-binary is not a genuine state; that it is something teenagers say for attention. I should know — I was one of them.
‘Aged 38, I’m just an ordinary working mother; open-minded but not really political. I’d barely given a thought to the gender debate because I didn’t think it would affect me.
‘Given that nearly all the non-binary teenagers I know once called themselves girls, I can’t help but wonder whether societal pressure on girls, be it from social media peddling perfection or smartphone filters that push them into not feeling pretty enough, is a factor.
‘For all my shock I really wanted them to be happy.Perhaps the onset of puberty could also have triggered Zack’s decision.
‘But while I agree that some young people, particularly girls, are jumping on the bandwagon to escape the often unbearable pressure society piles on them, I don’t believe my child is one of them.
‘After three years that have tested their decision to the limit, I have come to believe that being non-binary is something Zack was born with — that they were different from the start.
‘So I was grateful to pop star Jennifer Lopez this month, when she introduced Emme, the 14-year-old she once considered her daughter, with they/them pronouns at a concert in Los Angeles. In doing so she helped draw attention to an aspect of the toxic trans debate that is having ever greater repercussions for our children.
‘At this point, however, while I accepted, I’m not sure I did understand. I was full of apprehension about Zack’s future, from their developing body — I’m big breasted, would they take after me? — to whether they’d find a partner they loved or an employer who treated them fairly.
‘Next, they asked me to remove all remnants of their old life from our house, from the dresses I gave away to the pink duvet we exchanged for green and the ‘Lizzie’ I’d painted on their wall that we papered over with posters.
‘They also asked that I remove the photographs of them as Lizzie from around the house. Taking down the canvas of my favourite print — my child climbing a tree, long hair flowing in the wind — was heartbreaking.
‘With every week I felt I was losing my girl, and paying a painful price for letting Zack live as they wanted.
‘Although Zack has happy memories of childhood, until puberty, they have said they feel like a different person now.
Zack had just started Year 7. I called the comprehensive school to tell them they’d changed their name. I was called in for a meeting, at which I gave permission for staff to use the name Zack and ‘they/them’ pronouns.
‘A lot of children are changing their names at the school, ‘the headteacher, who was accompanied by learning support teachers, told me. ‘It’s becoming quite a thing.’
‘The school has been supportive. Perhaps this explains why ten out of 200 children in Zack’s year identify as non-binary. Most comprise Zack’s new friendship group, and were born girls — I can’t think of one who was a boy. I don’t think all are genuine — I think some just want to feel part of something. ‘ she concluded