The Silver Lining of They/Them

Today on the way home from school Charlie was telling me how lately at recess, he has started asking his friends to use “they/them” pronouns for him from now on (so I’ll start doing that here, too, though I’m sure I’ll fumble a bit). This led to classmates saying, “Nuh-uh! You’re a boy and you know it!” And just general stuff like that.

Charlie was asking me how to respond to those things. I said, “I would take that as a great learning opportunity. You can really educate people on what it means to be gender creative. They seemed open to the idea (unlike usually, when they get a bit defensive.)

“You could say,” I suggested, “You’re partly right. My biological sex is male, but-”

Charlie cut me off. “Okay. Mom, I’m going to have to stop you right there and let you know that if I use that word, they will all start running around and screaming, ‘He said a bad word!’ He said a bad word!'”

“Sex isn’t a bad word,” I reasoned.

“In fifth grade it is,” they countered.

“Okay,” I continued. ” How about, ‘I was assigned male at birth, but I have never identified with that label my whole life.'”

Charlie considered this for a moment. They have frequently stated they feel neither male nor female, but rather, just more like “a person.” But then, they said something I thoufght was pretty cool. They said, “You know, I think I was actually born with two souls. I started out with a pink soul, and a blue soul, and then the two meshed together and created silver. A little pink and a little blue made me ME – silver – and that’s just how I was born. Two colors came together and made something brand new that was neither pink nor blue.”

I told Charlie that was actually a perfect response for the kids at school, better than anything I would’ve suggested. #ProudMomMoment

Charlie has been, for a while, going by “they/them” pronouns while in the safe confines of the LGBT Center. They decided, “I’ll go by they/them at the LGBT Center, but he/him at school, because that’s just easier for everyone there.” So we went with that for a little while. I mean, Charlie did not seem terribly hung up on pronouns, and made no effort to correct us when we frequently got them wrong.

As Charlie grows in their independence and self advocacy though, I’m realizing that the pronouns are actually quite important – more so than I thought. Charlie really sees themself as neither male nor female, but something different altogether. To deny the correct pronouns would be to deny this child’s existence and deeply held personal narrative. It’s not mine to deny. It will be a bit of a struggle for me to get it right all the time. “He/him/my son” is just so ingrained in me that I will really have to stop and think when talking about them from now on.

But the silver lining is that they already seem to have it completely worked out in their mind. I can totally get on board with the notion of “a little bit of pink, and a little bit of blue, combined to make silver – something totally new.”

3 thoughts on “The Silver Lining of They/Them

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