I was a social-justice organizer and facilitator before social justice took over the progressive world. I was at the nascent movement’s forefront, introducing the concept of intersectionality to organizations and asking people to share their pronouns.
My friends and I felt like we were the cool kids, on the vanguard of the revolutionary wave that would change the world. We were going to achieve what people in that milieu call “collective liberation.”
Within this context, I came out as a lesbian and identified as queer. I also fell in love, entered a committed relationship, and gave birth to a son. Two years later, my spouse gave birth to our second son.
Having children, and experiencing the love and devotion I felt toward them, was a game changer for me. I began to experience internal tensions. My thinking was split between what I felt instinctively as a mother; and what I “should” be feeling and doing as a white anti-racist social-justice parent.
Because I’d felt victimized by my parents’ rejection of my sexuality, I wanted to make sure to honor my own children’s “authentic” selves. In particular, I was primed to look for any clues that might suggest they could be transgender.
My spouse and I raised our sons with gender-neutral clothes, toys, and language. While we used he/him pronouns, and others called them boys, we did not call them boys, or even tell them that they were boys.
In our everyday reading of books or descriptions of people in our lives, we did not say “man” or “woman”; we said “people.” We thought we were doing the right thing, both for them and for the world.
Even when our first son was still young, he already struck us as different from other boys—being both extremely gifted and unusually sensitive. By age three or so, he started to orient more toward the females in his life than the males. “I like the mamas,” he would say.