Dear Amy: Recently my oldest child (age 20) came out as “enby” (non-binary) and is in the process of transitioning to presenting more female than male by taking hormones, having laser facial hair removal, and growing their hair long.
My enby child is in college and lives four hours away. My youngest son is also in college and lives out of town.
I live in a small town.
When friends of our family ask, “How are your boys?” I answer, “They are both well and doing well in school.”
People sometimes ask about my “oldest son.” I will answer using the pronoun “They” — that child’s preferred pronoun. I don’t want to offer other information about my oldest child’s transition: I feel that’s their story to tell, and not mine.
My oldest now goes by a chosen name. I use this name when speaking to people who are aware of their transition.
Is it OK to refer to my oldest by the name they had from age 0-20, to those that don’t know about the new name?
It seems easier for me, but sort of a denial of my child’s “true self.”
— Proud Mom of Two Great People
Dear Mom: To clarify, “enby” stands for NB: non-binary, which describes the gender identification of a person who does not clearly identify as either male or female.
Your oldest has transitioned from the male gender assigned at birth toward a non-binary gender identification. Part of that transition has been to choose a new name.
Transgender or non-binary people often refer to the name given to them at birth as their “dead name,” and while a mom who chose that name at birth might choose to think of it as a “birth name,” the practice of “deadnaming” (using this previous name) – either intentionally or unintentionally — is considered disrespectful.
You should talk to your oldest and ask how they would like you to handle this. What is easier for you (and others in your circle) might not be easiest, preferred, or respectful for them.
I understand your reasoning that this transition is your oldest child’s “story to tell,” and not yours — but that might also be an avoidance reaction, because you just don’t feel like explaining this somewhat complex situation to people you fear might not understand this process — or accept your child.
You might say, “My oldest is undergoing a gender transition and has changed their name. So from now on, we all use this name. They’re doing really well, and thank you for asking!”
You should check GLAAD.org, for helpful guidelines on how to be a supportive ally.
Dear Amy: I’m employed by my city, as a government employee in a very large office. This year, our holiday celebrations were canceled but we were given a “drive-by” celebration instead, where we received gift bags.
After waiting patiently in line, the gift bag was handed to my teenage daughter, who was in the passenger seat. After we pulled away and began to look through the bag, she discovered a $50 gift card to a sex shop!
I am a female employee working for the mayor. Is it me, or is this extremely inappropriate to give to anyone?
I went to HR about this and was basically laughed at.
What do you think?
Dear Upset: You don’t mention what business this gift card was for, or how you define “sex shop,” but yes — any gift card for any business even loosely affiliated with a sex shop (including a gift card for lingerie) would be completely inappropriate and outrageous as any kind of professional bonus. It is also curious that your city was choosing to support this type of business when so many others were hurting this winter, due to the pandemic.
I suggest you try to discern whether others also received this gift.
If a call to the mayor’s office doesn’t yield answers, you might contact your local newspaper.
Dear Amy: More on “bribing” kids not to do things.
My ex-husband and I bribed our daughter to not start smoking cigarettes. She received some money ($100) at 18, then $500 at 21.
She’s never smoked, and will be 30 at the end of this year.
As a former smoker, we found it well worth it to ensure our daughter’s future health.
She’s an ER nurse.
Dear Healthier: I believe that one reason this bribe worked was because of its (relatively) modest size.
The bigger the bribe, the bigger the temptation.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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