When a teacher at our kids’ school kept saying that families are made up of a man and woman, my nine-year-old daughter raised her hand and said, ‘my dad is a they.’ It’s not like I sat her down one day and said, ‘if anyone calls me a he, can you please interrupt that thought.' It was very validating to me as an individual. And it was a very proud parenting moment because our kids don't love to speak in front of people. For her to feel it was important enough to speak up in front of her class showed me that we are raising people who can be educators. If they speak up for me, they can do it for their friends as well.
From an early age, we have tried to build a relationship with our kids by being open and creating a space for them to come to us with questions and have honest conversations. It was pretty cool to see that just by talking about different family structures, our kids have grown up to understand that you can't say family is made up of mom and dad, or man and woman, or that all relationships are monogamous. We never make assumptions about what another family structure might look like. In our house, there are no defined roles that are exclusively a ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ thing. It definitely takes work because it doesn't take long to realize that most of what is shown in the media is that mom-and-dad family, so even when you see a positive representation of dads, it still just barely scratches that surface.
We come up against people who have different views a lot and most of the time it’s not even intentional. Sometimes our kids come home with things that they have heard from classmates, but it’s understanding that not everyone raises their children the same way. Our kids tend to have access to a lot of information that many kids their age don’t. For us it’s just trying to make sure our kids understand the difference between when to speak to your own experiences - and I think my daughter did a great job when she explained our family and me being non-binary to her class.
For me, it’s been all about making sure we have an open relationship where we can all talk about whatever we want. If they come at us with something we don't have an answer to, we don’t say, ‘you shouldn't know about that yet.’ It’s more like, ‘let’s sit down together and figure out the answers.’ That's how I’ve shifted conversations around topics like menstruation. It’s not a conversation dads should be passing up, or not learning about, and it doesn't matter if you only have sons. These kinds of subjects that we have been raised to think of as taboo are the responsibility of everyone to understand and break down that stigma.
I was raised in a Catholic household and went to Catholic elementary school. My parents were and continue to be really great. Although I had never heard the terms non-binary or trans or any of that growing up, nothing was intentionally left out. My parents were very involved. My dad coached a lot of my sports teams and my mom was the guidance counselor at my high school. They gave me the ability to understand that I can change and grow as I get older. So while I wasn't given information specifically around my identity, I was given the building blocks to be able to now figure out what that is. They never boxed me into one thing and that is something I am hoping to do for my kids too.