One of the questions I often get asked when I mention Amy and I having a baby in the future is “but won’t they get bullied for having two mums?” Reasonable question, maybe. Or maybe not.
I grew up in a bit of an odd family dynamic – I’m going to say this now. My dad was in the army so was away a lot, so it was mostly just me, my two sisters and my mum. “Normal” family, normal neighbourhood, normal house. I was bullied terribly at school for having curly hair. I was called “fuzz buzz”, “afro”, “curly wurly” and all sorts of other names. I once had chewing gum thrown into my hair. People used to say I had headlice, just because I had curly hair and it was different to them. My mum’s solution? Change. Straighten my hair. Change the hairstyle. Change the way I was.
That’s something I only realised through counselling in the last couple of years or so. The reason why my self-confidence and self-worth was so low for such a long time, was because I was never told I was fine the way I was. I was never reassured that my crazy frigging hair was just a part of what made me who I am. I was told to change. Essentially (although I’m sure it wasn’t meant like this), I was told I was wrong. I needed to change because I wasn’t good enough.
Looking back now, that hurts more than anything any bully ever said to me. The fact that my own mother would rather tell me to change than tell me “fuck them. You are who you are”. I was regularly asked why I wasn’t normal. Why I spent money on things like stationary when “other girls” were buying make up. Why I wasn’t that interested in boys or dating, or going out drinking. At the time I followed that thought train – “why am I not normal?” Nowadays my thought is more along the lines of “I”m me. If you don’t like it,sod off.” I have no doubt that my mother had the right intentions, but I know for sure that she went about it the wrong way.
The news was filled this week with the story of seventeen year oldLeelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who ended her life by walking in front of a truck last week. On looking at the story it was immediately obvious how sad her life and death was, but looking further into the situation brought to light an even sadder story.
Leelah Alcorn was born “Josh Alcorn”. In a suicide note left on her Tumblr blog, she wrote that she had begun identifying as a girl as young as four years old. In her note, she also said “When I was 14, I learnt what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion, I finally understood who I was“. As soon as she turned sixteen she asked her parents to sign the medical authorisation for her to transition physically to being female. They said no. They sent her to Christian Conversion Counselling. They told her she was wrong. That God doesn’t make mistakes. That she needed to change. She wasn’t good enough in her true form.
From what I can see of the situation (and obviously none of us know all the facts) the parents completely refused to accept Leelah as a girl. Her mother posted on Facebook soon after her death “My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers“. The way I see it is, as soon as religion comes before your child you are doing it wrong. You’ve failed.
This opened up a whole can of worms and thoughts for me. The base level of it is that I cannot understand how a parent cannot support their child, whoever they are. Whether they have curly hair and want to buy stationary instead of make up, or whether they realise that they identify as a gender other than that they were born with. The thing that people need to remember is that their children are not carbon copies of themselves. They are people. People with their own thoughts, their own plans and ideals and their own identities. They make their own choices as they grow older and their observations and needs – especially gender – need to be listened to.
We live in a society where often LGBT teens are bullied to suicide, either by others outside of their family or, in this case, their family themselves. I think that parents make a big difference in these situations. Your parents are the first people you ever look up to. They are the people who you count on to love, nourish and teach you in your earliest years. Let’s face it, for the first few months of your life at least, your parents are solely responsible for keeping you alive. Your parents are your first heroes. They are all you know in your world before you start going out and about or going to nursery or school. That’s why parents are so important.
So, going back to my original point. Yes, our children may well be bullied in school. But if they didn’t have two mums, it would likely be for another reason. There are young adults out there who look for anything that is different to them and pick on it. Amy and I will be teaching our child that people are different. People come in so many different shapes, sizes and inclinations and so do their families. That doesn’t make anyone better or worse than anyone else, because we are all humans at the end of the day.
Keeping up with the Joneses seems to be the root cause here. My mum was trying to make me what she saw as “normal” so that she didn’t have to deal with me being bullied. Leelah’s parents were trying to make their daughter “normal” so that they wouldn’t feel ashamed or be judged. Two very different scenarios – obviously one far more extreme than the other – but both equally illustrative of my point. The way I see it is – screw society. Screw what people think. As a parent, you are there to support child. Stick up for that human that you made, and make them proud of who they are. That goes for whoever they are. Whether they are straight, gay, bi, trans or whether they like videogames, Percy Pigs, Barbie dolls or Monster Trucks. Instill pride into your children so that if one day they are bullied, they realise that it’s the bullies who are the problem, not them. Never them.
I know one thing for sure, I refuse to be my child’s first bully.