For much of their life, I would post a picture, or a collage of pictures, on Facebook to commemorate Keely’s birthday. I’m not on FB now, so I’ll write a blog.
This is the first time I have seen my child this year.
This is the first time I celebrate them using their preferred gender neutral pronouns.
Much has changed.
I never felt like I really got it like some of my friends in high school. I wasn’t part of the popular crowd. I wasn’t a cheerleader or a member of the drill team, although I called many in those groups my friend. I dated a football player, so there was that. Then I dated a member of the band, which actually made be feel more like an outsider because those band people had a tight knit group. I always had this underlying feeling of not quite right. Not quite “in”. But I tried. I tried to wear the right clothes and say the right things and fit in. Conform. Belong.
Not unusual for most of us during that time of discovery known as being a teenager.
That was 40 to 44 years ago…my high school years.
How many of my high school friends were struggling with their sexuality? How many were gay? We didn’t have a clue about gender identity and if I had to guess I would say the vast majority of my generation still doesn’t. At least that has been my experience as I talk about my child Keely.
Take a moment and remember what it was like for you. Now imagine the world today.
I don’t have to draw the picture, but I’ll outline it.
Television and what is shown. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Cyber bullying. Racial unrest. Internet at the touch of a phone screen. A bombardment of hate, ridicule, rampant teenage suicide. A planet that is slowly being killed in the name of money and greed.
My child is different. My child is non binary. They are part of that LGBTQIA segment of the population that is being murdered for being different. They are gender neutral and prefer different pronouns. They. Them. I have deleted and blocked hateful ignorant people that I used to consider friends. I deleted them from my life because they ridiculed someone that prefers they them theirs instead of he or she.
I am in awe at the strength and courage of this child of mine.
They didn’t understand their difference for most of their life. They knew, but had no point of reference. They did’t have a name or description to label themselves, to let them know that they did belong to a group of similar people.
Go back to your teenage years and remember how important belonging was.
Now Keely knows. They are non binary. Aroace. A-sexual. A-romantic. Transgender. There are actually a myriad of terms to describe who they are. Because they are not alone, they are not the only one who is not mainstream.
It’s a small group to be sure. They aren’t a mass production item like those of us that identify with our gender at birth. They are a unique small batch created by the Creator. By God. They know that with every fiber of their being. As do I.
Keely was ridiculed and bullied for being different when they attended school in Fremont County. Most hurtful were the friends that stayed at our house, were their friends until the differences became apparent. And some of them turned on them, led the pack to spread the rumors and hurt.
I almost lost my child to depression. They struggled to even pass a class, this brilliant child of mine.
They got off the plane in Durango. Straight and tall. Taller than me to their delight. They have their sights set on being taller than Steve.
They are seventeen today. Keely moved to Louisville to live with their sister Kat, who is finishing up her Doctorate and has amen over responsibility for Keely’s education. She enrolled them in the community college and they have thrived. They just finished English and Psychology. They will be taking four classes this next semester and will have an Associates Degree at the end of the summer semester next year. One B and the other grades are As.
They are in a nationally recognized choir and have made friends. Slowly and cautiously they are finding their people. They are already thinking about where they will go to pursue a doctorate in Psychology.
They are so much stronger now. Happy. Laughing. Assertive. Instead of folding into themselves they stand tall and strong.
They are still a teenager. Hormones, mood swings, opinionated and hopefully slightly rebellious as they find their voice and position in this world, with the normal separation from the adults in their life.
They are my unique wonderful rainbow child.
Happy Birthday Keely Ray. I am so thankful that I was given the gift of you.