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A Letter to My Youngest Child on Their 29th Birthday

by Tammi Leader Fuller
 ∙ Mar 17 ∙ 6 Min Read

Happy birthday, Court!

The older you get, the less surprised I am that you made your way into this world on the first day of Spring, 29 years ago…the official day when flowers bloom and darkness starts turning to light. 

Yes, this week you celebrate your birthday, and I get to celebrate you, my youngest child, who has always taught me so much about things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. Over the past year, as you’ve let the world into your journey as a non-binary being, I’ve come to realize that I – we all – have so much more to learn if we are going to transform this world into one we all feel safe to live and love in.

I would like to believe that as your loving and supportive mama, I have always been your biggest cheerleader, but in this transition, I didn’t fully understand at first what I was cheering for. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for opening yours to my learning and unlearning and for inviting me, biases and all, to join you on your journey to comfortably becoming You: Court (they/them), a non-binary, trans human whose truest Self exists beyond “traditional” gender labels.

Witnessing you expand to live a life without compromise has been more eye-opening and liberating than I can even begin to express. 

You have taught me to stop questioning, or trying to make “sense” of pronouns I hadn’t used previously, and that you don’t need to understand the nuances of someone’s gender identity to respect them. 

And that a non-binary person can be both feminine and masculine, none of the above, and so many variations in between — or, as you like to say, “out between.”

You have also shown me that when I do mix up my pronouns, it’s best to acknowledge the mistake on the spot, and correct myself in the moment. And when I am corrected (which I usually am, by someone who is 30 years my junior, cuz those Gen Z’ers almost never get it wrong!) the quickest path to forgiveness is to thank the person who is helping me get it right, and to practice, practice, practice, so that mistakes become less frequent over time.

 It’s like eliminating junk food from your diet, even though it’s been advertised to you all throughout your life. It’s not easy in the beginning, but you eventually get the hang of it and then wonder what took you so long?

That’s how it’s happening for me anyway.

Court, my love, you have opened my eyes to the injustices so many of us have been guilty of perpetuating for more years than we care to ‘fess up to.

And one of the greatest gifts my generation can receive today is to allow our kids to educate us, as you have me.

As a woman, I was unconsciously taught to laugh off the missteps. When someone I’m talking to says something inappropriate, stopping the conversation to correct them always felt “disrespectful.” So I just shut up. But now I see that’s a huge mistake. And sorry/not sorry in advance to anyone who I will now correct when misgendering anyone who deserves better than that.

Shortly after you socially transitioned, I started reading up on some of this work done by Kimberle Crenshaw, the law professor who coined the phrase “Intersectional Feminism” in 1989, as “a prism for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”

And from Crenshaw’s work, I have learned that this intersectional approach shows how people’s social identities can overlap, creating compounding experiences of discrimination.“If you see inequality as a “them” problem or “unfortunate other” problem, that is a problem.”

Watching the ignorance perpetuate itself in places like Florida and Texas, where bigoted lawmakers are trying to send parents to jail for helping their kids access life-saving, gender-affirming health care, and prevent even conversation about any or all things gay, makes my blood boil. And something that is now intensely personal to and for me, because of where we are, you and me, on this adventure. And I want to dive deeper into my allyship with you in the coming year, if you will let me.

Last year, I learned from you the very thing I would like to believe you learned from me, and I got from my mom Grandy, way back in the day: that “when you know better, you do better”

Thank you Court, for helping me to get with the program. We all have so much to learn, but I’m just happy to be at baseline, at this important moment in time. Lucky for me, there is nowhere to go but up.

So on this day, as you sail into your 30th year on this Planet, I want to pinch myself, and extend my gratitude to you. For helping me get myself present enough to be an ally for you and this growing community to which you belong, and are sure to make big waves in. Sharing your experience, in all its iterations, may have been the greatest gift from you I’ve ever received. I am unbelievably thankful for all of it, even the rough patches.

Instead of saying “Happy 29th” to you today, please allow me to rephrase my wishes to you for a magical year ahead:

“Happy first birthday in your new skin, Court. Wear it well, my love. It looks pretty f-cking awesome on you.”

Xoxo, Mommy

Note to the curious reader of this post:

The fact that you read this all the way to the end tells me you want to do better. I appreciate your being open enough to explore and learn more…

A few articles Court sent to me, and asked me to share with you, just because we know you are eager to learn this stuff:

Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive, via TransEquality.org

Affirming v. Non-Affirming Parenting Behaviors, via gender spectrum

Beyond the Gender Binary Book by Alok Vaid-Menon

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