Since starting my blog about raising a gender nonconforming child more than two years ago, I’ve been contacted by countless families who have found themselves in a parenting situation similar to mine. The families that reach out to me are most often looking for camaraderie, resources, advice and/or to be connected with other gender nonconforming families in their area.
Recently, I’ve noticed something else that these families have in common: the gender nonconforming child is adopted. Six out of the last eight families to have a parent contact me are raising a gender nonconforming child that is not biologically theirs.
As I think back, before I started noticing the trend and keeping track, I can remember several other families who contacted me and who — while sharing with me a little about their gender nonconforming child — mentioned that s/he was adopted.
Do adoptive parents need more help as they raise a gender nonconforming child? Or, are they just more likely to seek out help? Am I not hearing from biological parents raising their gender nonconforming child because they have it totally handled and don’t need a thing?
I hadn’t mentioned this trend to anyone until I brought it up to a new mom friend of mine who I met through the blog and who is raising an adopted gender nonconforming boy.
She thought about it for a while and then gave the most beautiful possible explanation.
She believes that the universe places adopted families together. Maybe the universe or some higher power knew that she would be a great mom for a gender nonconforming son and so it gave her one.
I nodded my head in agreement. I knew what she meant. I feel like the universe gave me C.J. on purpose. I’m the best mother for him; I can feel it in my heart. I was meant to be C.J.’s mother.
We talked about it. And, she pointed out that most adoptive parents have to go through quite a lot to have a child; in most cases it’s more of a process than biological parents have to go through. Maybe the intense longing to have a child, the legal process and the challenges that can go along with the adoption process readies a parent to be more accepting of absolutely whatever comes their way. Are adoptive parents more accustomed to seeking out help and resources?
Because the child is not biologically theirs, can they better separate themselves from the child and the traditional expectations that go along with parenting a child that is half theirs and half their partner’s? If so, does that better prepare them to avoid a mourning a process, see a challenge and address it? Adoptive parents have no idea what they are going to get. They start with no expectations because they don’t know what to expect. They know that the child isn’t going to be a mini-me, so are they more willing to let the child be who they were created to be – knowing that they signed up to deal with whatever they were given?
Then, I noticed another trend. More than half of the families who have contacted me have mentioned that their gender nonconforming child is also a little behind in school, is at risk for repeating a grade level or has already repeated a school year.
It feels like yet another special need families like ours must deal with. For C.J. for example, I feel like his slow academic progression can in part be attributed to his being focused on gender differences and worrying about whether kids will notice his different gender presentation. When you are worried if other kids will notice and tease you about liking girl stuff, learning addition and subtraction isn’t going to seem important. Learning uppercase and lowercase letters doesn’t feel like a survival skill. Blending in when needed and honoring your true self when safe to do so, do feel like survival skills. I can understand that.
Also, if you’re a boy who likes cradling a doll in the kitchen during free time in the classroom you seem a little younger and immature. Five- and six-year-old gender conforming boys have matured and moved past that. They have moved on to throwing sand at each other on the playground and tackling each other during games of full-contact tag.
For parents who are living with all of these things — raising a child who is gender nonconforming, adopted and sixth months to two years academically behind their same-age peers — the challenges just seem to keep compounding. I have to believe it’s because the universe knew what it was doing. It gave the unique challenges to parents who are strong, smart and loving enough to handle them and never accept defeat. It’s not a scientific explanation, but it’s the one that makes the most sense to me.
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