Danielle Denenfeld Kelly: Exploring what it means to be gender non-binary

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Exploring what it means to be gender non-binary

I am the mother of two children, a 10- and a 7-year-old.

My 7-year-old, Harper, likes to cut, color, paint, fold and make beautiful things with paper, sing songs, play with our cats and dogs, solve math problems, dig in the dirt, put on makeup, wrestle, and read.

Over the past few years, Harper has had persistent questions about gender, identity and anatomy. Recently, Harper doesn’t feel like a boy or a girl and identifies as non-binary.

As a parent, this brings up questions: How do we want our children to be received by the world? How can we help our children feel comfortable with themselves, and be true to themselves? How do we support self-advocacy and authentic expression?

Harper believes that by publishing this in the newspaper, people will read it and understand, empathize, and it will change the way they see and treat others.

These are entirely Harper’s words:

“Last year, in kindergarten, I felt a little more like a boy than a girl.

“People weren’t nice to me about that. People teased me and acted like there was no such thing, and they thought there was no such thing.

“During the summer, I changed back to a girl. At the start of first grade, I decided to be neither a girl or a boy. People still did not understand.

“To be non-binary, you aren’t a girl or a boy. It doesn’t feel like me to be a girl, and it doesn’t feel like me to be a boy, either.

“Kids in my class say that I can only be a girl and I can’t change anything. I wish that everyone knew that they can be whatever gender they want to be. I wish that there were just public bathrooms at school instead of a girls’ room and a boys’ room.

“I don’t know why people choose to be mean to me about me being non-binary. I wish people would be nicer to me. I really, really want my friends to understand.”

Danielle Denenfeld Kelly