My name is Pamela, my pronouns are she/her and (like many of the amazing parents and caregivers reading this) I am a proud parent of a gender non-conforming teenager. My child is a super creative animal lover who is non-binary on the gender spectrum and prefers they/them pronouns. They came out to my husband and I three years ago as a lesbian. In spite of my love and respect for the LGBTQIA+ community, I was unprepared for the challenges ahead. I was oblivious to how much I did not know about sex and gender. I am humbled by the lessons my child has taught me and continues to shine light on every day.

The year that followed my child coming out was the most terrifying time of my life. During this time, PFLAG Charlotte and Time Out Youth Center (TOY) were rocks for my family in a sea of uncertain waters. We battled a mental health crisis induced by the rejection they experienced from family members, supposed friends, and select individuals at school. Their school counselor recommended I take them to TOY. The resources they had access to at TOY saved their life. I have no words to express my gratitude.

TOY introduced us to PFLAG right away. When we attended meetings together, my child borrowed every book in PFLAG’s library. My child made new friends in a community of inclusive, caring people during drop in space at TOY. My child taught me the importance of respecting their preferred name and pronouns. My child even helped remove stigmas that had kept me from seeking my own internal healing from trauma. Two words resonate with me when I think about my child. Bravery and Resilience.

Through bravery and resilience, they have generated patience. Patience for receiving breast reduction surgery is our current focus. The surgery we hope for is medically necessary regardless of their gender identity. Yet, it has been delayed. The improvements needed in our healthcare system hit our transgender and gender non-conforming youth especially hard. Institutional and financial restrictions inhibit youth and adults alike from receiving the care they deserve and need. We are patiently moving forward.

Today, I am filled with hope, strength, and compassion. There is hope that collective consciousness is moving toward equality for all. Strength is generated daily by communal support and continued education. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for the love and learning I benefit from being an active member of the PFLAG community here in the Charlotte area. Practicing compassion for those blinded by hate is the best way to lead by example. This is what my child does every day. They have been my teacher from the moment they were born and I will continue to follow their lead.