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 similar situation. 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 he or she 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?
I hadn’t mentioned this trend until I brought it up to a new-mom friend of mine that 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 kid, 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, adoptive parents have to go through 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, and the legal process and challenges that can go along with adoption ready parents to be more accepting of whatever comes their way.
Maybe adoptive parents are just more accustomed to seeking out help and resources?
Because the child is not biologically theirs, can they better separate themselves from the traditional expectations that go along with having a child that is half theirs and half their partner’s? If so, does that better prepare them to avoid a “mourning a process,” to see a challenge and address it head-on?
Adoptive parents generally start with fewer expectations because they don’t know what to expect, except that their child won’t be a “mini-me.” Maybe because of that, they’re more willing to let the child be who they were created to be.
I noticed another trend, as well: More than half of the families who have contacted me have mentioned that their gender-nonconforming child is also a little behind in school, at risk for repeating a grade, or has already repeated a school year. It feels like yet another special need families like ours must deal with.
With C.J. I feel like his slow academic progress can, in part, be attributed to his focusing on gender differences and worrying whether or not kids will notice his different gender presentation. When you’re afraid kids will tease you about liking girl stuff, learning uppercase and lowercase letters doesn’t feel like a survival skill.
Also, if you’re a boy who likes cradling a doll during free time you can seem a little less mature. At 5 or 6, gender-conforming boys have moved past that—and onto throwing sand at each other on the playground.
For parents who are living with all of these things—raising a child who is gender-nonconforming, adopted and sixth-months-to-two-years behind their peers academically—the challenges just keep compounding. I have to believe it’s because the universe knew what it was doing. It gave these unique challenges to parents who were 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.
Raising My Rainbow has been selected as a finalist in the 2013 Parents Blog Awards in the category of “Most Likely to Inspire You to Change the World.”