Allyship

November 5, 2020

Transparent Love and Allyship

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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I remember reading a blog post a couple of years ago that someone in my newsfeed shared. The blog was written by a mom who found herself with a child that identified as a different gender than they were assigned at birth. I remember being so moved by that blog because the mom’s whole stance was essentially: we can figure this out, what matters is that we love each other.

I finished reading that blog, and with my eyes full of tears I thought to myself, “I would hope to have as much grace as this mom if I’m ever in her situation.”

A little while later, I was sitting with a group of people, a few of whom I knew well. We were talking about kids coming out of the closet and how parents responded to their kids’ identifications. I remember so clearly saying, “I kinda hope that at least one of my kids comes out so I can be an amazing mom response on a video! I’d totally go viral,” I remember saying.

You know that adage “Be careful what you wish for?” Yeah…

A few weeks later my eldest told me they were bisexual. In my head I was all: “This is my moment! Say something amazing!” And so I said, “I hope you didn’t think I’d be upset. I mean: you’re telling me that there’s room in your heart to love everyone? That’s awesome!”

“Check,” I thought to myself. “You owned that response!”

If there’s one thing I have learned over my years of spiritual study, it’s that the Universe is always listening and bringing to you the moments you desire. Which of course explains why that adage is true: if we wish with our whole hearts for something, we must be willing to accept all the things that come with the granting of that wish.

A mere three months later, my eldest greeted my “good morning” at 7:12 a.m. with, “Mom, are you and Dad going to be home tonight? Because there’s something I want to tell the both of you, together.” I am always and forever — many times to my detriment — a “strike while the iron is hot” sort of person, so I grabbed the moment and brought the three of us together in our bathroom. My husband was getting ready for the day, and I had not had any coffee yet, but if something needed to be discussed, then we were gonna do it and now.

The next words spoken changed my world. Forever. “The thing is,” my kid said to me, “I feel like I’m a girl, not a boy.”

“Oh,” I said. My husband and I stopped moving. “Okay, then,” I said. “Is there anything else we need to know right now?” I asked. “No,” my daughter responded. “It’s just that I was talking about this with my friend, and she said that it would be a good idea to talk to you guys right away. You weren’t home last night Mom, so…”

“Ok great – thanks for telling us. Have you brushed your teeth? You don’t want to be late for your bus,” I said and ushered her on towards her day.

I spent the rest of that day in a haze of shock and fear. My husband and I kept having these quiet conversations, furtively trying to talk to one another without letting anyone know what we had learned that morning. This was imperative because we knew it was not our job to out her to anyone, and because we knew we weren’t ready to face all the unknowns this brought.

The next few days found me quietly crying in corners where I thought no one would see me. I have always been a leader, but how do you lead when you have no idea where you’re going? How do you answer the questions about what’s next when you quite honestly want to go back to what was simpler and more predictable? Why would you think about what comes next when there’s so much fear to go forwards?

The journey towards being an ally – not just someone who says they are on the side of whatever group is trending at the moment – was not easy for me. The biggest hurdle was my own belief that I already was an ally! Honestly, I knew nothing about being an ally. And I thought I knew everything. That first step, humbling yourself to say to the community you want to support – the person you want to support – “I’m here for you, but I don’t know how to do that”… it is truly the hardest.

In those early days, I wanted to ask my daughter if she was sure. I learned very quickly that this was not a supportive question. In fact, it’s deeply phobic of whatever it’s questioning -sexuality, gender identity, any decision. It implies that the person you’re asking the question to has not thought about it. Worse still, it communicates that you don’t trust them. I did not ask the question, thanks to guidance from other parents of transgender people I found on social media. Instead, what I did was I learned to listen.

When I got quiet, my daughter started to talk. She had probably been waiting for years for me to stop talking! When I stopped talking, she started to use her voice. One night, we were sitting at the kitchen table, just the two of us. It had been a long day for me and I was eating dinner after the rest of the family. She came to sit with me and as she was talking she ended up saying, “I know this is hard for you.”

I took a deep breath, looked her in the eyes and responded, “The way I see this, Layla, is that you are giving me a chance to know who you are, not who I expect you to be.” As I said that, her face lit up. I didn’t deny that it was difficult. I told her I was listening and that I wanted to know her.

It’s been more than two years since my daughter came out. There have been more tears both happy and sad, and the facing of fears. There have also been deeper conversations, uproarious belly laughs, and love that can only grow where one knows they are completely and totally accepted. Because the truth is, I love her. And that’s all that’s needed to figure this out.

Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown

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  1. Devjeet says:

    Beautiful

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My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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