‘Mom, I don’t feel like a boy OR a girl.’ I realized they only knew life as ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’: Mom of non-binary child says ‘they will ALWAYS come first’

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“I love my rainbow child, my reason. Life isn’t on a binary and love who you love! Be free to be you! I’m your mom, my job is to love you! Funny thing is, I didn’t always want to be a mom. In fact, it was my child’s bio dad/my ex-husband who one day just had the grand idea. It took me a bit to process. ”Mom’…try and get pregnant? Can I do this ‘baby thing?’ I’m a great PET parent. I love being an aunt, but hmmm…’ Not long after his sudden idea, he was already telling his family, so we started taking the beginning steps.

We did the standard things—the books, the prenatal vitamins, and an added precaution when checking with my OBGYN to see if it was a good idea, or even possible. We had experienced one accidental pregnancy which ended in an early-term miscarriage, so I must admit I was worried to experience anything like this again. Luck and health were on our side, though—we got the green light and soon enough we went through the process.

Months of trying and trying had passed and nothing. My doctor had given us a deadline if we weren’t pregnant by to come back in and see, but we had decided if it got to the mark it just wasn’t meant to be. It was literally the last month of trying when I got a second pink line! It was my birthday morning. I was in shock but excited, I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen and was actually okay with the thought of giving up, maybe adoption down the road. But, here we were, expecting!

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

It was a very rough pregnancy. Right as most expectant mothers are getting over their morning sickness, mine was ramping up! It was clear as day this wasn’t going to be easy. I eventually was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum and was no longer able to work, so I was sent home on disability. It was a routine of monitoring and IVs. I lost 30 pounds, but this little being growing was strong and a fighter… in fact, the baby would get crazy and punch and fight after every sick spell. If someone wanted to touch, or even when I would shower, the water hitting my stomach was a trigger for a little punching fit. In hindsight, it’s funny and was probably a good sign of who they would always be.

Due to being high risk, the OBGYN did want a good sonogram, and at the time I had agreed to a gender preview. I had hoped for a boy. At this point I was so convinced I knew nothing of what to do with a ‘girl.’ But upon the ultrasound, everything was looking great and healthy, and they informed us we were in fact expecting a ‘girl.’ Though, knowing what I know now, I should have trusted my gut when knew this wasn’t right.

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

May 2008 came, my due date, and this perfect little human being. We would in fact treat this little bundle like a girl for the most part. Keeping family traditions of early age, we did ear piercing ‘as a sign of a girl.’ We dressed ‘her’ in the cutest dresses, whatever… but, we also never put a gender limit on toys, clothes, or imagination. In fact, early on, Kiddo was into everything from superheroes to fairies. But as preschool and elementary school age happened, we got some deeper thoughts and battles on the gender front.

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Simple things like a treat at McDonald’s would be a issue. Kiddo would always ask, ‘What toy is there?’ We both came to resent the ‘… for a boy or a girl?’ toy question, and let’s face it, most of the time the boys had the better options. At school, Kiddo would get a bit, sometimes a lot, of push back. At one point, they were obsessed with Captain America. So much so, their grandma bought them the most awesome Captain America tennis shoes. Ones where if you jump or step the big Captain America shield on top of them would light up! So fun! Like so cool.

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But I remember one day Kiddo came home and was upset. Classmates had asked, ‘Why are you wearing boy’s shoes?’ It hurt my heart seeing my child’s face. I asked, ‘How did you respond?’ ‘They aren’t BOY’S shoes, they are MY shoes!’ I was so proud and happy for them. They knew just the way to handle it.

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I would like to say this stopped then, but we ran into this a bit more, especially on dress-up days. I remember one ‘Storybook Character’ day, Kiddo was so determined to wear their Spider-Man suit, not ‘Spider-Girl,’ not even their Spider-Man dress version, they were going to wear their Spider-Man suit, so they did. And there were the questions again. I’m pretty sure at this point they were enjoying the reaction and proud of themselves as well.

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Shopping was so frustrating! Just a simple thing like when they just wanted Star Wars shirt was an ordeal. Of course they (at the time) were only in the ‘Boy’s Section.’ Fast forward to fourth grade, Kiddo’s bio dad and I are divorced, and we are full-on in our happy new life, and for this birthday all they wanted was a haircut. The first ‘big’ haircut. The kind where you go from long hair past the middle of your back to above the shoulders. This was to be the first of many ‘shorter’ haircuts.

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By the time fifth grade started, they were dying to push the envelope more. They wanted the half-shaved style, and well, my partner and I could see no reason why not. It was fifth grade, their big end to elementary school—plus, it’s just hair. It will grow back. They also were dying to surprise their bio dad with the cut, which sadly was not received well. Eventually they came to terms with it, but it hurt. At the time I didn’t see it for what it was. This was just the beginning of trying to figure themselves out, like it was at the time, just a haircut.

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

Then it happened. Winter break 2019, Kiddo was suddenly the most reserved I had ever seen them. It had been like this out of the blue for a couple weeks now. And one night, while were watching Skin Wars and Kiddo was cuddling with me on the coach, they blurted out to me, ‘Mom! I don’t feel like a girl…BUT, I don’t feel like a boy either…?’ I took a deep breath looked at them and understood clearly what was happening and what I had seen, what they were seeing, and I realized they only knew life as ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ They weren’t exposed to and didn’t understand life wasn’t always so black and white… so BINARY.

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I had always thought of myself as an ‘ally,’ but here was a moment, this was my child, not just a relative or a friend, this was my flesh and blood. I knew what I said mattered more than anything in their world. So, a big tight hug was in order! ‘Baby, I love you, no matter the label, but did you know there are famous people and other people who also don’t necessarily fit in a box?’ This became a fun Google search. Kiddo, seeing how their features could line up with those like Ruby Rose, who still uses ‘she/her’ pronouns, but has a very genderfluid way about her.

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And RuPaul, hosting Skin Wars playing in the background, doing Drag. And you can guess, the Googling snowballed. Genderfluid, genderqueer, gender nonconforming…it was a process, but it was sudden, like someone switched on the light. ‘I DON’T HAVE TO FIT IN A BOX! There are others LIKE ME! I am not alone!’

There were moments that winter break where you could see them try to adjust their thinking. Like when we went to Christmas Eve service. They had picked out an easy, no-frills dress, jacket, and Converse. Nothing too much either way, but as we walked up to the building, they leaned in and said, ‘I feel like a boy in a dress.’ I just had to be there to let them vent and explore their clothes, their feelings, by themselves day by day.

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I did my best to quickly connect them with their community, with other kids going through it or have been through it. We were very lucky to live close to some great resources, and Kiddo was already in therapy with bio dad, so I just gave the encouragement for them to discuss non-conformity issues when they felt comfortable. Be open, when they felt comfortable. All of it was such a huge help and blessing. Therapy was a safe space for them to come out to bio dad, and my partner and I got down to work and ordered books and got them resources.

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

Eventually, Kiddo had decided non-binary was the way to identify. Pronouns transitioned from ‘she/her’ to ‘they/them,’ to now where they don’t mind ‘he/they.’ It’s a growing process, and we let them lead. It’s up to them to tell us what pronouns fit best. I wish I could say the announcement didn’t get push back, but sadly it wasn’t the case, just like many other families with LGBTQ+ members. We lost some we thought were close, but what mattered first was our child and respecting their pronouns and their life. We weren’t going to accept anything less.

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Slip ups will happen, but there needs to be trying, learning, and respecting. Kiddo and I have always had a strong bond, but I want to say since being out, it’s even stronger, if that’s even possible. I’m still their parent, however, and we’re still in teen-year territory, but having a open household definitely helps.

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

My advice to those wanting to be an ‘ally’ or those who have a child of their own coming out is to just remember this isn’t ever about you. This is about them and doing the best for them. Protect and love them so they can be themselves. Just being there drastically makes a difference in the extremely high LGBTQ+ suicide rate. Love your kid! Love those rainbows around you! Educate yourself and fight hard for their rights and protection.

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

My advice is to do your best to parent—step it up from ‘ally’ get yourself and your child plugged into the community! Look up local resources, like GLSEN, PFlag, Free Mom Hugs, they can all help direct you to places as well. Ask your medical provider, therapy helped direct us to a group of other tweens/teens going through the same thing, and it was fantastic for all of us.

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Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always easy, you will need to draw those lines in the sand, but you are the first line of protection for those rainbows. I don’t allow any anti-LGBTQ+ ‘humor’ or attacks in our lives, no matter who it is. We’ve ran into this a few times with family, sadly. I always attempt to educate first, but if someone is refusing to listen, apologize, or change their behavior, there is no space in our, or your, lives for that. My child will always come first.

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Your child/loved one should know you are there for them. Your child should come first. Grow with your child. Be the special person for them. Take them to their first PRIDE event and let them see your love and support, be their cheerleader. They deserve love, they deserve to be themselves just like every other child.”

Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza
Courtesy of Felicia Nykaza

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Felicia Nykaza of San Diego, California. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘Will anyone love me after I transition?’ I knew all along who I was, I just didn’t know where I belonged in the world.’: Queer, non-binary, trans person comes to terms with identity, urges ‘you’re never alone’

‘I don’t want to be a man. And I don’t want to be a woman.’ I wanted to be free of the binary. Everything CLICKED’: Non-binary person shares self-discovery journey, ‘I’m finally at home in my body’

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