Jennifer Chen said her child had asked her to let their friends and family know that they are nonbinary.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 22, 2021. It has since been updated.
A young mother is being lauded for celebrating her child embracing their nonbinary identity and for sharing the same with their loved ones. Jennifer Chen posted a family holiday card featuring her husband Brendan Hay, and their twins Chloe and Clark to make the announcement in November. Chen introduced her kid as non-binary and shared their new name—Clark. As reported by TODAY, she wrote, "Clark prefers they/them/he pronouns and would like to be known as my kid/my son who is non-binary. Clark asked us to tell our friends and family who they are now."
Chen made it clear that they were there for Clark and to support their choice. "Brendan and I support Clark in their journey. Chloe is the first to correct me when I accidentally use the wrong pronouns or names. As a family, we love Clark and support whatever their journey might hold," she wrote. Chen added that watching Clark's face light up as they embrace their identity is the only validation they need, to know it's the right decision. "For me, when we've honored their choices to cut their hair short or wear clothes that feel like them, the JOY & LIGHT on Clark's face is what lets me know that we are doing the right thing," wrote Chen.
She urged those planning to question her parenting choice to message her privately rather than leave a public comment. "Not everyone will understand our decision to respect Clark's choices, but we love Clark and that's all that matters," she concluded. While Chen's words seemed assured, she was very nervous. "My heart beat like a drum and my palms were pure sweat. Before this moment, I had only told a few trusted mom friends. My in-laws knew," she wrote. Chen knew this was different because she was worried about how her conservative family members would respond to Clark or her parenting style. The internet can be a very unforgiving place. "The online world is far more terrifying than my liberal Los Angeles neighborhood where Clark is one of several nonbinary children," she wrote.
Clark's journey to embracing their true self started with a pile of dirty laundry. Chen and Brendan had forgotten to wash the twins' clothes and they had to rush to preschool. Clark complained that there were only skirts in their dresser. “I don’t feel like me in skirts,” said Clark quietly. "It was the moment I realized that how we reacted would forever be cemented in my child’s mind," recalled Chen. She found a pair of shorts and handed them to Clark. "Their smile appeared. I knelt down to my sweet child. 'Do you want me to get rid of your skirts and dresses?' They nodded," she said.
Clark found a reference point and recognized themself in a description from a book titled "It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity" by Theresa Thorn. They pointed to a page with the nonbinary description and told their Mom, “That’s how I feel. I don’t feel like a boy or a girl.” Chen spoke to Brendan and they decided to support Clark's choices. Brendan found a nonbinary stylist so they could cut their hair short. "Clark beamed with joy," recalls Chen.
Clark decided on their name thanks to a simple error from the lunch lady, who accidentally called them Clark. They told Chen and Brendan that they wanted to be Clark. Within no time, they were standing up in their class and announced it to their class and Chen says the school and students have been very supportive. "When we arrived at their after-school program to tell the staff, one teacher said, “Clark already told us.” I was amazed to see that my kid’s name tags on the table and cubbies were already changed," she wrote.
Chen is also concerned about what the future holds for Clark. She cited stats from a survey conducted by The Trevor Project that highlighted the kind of persecution and trauma that trans and nonbinary youth endure. The stats show that “42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.” It was also found that 67 percent of Black LGBTQ youth and 60 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity. She has since reached out to transgender friends to get an idea of how she could help Clark, and they gave her much hope and access to crucial resources.
Since posting the photo, Chen has been flooded with positive messages from all over the world and she reads some of them to Clark and Chloe to let them know that there's a whole world out there waiting to embrace and love them.
If you're queer and are being subjected to abuse, or need any help, please contact LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564.