Saskatchewan·Point of View

From she to they: Our child is still our child

"I admit that I cried a few tears. I knew there were going to be rough patches ahead for our beautiful, talented child."

'Let us all love our children, and help them discover who they truly are.'

Allison Sarauer (right) supports her child Griff's non-binary identity. (Allison Sarauer)

This story was first published on June 16, 2018.


My husband and I are the proud parents of three wonderful adult children, a son, a daughter and a non-binary child. We are all on a journey of discovery and acceptance. 

Our youngest, Griff, was born 20 years ago and named Diana. Diana was what we understood to be a very feminine little girl. She adored dress-up clothing, pink, frills, Barbies and dolls. 

Griff (centre), who was called Diana at the time, presented as a conventionally feminine girl. (Allison Sarauer)

When Diana was about 12 she experienced digestive issues that began to affect attendance at school and activities. After doctor visits, questions about bullying at school and some help from an amazing school counsellor, Diana admitted that there may be some emotional cause for the physical symptoms.

At 16, Diana told us she was queer. Pansexual, specifically. Asking questions of Diana and Google helped us along. We know someone who is pansexual. They have a loving relationship and a small child, so this wasn't completely unknown territory.

I think it will feel good to speak freely now as we share our story publicly.- Allison Sarauer

Shortly after Diana turned 17, she asked us to call her Dee and use the pronouns they/them rather than she/her. Dee said they identify as non-binary. They said "I'm not a girl."  

I admit that I cried a few tears. I knew there were going to be rough patches ahead for our beautiful, talented child. Since that night three years ago, there has been some mourning of the dreams I didn't even recognize I held for our little girl.

Allison Sarauer (left) with her child Griff, who is non-binary. (Allison Sarauer)

'A name and pronoun change are words'

 

"Non-binary" was a completely new term to us. We had gay and lesbian acquaintances and thought we understood the word transgender, but apparently not. The idea that we all exist on different points across a gender spectrum made sense to me when I thought about it. I have known many people who have a variety of traits, some of which are traditionally considered masculine and others feminine. 

Adapting to the name Dee wasn't difficult, but using "they" and "them" was more challenging. In our immediate family and with Dee's close friends, we use these pronouns, but find it difficult to use them in public.  

Awareness of the non-binary gender identity and alternative pronouns is limited in our small, rural Saskatchewan community. It requires quite a lengthy explanation. One of the things we regret is not being visible in our community as a resource and companion to others walking the same path. 

Does everyone in our circle use the they/them pronouns? No. Very few people do. It's partly because we haven't done the work to bring awareness. This article is almost more of an "outing" for us than our child. I think it will feel good to speak freely now as we share our story publicly.

Griff's mother Allison says the younger generation has been a good example of how to be open and accepting. (Allison Sarauer)

After high school Dee went off to musical theatre school in Vancouver. They changed their name again, this time to Griff. Using Griff's new name was a bit more challenging with 1,000-plus miles between us.  

Griff hasn't legally changed their birth name, so they still have to use it for official documents, medical appointments, etc. Griff finds it uncomfortable.

I feel disloyal and unsupportive when I find myself using the name Diana in casual conversation with people who aren't aware of the transition to Griff.

Griff returned to Saskatchewan a year ago to work and think about career options. OUTSaskatoon has been an amazing resource for us, answering questions and providing referrals, workshops and a wide variety of programming. 

 

The young people in our lives, including Griff's siblings, cousins and friends, have been great examples of acceptance and tolerance to our (older) generation. The United Church of Canada has been working for decades for inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and is also an environment where Griff feels loved.  

The people we share our journey with have been amazingly accepting and supportive. They love Griff as they have always loved Diana. A name and pronoun change are words. Our child is still our child.

Statistics on LGBTQ+ youth depression, homelessness and suicide are terrifying. Let us all love our children, and help them discover who they truly are.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Allison Sarauer is the mother of three adult children, one of whom is non-binary.

now