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WTWs Liz Avery discusses being a parent of a non-binary child

WTW's Liz Avery discusses being a parent of a non-binary child

 May 31, 2023

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WTW welcomes and empowers employees to be fully themselves through the company’s intentional approach to inclusion.

One WTW employee who speaks openly about being herself authentically at work is Liz Avery, who works in Internal Communication & Change Management as an Associate Director.

"WTW clearly understands the value of perspective from a variety of voices – the efforts of a mature and dynamic team of diversity, equity and inclusion colleagues, has created a culture where it would never even occur to me to show up as anyone other than who I truly am. I have never felt the need to represent my family or my children as anything other than amazing human beings they are," explains Liz.

Being a supportive parent for a non-binary child

Liz has two children. At the beginning of 2020, Liz would have told people that both those children were girls.

"I was wrong. Toward the end of 2020, my 12-year-old told me that they identified as non-binary (i.e., that they were neither a boy nor a girl), and that’s where the adventure began. A new name, new pronouns, and the trepidation of parenting a non-binary child through all the female body change they would experience in adolescence. It felt pretty big," explains Liz.

"A couple of years into it, I’ve had time to get my bearings and get to a place where I may even be able to impart some wisdom," says Liz who offers useful advice for further parents raising a non-binary child.

Be supportive 

Liz shares her advice on how other parents can support their child coming out as non-binary. "Show your child that you love them," Liz suggests to further parents. "Hug your child. Or do whatever it is that you and your child do to show affection. Show them that your love and support for them are as strong as ever. Don’t assume they will “just know.” Confirm it. Often." 

Encourage open conversation

Liz suggests to encourage conversation, but not to push too hard. "Your child has given you some big news! Keep the conversation going. Encourage them to talk and share more about what this announcement means to them and how you can be their best ally. That said, the coming out process can feel like a lot to a young human, and maybe they’ve used up their emotional reserves just telling you. Don’t push them to talk more than they want to, but make sure they know you are always there when they’re ready," explains Liz.

"Listen to your child's experiences," Liz adds. "Listen more than you talk. Your child will be going through experiences that you likely have not had. Listen and learn. Make sure your child and their unique experiences are being seen and heard."

Ask respectful questions 

Liz encourages parents with non-binary children to ask respectful questions. "Questions are totally ok! This is new, and you are not expected to know everything. Of course, when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, we’re dealing with some very personal topics, and a level of tact is essential. This is not the time to press for information because your child might not actually have figured out the answers to some of your questions yet, and they may feel quite vulnerable about that," says Liz.

Educate yourself on important topics

Another great tip is the importance of self-education. "Don’t rely on your child to fill the gaps in your education on sexual orientation or gender identity topics. Do your own research. Your engagement in learning more on your own will not only help you get informed, but it will demonstrate to your child that you are invested in supporting them," comments Liz.

Sharing pronouns with your children

Liz suggests that parents should their pronouns with their children. "Regardless of the pronouns your child uses, get in the habit of sharing your own pronouns with others when you introduce yourself. It will give those you meet the opportunity to share their pronouns, and it will demonstrate to your child your respect for and interest in learning how other people identify themselves," says Liz.

Connect with other parents

Liz emphasizes the importance of connecting with other parents. "Learning something new about your child can feel overwhelming, especially if you are trying to work through it on your own. You don’t have to. There are absolutely other parents out there who are in the same place you are. Look for groups within your community or workplace. Even though you fully accept your child for who they are, a little support from fellow parents can go a long way in helping you on those days when you feel like you’re just not getting it right," comments Liz.

Be kind to yourself 

"Be kind to yourself. You love your child; you support them…and sometimes, you are going to mess things up. How many times have I used the wrong pronouns with my child? How long did it take me to finally get comfortable saying their new name? We’re parents. We get things wrong. Please don’t beat yourself up over it. Just regroup and try. This last one isn’t as much a tip as it is a potentially helpful observation," adds Liz.

Remember your role in your child's development

And Liz's final piece of advice: "Things aren’t changing as much as they may initially seem. Depending on how old your child is when they come out, there is still a lot they could need you to teach them about life as they get older. Love is love, and relationships can be complicated, no matter what they look like. Intimacy is intimacy, and entering into an intimate relationship is a big deal, no matter whom your child chooses as a partner. As parents, we have a critical role to play in the emotional development of our children, and that doesn’t change with how they see themselves or whom they choose to love. I hope some of this has been helpful!"

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