I have four children.

When my oldest child was born, I was just twenty-one years old. My husband and I lived at Youth Haven Ranch in Rives Junction, where he was the program director. Both my oldest child and my second one were born at the hospital in Jackson, about a twenty-minute panicky car ride from our house in the woods.

Before he was born, we found out that he had girl parts. My family threw me a girly baby shower, and the pink stuff began to stack up everywhere in our house. I wanted to be sure our later children would be able to use all the new things we were acquiring, so I picked a neutral decorating scheme that I thought was kid and Christian appropriate: Noah’s Ark.

I named him, as I’ve named all my children. His first name given at birth was my middle name, and his middle name was to honor his great-grandmother, who to this day remains the frostiest southern bitch I’ve ever known, and I say that with all the respect I can muster, God rest her soul.

When his little brother was born, we called him a big sister. This didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest until little baby brother began to crawl and reach for and then slobber on things that used to be his and his alone.

When his father left all three of us on August 9th — almost fourteen months after my second child’s birth — I was devastated. Not just for myself, not just for the little boy who wasn’t old enough to remember his father later, but for my oldest. He was daddy’s little girl; everyone said so.

Fast-forward thirteen years.

In the years since, I have had another son and a daughter. I used to be teased that I had ‘bookends’: one girl on each side of two boys. When my two oldest were still tiny, I remember being enraged that someone could possibly mistake my younger boy for a girl, when he was CLEARLY wearing blue clothing.

Good lord, did I ever need to get over myself.

This year, my oldest child came out to close family and friends.

This year, my oldest child transitioned from asking for neutral and male pronouns sometimes, to asking for male pronouns almost exclusively.

This year, my oldest child renamed himself.

This year, my oldest child has tipped the balance in the family, which is all at once ridiculous and incredibly meaningful to me personally.

Elijah isn’t daddy’s wounded little girl, waiting for him to come back.

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Elijah is a young man learning what clothes he likes, what schoolwork he enjoys (or hates), which swear words are most fun, and how to navigate the world as an LGBTQ person.

Elijah is just a few weeks away from being sixteen years old. When I was sixteen, I met his father. When I was sixteen, I wanted to think for myself, but I was afraid to. I knew what was expected of me, as much as I hated having expectations at all. And I did what was expected: I got engaged, I didn’t have sex until my wedding night, I supported my husband in whatever he wanted to do, we had two children, and then he ran away.

So, Elijah, let me say this to you: fuck expectations. Fuck what everyone else wants you to do, and that includes all the new friends and loved ones you’ve met by joining up with your fellow LGBTQ people in this area. First and always, be true to yourself.

I’m not saying you don’t carry a wound in your heart from what happened to us when we were all thirteen years younger. What I’m saying to you is that you do not have to be defined by anything that happens to you. You will always be able to reframe and rise above it, even though the reframing will likely be a struggle.

P.S. Your sense of style is pretty killer.

I have four children.

I’ll get used to telling people I have three boys and a girl.

I’ll get accustomed to the confused stare I get when I explain to people that have known me for a little while that my oldest child identifies as a boy.

And you know what? When Elijah’s journey takes him somewhere else, I’ll get used to that too. I love him no matter what. I have four children, and I love them fiercely. All the rest is cake.

This post originally published at rhiannoncahours.com. It has been lightly edited.

Rhiannon Kelley
Stargazer, medium, druid, student. Activist & rabble-rouser. Married with four kids. Really fucking sweary. Genderqueer & poly. They/them/theirs.

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