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How best to support gender queer kin

DEAR AMY: I felt the need to respond to the letter from "Frustrated," who stated that her son was "gender queer" and was concerned about his attire at a restaurant. (He had recently taken the stance that if he is asked not to wear a skirt to an event, he simply wouldn't go and this had riled some members of the family.) While your advice to the mother was sound, I felt your advice to the son -- that he "grow up and quit sulking" -- was insulting and ignorant. I am the aunt of someone who identifies as gender queer. Being truly gender queer is not a political or fashion statement -- it is an expression of one's true identity. My "nibling," the gender-neutral term for nephew or niece, is neither male nor female, but both. Just as I prefer to wear a skirt and heels and express the feminine side of myself, so does my nibling. My nibling sports a beard and a spectacular (and enviable) wardrobe of dresses. Just as I would have the good sense not to wear a barely there sequined mini to a conservative restaurant, so would my nibling. The process of coming out as gender queer was long and difficult, and my nibling struggled with years of unhappiness and feeling uncomfortable in "their" own skin. (There is currently no satisfactory gender-neutral term for his or her.) The decision to express himself/herself openly, despite the reactions and repercussions, was an act of real bravery. As a family, we have all stood behind my nibling; everyone deserves to be able to be who they are.

--Proud Aunt

DEAR AUNT: Your "nibling" is fortunate to have your support. But I stand behind my basic advice to a 24-year-old who seems to have embroiled his mother in his choices of what to wear: Grow up. Stand up. Wear what you want and prepare yourself for the impact on others. Be respectful of people and situations.

In short, I'm describing the very sort of bravery you say your family member demonstrates.

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