'I'm Raising a Non-Binary Child'

It was 3 o'clock in the morning and I was in the middle of a night feed with my newborn son, who was born in 2020, when my partner told me that our 12-year-old child was non-binary. My first response was confusion—at that point, I was mostly concerned with making sure the baby took his feed and went back to sleep. I was pretty sleep-deprived at the time.

But the next morning, I approached my eldest, London, and told them what their dad had told me. The first thing I said was, "How come you didn't come and tell me yourself? You know you can tell me absolutely anything." To which they explained that I had been busy with their baby brother. "None of that ever matters," I told them. "I always have all the time in the world for you."

Then we spoke about it. I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what "non-binary" meant, that I wasn't confusing it with anything else. London explained it well—that they don't feel one gender or the other, or that sometimes they feel one gender, and sometimes another.

Ebony with her child on non-binary flag
Main photo: non-binary flag. Inset image: Ebony Turner and her child, London. iStock / Getty Images Plus

How London has changed since coming out

I asked London if they felt much better, now they had come out, and they said, "Yes, definitely." It was something they'd been trying to figure out for a long time. It started with clothing. They spent a year chopping and changing their style, and they never seemed to be happy with it. One minute they'd ask for sportswear clothing, and the next minute they wanted to wear a dress. They didn't take much pride in their appearance, either—they'd be like, "I'll wear this. This will do."

I don't like to guess too much, but I think they had been battling with the thought: "Do I feel like a girl or do I feel like a boy?" When London discovered they were non-binary—a term that they said is part of everyday conversations now—they said they felt themselves for the first time. They said they felt so comfortable and content, and it was amazing to hear that—that at their young age they had found who they are and could feel truly happy within themselves. That made me feel so happy and proud.

I've noticed a real difference in London. Beforehand, there was this uncertainty and nervousness about them in certain aspects of their life, whereas now they're so laid-back, so headstrong, and they ooze confidence.

When London came out, they really came into their own—they had their own style. They were really into anime, so they had a lot of checkered skirts with anime T-shirts to start with. Now, at the age of 14, they have moved on to an oversized look—so a lot of oversized joggers and oversized hoodies. But then they'll mix it up and maybe wear fishnet leggings with a corset top, depending on how they feel on the day. Whatever they wear, they absolutely rock it and look amazing. You can just see them flourish in who they were always supposed to be, and it's so beautiful to see.

How I support my child

I've supported London from day one. In that first conversation, I told them: I want to go on this journey with you. I want to learn and explore everything, and help you grow and reach your potential.

As part of that, I asked London to pull me up any time I said their pronouns or their new name wrong, as that would help me learn quicker. That was important to me: I didn't want to hurt London's feelings by saying the wrong things. I wanted to make sure I got there as quickly as I could, and now it just comes naturally.

About a year after London came out, I got the non-binary symbol tattooed on my arm. I have a lot of tattoos, and a whole sleeve that's like a scrapbook for London, filled with memories. I wanted the symbol in order to tell London: "I support you and who you are, and everything you stand for." To let them know: "Mom's got your back."

TikTok creator Ebony
Ebony is a full-time TikTok creator. She posts educational videos about parenting a non-binary child. Ebony Turner

Their friends have been supportive, and the news has been met very well within my circle, too. I explained to everybody that this is the way it is now, and I will not tolerate anyone purposefully using the incorrect name or pronouns. It has to be respected by everybody and, if there is someone who doesn't want to respect it, I will not bring London around them.

I have some relatives that are quite a lot older and it's been quite funny, in a sense, with them trying to remember to say the right things. Sometimes they get the pronouns wrong, but me and London can see they're trying their best. And London appreciates that so much.

Negative comments

I tend to get comments on my TikTok saying, "non-binary isn't real," or "there are only two genders." Obviously, I always knew the hate was out there, but I see so much more how nasty the world can really be on this subject. I don't understand it. You need to let people be themselves. No-one's harming anybody—I don't understand the big need to tear people down. London is so happy within themselves and I believe that everyone should be allowed to be who they are.

But I don't have too much concern about London because they are very strong-headed and strong-willed, and they see how I react to hate-comments—which is that I don't react. London will see these comments with me and we normally laugh at them; when someone leaves a big paragraph, we think, wow, this person is maybe nearly 40-odd and they're so uneducated. What a sad little life. It doesn't get under our skin.

I also get tons of comments from people saying, "I wish you were my mom," or "I wish my mom was as accepting." Those comments have brought me to tears on many occasions because, for the life of me, I can't understand how a parent could not accept their child.

I have made many videos trying to educate parents, to let them know that I understand that at the beginning it may feel as though you are losing your child. But you're not. And if you just go on this journey with them, you'll still see that they're still that amazing child that you have brought up their whole life and all they're doing is just becoming who they really want to be. Seeing how many parents do not accept it, and the damage that causes their child, breaks my heart. I can't understand how someone could hurt their child like that.

I hope we come to a point, in society, where being non-binary is more accepted and normalized, and it doesn't get questioned as much. I'm sure we will get there one day, and I hope to spread awareness that people don't have to be scared of the unknown. But, either way, I know London will go on to do amazing things. They're going to be just fine.

Ebony Turner is a content creator on TikTok @inked_bone.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek's My Turn deputy editor, Katie Russell.

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