Young adult author and Los Angeles mother Jennifer Chen said she’s “so proud” of her kindergarten-age daughter that decided she wanted to be “non-binary” and use they/them/he pronouns.
The child, named Claire at birth now wants to be referred to as “Clark” and Chen asked her friends to refer to “Clark” as her “son who is non-binary.”
In late November, Chen posted their family Christmas card photo on Instagram. The card shows a photo of herself, her husband Brendan, and her twin children, Chloe and “Clark”.
The caption of the post reads, “I’d like you all to meet Clark (formerly known as Claire). Clark prefers they/them/he pronouns and would like to be known as my kid/my son who is non-binary. Clark asked us to tell our friends & family who they are now.”
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Chen added that she and her husband, as well as their daughter Chloe, fully support their child. “Chloe is the first to correct me when I accidentally use the wrong pronouns or name. As a family, we love Clark and support whatever their journey might hold. For me, when we’ve honored their choices to cut their hair short or wear clothes that feel like them, the JOY & LIGHT on Clark’s face is what lets me know that we are doing the right thing.”
She concluded the post by saying, “I ask that if you disagree with our family’s choice — that you tell me privately in a message — rather than put it in a public comment. Not everyone will understand our decision to respect Clark’s choices, but we love Clark and that’s all that matters.”
Chen authored an op-ed published on Today on her child’s gender identity.
“It was a November morning, and as I was about to share on social media, I paused and re-read my words for the 10th time: ‘I’d like you all to meet Clark (formerly known as Claire). Clark prefers they/them/he pronouns and would like to be known as my kid/my son who is nonbinary. Clark asked us to tell our friends and family who they are now,’” Chen said. “My heart beat like a drum and my palms were pure sweat. Before this moment, I had only told a few trusted mom friends. My in-laws knew. But by sharing our new family holiday photo — my twins at a public garden in Pasadena — it would be clear that Claire was now Clark.”
Chen said she was scared of what Conservative family members might say: “I was scared of what conservative family members on Facebook would think. I feared people would judge my parenting choices on Instagram. The online world is far more terrifying than my liberal Los Angeles neighborhood where Clark is one of several nonbinary children.”
Chen claimed that she had suspected for a while that her child might want to be “non-binary” and said that Claire (pre-name-change) would prefer to wear shorts rather than skirts.
“It was the moment I realized that how we reacted would forever be cemented in my child’s mind,” Chen wrote. “I dug a pair of shorts out of the laundry hamper, did a sniff test, and handed them over. Clark’s tears dried. Their smile appeared. I knelt down to my sweet child. ‘Do you want me to get rid of your skirts and dresses?’ They nodded.”
Chen read her child author Theresa Thorn’s “It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity” which encouraged Claire to think she could change her gender. She also read her child Jodie Patterson’s “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope.”
Chen said, “As I read it, Clark inched closer to the pictures of short-haired, tie-wearing Penelope. A bright smile took over their face. ‘I feel the same way too!’ Clark exclaimed.”
Going into the school year, Chen started buying Claire boys’ clothing and shorter haircuts. Two months into the school year, Chen said Claire told her and her husband that she wanted to be called “Clark”.