Letting Go of Gender Expectations

How my misgendered cat helped me better understand my LGBTQ son


We adopted a female kitten as soon as she was ready to be weened from her mother. We named her Millie.

It was mid-covid and we were all in the house so we were very close. She was like a little princess.

Then, she grew boy parts. 🙃

Well, her boy parts became noticeable. So she wasn’t a girl, after all.

I loved the name Millie. I thought it was gender neutral enough, and who cares if the cat has boy parts? 🤷‍♀️

Millie doesn’t care about pronouns.

But my family insisted we change it — even my gender fluid son. I was outvoted. So, we did. She became he and Millie became Jade.


Jade — image by author
Jade helped me understand my son

You see, through this experience, we could all see how much he/she mattered to us and how resistant we were to treating Jade different than his genitalia called for or viewing him in a feminine light.

We have endless ideas of how we would treat and talk to a female differently than a male. Even though Jade does not know the difference.

My son was born a male, is attracted to males and has always chosen more feminine dress, expression and behaviors. But he does not identify as she. This is hard for some people to understand. But to him, it’s simple. And he wishes it wasn’t even a thing.

He is who he is and that’s it — that’s all. It’s the world that demands a label from him. He chooses he because he feels the most secure in society when he identifies as he. But in his mind, he needs no definition of terms regarding who he is. However, he has noticed that people treat you differently based on these definitions. So he chooses the one he is most comfortable with, societally.

My son is like Jade. The things we are inclined to feel about Jade’s gender and the obligation of treatment that we associate that with are about us, not him. In my sons mind, he should be allowed to wear a dress or make up — regardless of his gender. My son doesn’t need to be defined, he just needs to be allowed to be himself. So he defines himself for the world — so others are more comfortable.

The lesson in this was that supporting our son was less about understanding and more about acceptance.

The ideas we have about what someone’s name should be or how they should dress and behave — based on their gender — are nothing but beliefs. And a belief is truly nothing more than a thought we keep thinking.

We were trying to think our way through it — to find a way to align our beliefs with who he was. But that wasn’t what he needed at all. What he needed was for us to free him from our beliefs. This is also what he wishes for from the world, but we can’t change the world. Only us.


We noticed more and more how strong our beliefs are around gender — although we are progressive parents and have always supported our children. No, we were never bothered by our children’s sexuality or gender expression. Our son came out very young, and has always felt very comfortable with us. But that didn’t mean we didn’t hold beliefs that, through our thoughts behavior, turned into demands upon him.

People ask, “If he acts like a girl, why does he go by he?”

I ask myself, “Why do we place such unreasonable demands on people for either femininity or masculinity? Where does reverence for feminine or masculine energy become toxic demands on the world for one or the other?”

There are so many questions with more questions inside the answers, and we are just now starting to figure it all out — together. And that’s okay.

I don’t need to understand in order to accept. What I can do, is simply pay attention to my expectations of people — expectations based on the gender I perceive them as.

I can’t just decide to remove all the labels in my mind around gender. They don’t just go away. And I don’t even know if that would serve me — or US. But what I do know is that we have beliefs around gender that, sometimes, even when we don’t know it, place demands on people in our lives — especially the people we love the most. And I can do my best not to do that.

Understanding is not a requirement for acceptance. All anyone really wants is to be themselves and all they want us to do is let them. I can do that. I like for people to be themselves. They shine so much brighter that way.

Our change in thinking, around gender, is a long time coming. And we have a long way to go. I am sure we will get it wrong a lot before we get it right. We will surely stumble. It is likely that we will flail from one extreme to the other. But we are making progress. And, if we keep going, we can find the solution — somewhere in the middle.

In the meantime, we can practice one of the hardest things for us weird humans. We can practice accepting before we fully understand.

What matters most is not where I am in my process of understanding and conceptualization. The most important thing is my willingness to accept when I don’t understand. And as long as I do that, I know I am doing my best.

Written by Holly Kellums


Originally published on Medium.com

Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

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