‘He never leaves the house without his purse.’ He spends his money on cosmetics and is obsessed with all things pink and glitzy.’ Mom is proud of her non-binary 10-year-old son and all of his ‘fabulousness.’

“‘Are you ready to find out if you’re having a boy or a girl, mum, and dad?’

As the ultrasound technician ran the wand around on my big belly, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. We had also invited my mother and his mother to the ultrasound visit, in addition to myself and my husband. It was November of 2008, and I was 20 weeks pregnant at the time. We had only been married for a little over three years; we were both 24, and we had meticulously planned this pregnancy. My pregnancy was labeled ‘high risk’ since I’d already had three miscarriages, and I’d been frightened every morning since finding out I was pregnant – after months of taking progesterone, timing out my cycles, reading all of the books, etc. – that I’d start bleeding again and lose this baby. But I’d made it halfway, and my reward was the opportunity to learn whether the little miracle baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl. I’d miscarried too early with the prior pregnancies even to find out the gender.

The infant was not hesitant to announce that he was unmistakably a boy to the world. It didn’t take long for him to turn a few times in my stomach before the technician exclaimed, ‘There it is, mom and dad!’ You’ve got a boy, for sure!’ My husband’s face lit up with pride, a son to carry on the family name. My mother and mother-in-law were also ecstatic. This child would be the first grandson on my husband’s side and the first grandchild on my side of the family. I swear I could hear my father grinning through the phone when I informed him. He had always desired a male, but instead, he was blessed with three daughters, the oldest of them being me. He was going to obtain that lad he’d always fantasized of. He instantly began talking about all of their future fishing excursions and how he’d have him riding a Harley in no time. Of course, I was thrilled — I didn’t have a preference for a boy or a girl. All I wanted was a healthy baby.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

In the afternoon, Samuel Thomas Hanchett was born on April 21, 2009. He was 21 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces. Despite a difficult pregnancy (one of my kidneys failed when I was about 25 weeks pregnant, necessitating emergency surgery to implant a stent, and then I developed dangerously high blood pressure and was placed on bed rest during the last few weeks of the pregnancy), the birth went off without a hitch. I can’t even describe how beautiful it felt when he came out and I saw his face for the first time. I understand that every parent describes seeing their baby for the first time as ‘love at first sight,’ which is undoubtedly completely clichéd and cliche…until it happens to you. He was flawless in every way. Like his father, he had a head full of dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. He was a man I couldn’t get enough of.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

We were only in the hospital for two days, and then we were able to bring Sam home to the nursery that I had meticulously arranged, and everything was idyllic…

That last sentence, however, is a pure fabrication. Sam was unable to stop crying. The first night we were home with him, I think I called the hospital nurse’s station at least ten times. I tried all I could to calm him down…and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this whole mothering thing wasn’t going to be as easy and perfect as I had imagined it would be for the rest of my life. I’m a planner, you see. To a fault, I’m a Type A… One of my close friends described me as a “Type A Plus.” I’d grown accustomed to perfection… I was capable of accomplishing almost whatever I placed my mind to. It didn’t take long for me to understand that I wasn’t really prepared for this challenge for the first time in my life. Sam was a strong-willed individual from the start, and I knew I’d found my match. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized I didn’t have much control over anything. Despite my near-obsessive Type A Plus mentality, this was not a task that I could complete by checking boxes. There was no way I could study for this; there was no way I could ‘ace’ motherhood. I had to try to ‘go with the flow’ for the first time in my life…and I was afraid.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

On the other hand, my husband and I eventually got the hang of being first-time parents. We worked out how to get by with very little sleep and a lot of caffeine. We were both working full-time and caring for this tiny human simultaneously. Sam was a year old before we realized it! He was so bright that he was speaking in small words by his first birthday. He hadn’t learned to walk by his first birthday, but that could have been because I carried him everywhere. He was running all over the place by the time he was 14 months old. He wasn’t long before he was getting himself into everything and was a mama’s boy.’ Sure, he thought my spouse was beautiful, but I was WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Of course, I’d known this about myself for quite some time, but it was good to finally have someone else acknowledge my awesomeness, even if it was from someone who still craps his pants.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

One of Sam’s favorite things to see me do each morning as I got ready for work was put on my makeup. It was just a matter of time before he reached for the brushes. I thought this was so cute that I got an extra fluffy brush just for him and let him rub it all over his face while I put on my makeup in the morning. Sam had then found the magical world of dress-up at his childcare center by the time he was two years old. Sam spent all of his time with children girls in the dress-up part of the school, where he loved to wear hats, feather boas, and carry a pocketbook, while the other small boys spent their time playing with trucks and building with blocks. He became so fixated on having a handbag that I gave him one of my old ones, which he carried everywhere. Of course, he packed it with all of his essentials: binkies, a sippy cup, a few toys, a container of bubble gum-flavored Lip Gloss, and his cosmetics brush.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

Everyone thought it was ‘adorable’ that Sam, a toddler, liked to dress up and play with makeup. Sam would spend time putting on his collection of plastic necklaces, a scarf or two he’d nicked from me, some lip gloss, and then his pocketbook whenever we went out to breakfast on the weekends. The adolescent never left the house without his handbag. No one gave a second thought. I didn’t give it a second thought. I’ve always been a pretty welcoming and open-minded person. Why not let my toddler to carry a purse? He’s not causing any harm, and it keeps him engaged! Of course, he still had a soft spot for ‘guy’ stuff. We used to dress up as superheroes for Halloween and have huge baskets full of trucks and balls are strewn about our house.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

When Sam’s younger brother Cooper was born, he was just a few months shy of three years old. Cooper’s pregnancy, birth, and return home from the hospital went much more smoothly than Sam’s. He was ecstatic to have a baby brother, and we were delighted to have completed our small family. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a girl, but I was grateful to have given birth to two healthy and lovely children.

ToMorrow’s Memories Photography

As Sam grew older, he developed an increasing interest in toys, hobbies, and clothing that are typically associated with ‘girls’ rather than ‘boys.’ Sam wanted Barbie dolls and Easy Bake Ovens for Christmas and birthdays, while other 4-year-old boys wanted action figures and toy guns. Now is probably a good moment for me to give you a brief over my background: I was raised by a single mother who is unquestionably one of Oklahoma’s most liberal and open-minded citizens. Donna, a very butch lesbian who lived with her ‘friend’ Patty, was the first babysitter I can recall ever having. When my sisters and I went to see her, we often inquired about Donna’s spouse. ‘Donna doesn’t have a spouse,’ my mother stated. She and Patty are in the loch are white and Pattyogether.’ This never occurred to me as odd or disgusting. It was simply what it was. This is how my mother trained us: to love and respect everyone and not only to accept but to embrace and celebrate people’s distinct differences.

On the other hand, my husband was raised by a Southern Baptist preacher father and a mother who stayed home to care for him and his three siblings. For a considerable chunk of his life, he was homeschooled and raised in the church… He joined the Air Force when he was 18 years old and is still serving in the Air National Guard today. It would be an understatement to say that we come from entirely different worlds. So, while I was okay with Sam carrying purses, owning 40 different kinds of lip gloss, and playing with Barbie dolls, my husband had a lot more difficult time coping with his oldest son’s love of all things pink and glittery. His family, particularly his father, appeared to be having some difficulties with it. When we went to see them, we had to ask Sam to leave his purses and makeup in the car.

ToMorrow’s Memories Photography
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

By the time Sam had completed Pre-K, there was no doubting that he was an imposing young man, and some people (including some of our family members) no longer thought he was so cute.’ By this point, Sam had turned our playroom’s toy toolbox into his jewelry stand, and he would spend HOURS sorting all of his plastic cosmetics kits, jewels, and purses. He had a giant Barbie house, and one of his favorite things to do was wash and style his Barbies’ hair and dress them up in different clothing. He didn’t have any ‘girl’s clothes that he wore regularly, but he enjoyed dressing up in his cousin’s dresses, skirts, hats, and shoes (he has two female cousins who are only four months younger than him).

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

Sam’s Pre-K teacher sent a message home one day saying that the classroom will be having a ‘Spa Day’ at the end of the week, and there was a spot on the note for you to check whether or not you authorized for your young girls’ nails to be painted. There was also a checkbox to indicate whether you agreed to have your child’s face painted. Sam was ecstatic to have his nails done. He’d been pleading with me to do it for a long time, and while I’d painted his toes a few times previously, I’d never painted his fingernails. As a result, I checked the box, authorizing him to paint his nails.

When I went to take Sam up from his Pre-K classroom the next day, he was upset. ‘I gave my teacher the note that you brought back with me, but she informed me that only the tiny girls can have their nails painted…not the boys,’ he said when I asked what was wrong.

That was the first time I can recall speaking up for my baby and his amazingness. ‘Excuse me–did you tell Sam that only little girls can have their nails painted?’ I asked his teacher when I arrived at his school early the following day. ‘Well…yes,’ she replied. ‘And why is that?’ I inquired, to which she replied, ‘Well, small boys don’t wear fingernail paint.’ I swiftly countered, ‘Well, THIS one does.’

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

You can bet I went to the school on the day of the Spa Day to watch my little boy’s face light up as he had his nails painted. He was the only boy in the class who had them done, and he had pulled most of the cheap pink polish off by the end of the day, but he was so pleased with them that we started painting them regularly. He was becoming self-conscious by this stage, so he’d always ask me to paint them on a Friday night, then remove the polish on Sunday night before returning to his Pre-K class the following day. They produced a presentation featuring all of the children’s responses about what they wanted to be when they grow up during his Pre-K graduation ceremony. The majority of the guys had responded with firefighters, police officers, astronauts, or teachers.

On the other hand, Sam enthusiastically declared his ambition to be a ‘jewellery maker.’ ‘So I can make gorgeous jewellery for my mum,’ he answered when asked why. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but wI sobbed like a baby when I heard the remark.
.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

Let’s fast forward to a few years later. Sam turned ten in April and is getting ready to start fifth grade. He has a perfect academic record. He’s well-liked and well-liked by almost everyone. Since he was about five years old, he has been a local Boy Scout troop (which my husband has assisted in leading). And…he identifies as gender non-binary, albeit he still chooses to use the pronouns ‘he/him.’ Last year for Christmas, my precious little miracle baby,’ who used to carry around purses full of Lipsmackers lip gloss, begged Santa for an Ipsy Glam Bag monthly membership (we have since upgraded to the Glam Blag Plus, thank you very much). He spends all of the money he gets doing chores, the money he receives from the tooth fairy, the money he receives for holidays and making makeup. He spends a lot of time on the internet watching makeup instructions. He puts on a tiny amount of makeup every morning before going to school, and on weekends, he does his’ whole factinyore we go grocery shopping, see a movie, or relax at home.

Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

Furthermore, he no longer shops in the ‘boys’ apparel department, preferring instead to dress in the bright garments generally seen in the ‘female’ sector. He still doesn’t leave the house without a pocketbook… Instead of Lipsmacker lip gloss, he’s stocked up on Tarte, Urban Decay, and Morphe.

Photo by Bethney Grove
Photo by Bethney Grove

For years, people have asked me if Sam is gay or transgender. ‘Sam is a child…and if I have anything to do with it, he’ll be a happy one,’ I’ve always said. We spend a lot of time in our house discussing topics like what all the letters in the acronym ‘LGBTQ+’ signify, gay marriage, asking people what pronouns they prefer, gender as a fluid construct, the history of the Pride movement, and why it’s so important now, and so on. I don’t simply talk to Sam about these topics; I also speak to Cooper, Sam’s now 7-year-old brother. I understand the importance of teaching ALL children–not just the beautiful ones–about respecting and loving ALL people, as well as the importance of educating them now so that when they grow up and start dating, they will never have to ‘come out of the closet,’ because they were always welcome in the room. My children understand that we believe in love for all and love in this family. And that, my friends, is ultimate all that matters.”

Photo by Bethney Grove
Photo by Bethney Grove
Photo by Bethney Grove
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett
Courtesy of Shannon Hanchett

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