John Frank, EVP of Infor Global Professional Services, shared his journey as a parent of a non-binary child on a recent internal webinar. The event, co-hosted by Infor’s Tash Chandler, solutions consultant, and Jefferson Rodrigues, finance & credit specialist, was part of the education and awareness opportunities led by Out at Infor Business Resource Group (BRG) in recognition of Pride Month.
Tash kicked off the event by offering a definition of non-binary as: “An individual who feels that the traditional classifications of female and male do not adequately represent their self-identity.”
John and his wife have a child who has identified as non-binary since their senior year of high school. “It’s been a journey and a process for my wife and me, our child, and what it means for them. It’s also a journey of evolving and understanding,” John says.
While John and his wife have always been accepting and supporting, he acknowledges there has been a learning curve and transition period. The education process isn’t a “once and done” condition, but one that requires constant evolution. “As someone with an engineering background, my brain has been trained to use a binary approach, ones and zeroes, black and white. So, learning to see there are a whole bunch of grays was—at first—a challenge.”
He quickly adds, though, there was never a question of being supportive—only of how to help their child.
“Unconditional love for our child supersedes any dimensions of traditional or nontraditional gender classifications,” he says. “How can we support you in this? How do we prepare you to engage with a world that may not understand?” were the biggest questions.
The parental role evolves
His role as a parent involves preparing their child for the challenges that may be ahead, knowing that path will be fraught will misunderstanding and bias, John says. Several long conversations have been part of the process. “What I always ask is: ‘How can we pour into you the confidence you will need to face a world that will not always be gracious to you and accepting of you—especially knowing we can’t always be there to provide the bubble wrap protection?’”
When it came time to research college choices, finding universities that also offered support communities for students in nontraditional gender roles was a priority. Fortunately, John’s child is considering a career in the arts, a field that tends to be inclusive of diverse individuals. “That supportive community helped ease the transition, helped create a place where it feels safe to be outside of the traditional definitions of gender.”
Circles of acceptance
When asked if his family has encountered people who were less supportive, John admits that people outside of the core family and close circle of friends may be more likely to question the non-binary definition and the use of a chosen name rather than a given name and use of plural pronouns. “The people in our inner circle know that unconditional love prevails. So, they don’t question. But we have had to make it clear a few times that if you want to be in our circle, you have to be supportive of the whole family. That’s nonnegotiable.”
People are usually open to learning. “We all are learning,” John says, admitting he occasionally forgets and uses the wrong pronoun or wrong name. “I ask for grace. I correct myself. Apologize. Recalibrate. It’s often a case of retraining the brain and being intentional in making the effort.”
Learning to be intentionally inclusive, empathetic, and supportive is an important lesson, the co-hosts agreed with John as they shared their own stories of acceptance. John adds that his experience with his child has influenced his leadership style.
“The environment we live in and work in today, we certainly have to be intentional about how we create safe places for individuals to contribute and thrive in their roles,” John says. “I do that every day, whether it is how I describe a job opening or how I invite team members to participate in a meeting. I want everyone who works on our teams to feel comfortable. And safe.”
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