I want to start this column by saying that I understand that being a parent is one of the hardest undertakings in the world.

I’d say it’s the hardest job, except jobs come with defined hours and expectations. Parenting is a state of being. Once a parent, always a parent – even if your kid gets older and isn’t taking up all your time and attention. For example: I’m 30 and living in my own house, and my mom texted me two nights ago to remind me to wear gloves while walking Janey after work, because it was really windy.

Parents put in a ton of intensive work and never really know if it’s going to pay off until 20 or 30 years down the line. There’s no manual for it.

My mom says she had a whole plan for what she was going to do when Young Victoria asked: “What happens when we die?” Or: “How are babies made?” but she was unprepared when Young Victoria, age 4, read a promotional sign for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and asked loudly in the middle of a Burger King: “Mommy, what’s a hunchback?”

At the moment, as part of the “parents’ rights” movement, we’re seeing a huge push by allegedly concerned parents who are trying to consolidate control over things that children can be exposed to or learn about outside the home, particularly concerning race and gender.

Extremely concerning to me here in Maine is L.D. 678, a bill that would require public school employees (including teachers, administrators, general staff and contractors performing services for the school who aren’t actually employed by the school) to receive written permission from a parent or guardian in order to directly address or refer to a student by a different name or pronoun other than what is on their birth certificate.


As written, the bill could mean legal trouble for a teacher who called a student “Vicky” instead of “Victoria” without written permission from her parents, for example. But let’s be real. We all know that’s not this bill’s intention. This bill is intended to prevent public school employees (not just classroom teachers!) from affirming a student’s gender identity if the student’s parent doesn’t like it.

Here’s the thing: Parents do not have a right to absolute control over every aspect of their child’s life, especially as the child gets older. This may be controversial, but it’s true. I’m not saying kids should run the show regarding their life from the moment they can talk. In that case, I would have died of malnutrition from eating only Jolly Ranchers. It’s a give-and-take situation. And right now, too many parents seem focused on take, take, taking.

Parents also don’t have the right to exert control over other people’s kids. You might not think that “It’s Perfectly Normal” is OK for your middle-schooler to read, and that’s fine, but you can’t remove it from a library so nobody else’s teenagers can access it. I pick that book as an example because it was a vital part of my personal sex education, which was not provided in my Catholic school. If you want a cute creature you can have complete and utter control over, don’t have a baby. Get a dog.

At my high school, there were several people who used different names at school than they did at home. Some of those names were the result of inside jokes, rather than gender identity – I knew two people for years almost solely as Gir and Zim, characters from a cartoon, and one of my female-identifying friends went by David (I can’t remember the origin of that one).

For some, the different names were part of general high school silliness. Others went on to realize they were, in fact, transgender men. Some of them had supportive parents. Some of them didn’t. I can’t imagine how much more painful it would be if our teachers (who surely overheard us) were compelled to bring any variation in gender identity – or identity in general! – to the attention of an unsupportive parent.

I think a big problem here is a lack of respect. Specifically, a lack of respect from parents toward kids. If a parent doesn’t respect their children’s independence, privacy and voice, why would a child respect their parents? And there is certainly a lack of respect for other parents and families. Maybe gender-affirming care isn’t right for your kid, but you sure as shoot don’t have the right to make that choice for other families.


I never went through a “rebellious” phase in my teens or young adulthood. In part, this was because I was an extremely shy, anxious nerd, but it was mostly because I didn’t have anything to rebel against. I was always loved, supported and given wiggle room to express myself. If you stifle a child, if you put pressure on them, they’ll need a release valve for it. As a child grows into an adolescent, the need for a certain amount of self-directed independence grows. And if there are no release valves, the consequences are explosive.

My parents loved us and they respected us. When they made a mistake, they apologized to us kids specifically. At the time, I figured that was normal – after all, my siblings and I were expected to apologize when we messed up – but as I got older, I realized how rare that can be.

When I was 11, I told my mom I was bisexual. I learned later that my mom didn’t actually believe me at that time, because, quite frankly, who believes their 11-year-old when it comes to that sort of thing? She thought I had mistaken feelings of wanting to be like another girl for having a crush on her. But crucially, my mom didn’t say that to me. She respected my thoughts and feelings; she hugged me and said, “I’m glad you told me. I love you very much, no matter what.”

As it turned out, I was right. It’s been almost 20 years and I am still most definitely into men and women (and, for that matter, people who don’t really feel like either!). And my mom and I still have a close relationship based not just on love but also on mutual respect. I wonder how many of these “parents’ rights” campaigners will be able to say the same about their kids 20 years down the road.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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