Mother Behind Viral Holiday Card Introducing Nonbinary Child on the Internet's Support — and Tuning Out Haters

Los Angeles mom Jennifer Chen explains her decision to announce on social media that her child now goes by Clark and is nonbinary in the latest episode of PEOPLE's podcast PEOPLE Every Day

Jennifer Chen received praise for posting her family's holiday card in November featuring her husband Brendan Hay and their five-year-old twins Chloe and Clark. The Instagram post quickly went viral for introducing Clark and their new pronouns to the world.

"I'd like you all to meet Clark, formally known as Claire. Clark prefers they/them/he pronouns and would like to be known as my kid/my son, who is non-binary," the caption alongside the touching post wrote. "Clark asked us to tell our friends and family who they are now."

Chen explained her decision in an episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast. She admitted that she initially was scared to share the news in such a public way.

"I was hesitant, but... we had talked about it before I did it. They don't know what social media is and so I explained that our holiday card was going to go out [to friends and family], but then there's some [other] people that ... I would like them to know as well. And Clark was like, 'Yeah, of course.'"

Chen was immediately overwhelmed by all the love and support that poured in, revealing she had even heard from people she went to high school with that she hadn't spoken to in years.

"I actually put it on our TV so they could see the big scroll of messages from Facebook," she said about sharing the news with her kids. "Both Chloe and Clark were amazed and so happy and just smiling. They both were like, 'Wow, all these people care?' And I said, 'Yeah, they're happy to meet you both,' and reread some of them out loud."

Mom Shares Her Child's Nonbinary Identity in Family Christmas Card
Courtesy Ariel Cannon Photography

Despite the immense support, she admits it's been tough dealing with the more negative comments, even though she knew they were unavoidable.

"Yesterday, I spoke about it in front of my kids," Chen said. "I didn't say exactly what people said, but I said, 'Some people are being unkind.' And Chloe actually said to me, she's like, 'Don't listen to them, Mom.' And I'm like, 'You're right. I shouldn't listen to them.'"

Chen says her family had become gradually aware of Clark's feelings, starting with their refusal to wear skirts and dresses, but says they let Clark bring. the subject up on their own.

"Brendan and I were very clear: When they tell us they want something, we'll deal with it then," she recalls. "We just felt like Clark would tell us when they were ready for something."

Initially, Clark did not want to change their name, first wanting to wear new forms of clothing and have their hair cut in a new, shorter style. "For us, it was really following Clark's lead ... and then it kept going and going until they felt comfortable to share what they shared," she says.

The supportive mother has felt gratitude living in an area of Los Angeles that has seen neighbors and educators welcome Clark with open arms, knowing it would not be as easy a transition in many other parts of the country.

"I know it's not every school, I know it's not every neighborhood... I can see that from the messages I get from parents now who are seeking just advice and solidarity. Qe are really fortunate," Chen says. "The school was really supportive, principal was really supportive, teachers."

She adds that Clark's classmates haven't had any issues accepting their new identity, treating them as they would any other child. "The kids don't actually really care that much and that's what gives me hope," she says. "I feel like the younger generation, younger than myself, actually is flexible in their thinking and not feeling like everybody has to be set in who they are."

Chen's advice to other parents going through a similar experience is to seek out the supportive corners of the internet. "There's Facebook groups, there's PFLAG groups, I have had people reach out to me and connect me to other families," she says. "There might not be a family [in a similar situation] who lives in your neighborhood, but there's a family that lives somewhere in your state, most likely."

Mom Shares Her Child's Nonbinary Identity in Family Christmas Card
Courtesy Ariel Cannon Photography

Her most important piece of advice is to listen to your child and follow their lead when it comes to identity struggles.

"My husband and I have always said to Clark, 'If you want to someday be a girl again, if you want to be whoever, we love you no matter what. This could last a year, it could last the rest of your life. I don't really care, but you tell us what feels good for you,'" Chen says. "This might change. They might feel differently when they become a teenager, they might not, but we've just come from a place of, We will love you no matter what and we'll honor any choices that you want to make."

Check out more episodes of PEOPLE Every Day, airing on iHeartMedia, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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