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Parenting perspectives during Pride Month

Parenting perspectives during Pride Month

Missy Burkett expects her 15-year-old child Lexi to talk on the phone a lot, watch YouTube videos, and obsess over TikTok.

On the drive home from Cape May, New Jersey, in the summer heading into seventh grade, Lexi confided in her mother that she was bisexual.

"I wasn't expecting that," said Missy, an x-ray technologist with WellSpan. "But it was ultimately a nonchalant conversation."

Two years later, in eighth grade, Lexi shared that they identify as agender, meaning they are genderless, without a gender identity or gender neutral. Lexi also explained they preferred they/them and he/him pronouns.

During Pride Month, we're elevating lived experiences and perspectives from our team members so we can better care for and serve alongside the wonderfully diverse LGBTQIA+ community in south central Pennsylvania.

Missy recently shared details about her parenting journey and the ways she's advocating for Lexi and their identity.

'Is this just a phase?'

"Spontaneous" was one of the adjectives Missy used to describe Lexi, which did lead to some pause after they expressed their sexual orientation and gender identity.

"My initial thought was that it could be a part of the normal 'figuring things out' that many teens go through during puberty, especially because a few friends in their group were experiencing similar things with gender identity," Missy said.

A few months later when Lexi asked for a chest binder, Missy realized that her teenager's plan was more than just a phase.

While processing Lexi's news, Missy also reflected on her teen's childhood years when they once shared a secret of wanting to be a body builder so they could have muscles like a boy.

"Gender is not important to me. Raising a happy, healthy, good person is," Missy said.

Part of "raising a good person" begins with the examples that Missy has set. Lexi was raised to fight for equality following Missy's years of involvement as a human rights activist, and in honor of the many friends Missy has within the LGBTQIA+ community. The two attend Pride events on an annual basis together.

Lexi has been raised with an appreciation for the broad spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation, and also with an awareness about the challenges the LGBTQIA+ community faces.

"They learned from an early age that you are who you are and accepting people of all backgrounds has always been a normal part of Lexi's life," Missy said. "They are a little activist."

Acceptance from others

While Missy and Lexi have a close-knit, supportive relationship, there have been challenges.

"I think they came into the perfect family, in an accepting environment, but it's not easy outside of our home," said Missy.

While Missy has personally been supported by her co-workers, who make the effort to use Lexi's preferred pronouns, some within their circle of family and friends have been slow to accept Lexi's sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Not everyone understands," said Missy, who added that Lexi sees a WellSpan Philhaven therapist. "They feel comfortable with [the therapist] and that's been the biggest progress."

The only one who may not agree with Missy being the perfect parent to Lexi is Missy.

She regrets not being more outspoken with individuals who react negatively about Lexi's journey or demonstrate bias against the LGBTQIA+ community.

"Sometimes I chose to avoid the conflict and I feel guilty about that," Missy said.

What's next?

Missy explains hormone therapy hasn't been something that Lexi has expressed interest in yet.

"It's a bridge we haven't crossed, but if we get to that point, it will be something I am open to. I would need to do a lot of research first on possible risks and side effects," Missy said.  

Until then, Missy is supporting Lexi as they explore their love of art and encounter typical teen challenges, like deciding what comes after high school.

And if there is one thing Missy has anxiety over, it's that Lexi wants to pursue their driver's license.

"That's a funny thing. I have been prepared for everything else, except driving," said Missy with a laugh.

Whatever lies ahead for Lexi, their mother will support every step ahead.

"You just have to love your child, and be willing to take each moment as it comes with them and to see something outside of your own lived experience," Missy said.

Resources for parents and caregivers

Local chapters of PFLAG provide support, education, and resources for parents, families and friends of LGBTQIA+ individuals. York's Rainbow Rose Center and Pride Franklin County also offer parental support groups in partnership with organizations in Pennsylvania.

WellSpan's LGBTQIA+ affirming healthcare services have expanded to include case management, hormone prescribing in primary care settings, behavioral health, obstetric care, fertility care, gender-affirming surgeries, and voice therapy.

Identify a provider within WellSpan's Physician Directory by placing "LGBTQ health" in the "Clinical Expertise" field on or contact Emily Cotton, WellSpan case management social worker, at 717-851-2931, to schedule an appointment with an expert provider.