“I gave birth to what I thought were three little girls,” says Janice Anderson. But that eventually changed for the newest president of PFLAG-Houston (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Two of her children now identify as gender non-binary, and her youngest child is a transgender man. They are a happy, close-knit “modern family,” thanks in part to the nurturing support that Anderson received from Houston’s local PFLAG chapter.”
From Oklahoma to Houston
Anderson was born into a military family at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1967. “I was born in a hospital hallway, because they were treating so many wounded soldiers from Vietnam,” she says. She graduated from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in English. In 1995, she completed a master’s degree in library science at the University of Oklahoma.
In 1992, Anderson met Greg Lambert, a fellow librarian and friend of her brother. Two years later, they were married and soon began raising a family of three children. “He is perfect for me. We have the same thoughts about every issue that is important. I would not want to parent our children with anyone else,” Anderson says.
In 2003, the family moved to Houston when Lambert got a position at the University of Houston’s law-school library. Tropical Storm Allison had flooded the library, and Lambert was put in charge of rebuilding it.
Anderson most recently taught a series of creative-problem-solving classes at Paul Revere Middle School in the Memorial area, and will begin a new position as librarian of a Spring Branch middle school whose principal is supportive of gay-straight alliance groups.
Anderson describes her family as “an open house” where the children are encouraged to freely express their thoughts and emotions. Her own childhood was “free range,” and she wanted to pass that along to her children. Still, she hadn’t expected to discover that her children are all LGBTQ.
Gwen, 19 (Pronouns They, Them, Theirs)
Gwen Lambert was the first child that Anderson realized was LGBTQ. The two had never discussed it, but Anderson “just sort of figured it out” by the time Gwen was in the sixth grade. “Gwen asked questions about what I’d think if they dated a girl.” Anderson replied that she would be fine with it—as soon as Gwen was old enough to date.
Anderson says that Gwen had a boyfriend for a while, but then she discovered that Gwen was going steady with a middle-school girl. She correctly assumed that Gwen was bisexual.
By the eighth grade, Gwen told their mother that they didn’t feel like a girl or a boy. “They wore their hair short and self-identified as androgynous.” Gwen loved the gender-bending film Victor/Victoria, in which Julie Andrews plays a woman impersonating a male entertainer who impersonates women.
When the term “gender non-binary” became widely accepted, Gwen embraced that gender-identity description. “They said they finally didn’t feel so nebulous,” Anderson recalls. Gwen is now studying to be a pastry chef at Houston Community College and works at an ice-cream store in the Memorial area. They were pleased when Pride Houston introduced a new gender non-binary grand-marshal category in 2019.
Dean, 17 (Pronouns He, Him, His)
Trans son Dean Lambert, who identifies as a gay man, was the second child to come out. In 2016, he and his mother were talking about the North Carolina “bathroom bill” that made it illegal to use a bathroom not in synch with the gender assigned at birth.
As they discussed the headline story, Anderson told Dean that when he was younger, she had thought he might be a transgender male since he wore his hair short and wanted a unisex name. Dean became very quiet, and then started to cry. “He had heard horror stories about parents throwing out their transgender children, and he was afraid to tell me. He was so relieved that I was okay with it,” Anderson says.
When Dean was seven, he underwent radiation treatment to kill a cancerous tumor on his hip. “I was so worried about the cancer, I took my eye off the gender-identity ball,” Anderson recalls. After the cancer treatment, Dean started wearing jumpers and skirts because they didn’t rub against his hip. Dean was also a member of a girls’ dance team up until the seventh grade, so Anderson had assumed he was identifying as female.
Prior to beginning high school, Dean legally changed his name, taking on the name of his late uncle Dean, a gay man who died in 2014. The move to high school was a fresh start, and a good opportunity to begin presenting as male.
In 2017, Dean had his gender marker legally changed, just in time to get his Texas driver’s license. He will be a high-school senior this fall, and is interested in pursuing a degree in engineering at Cameron University.
Lynndon, 22 (Pronouns They, Them, Theirs)
Lynndon Lambert is Anderson’s oldest child, but was the last one to come out. Two years ago, Gwen noticed that Lynndon had changed their gender marker on Facebook from female to male. Lynndon now identifies as gender non-binary, as well as “pan-romantic but asexual.”
Lynndon is a junior at Cameron University, studying art and planning to be an art teacher after college. “They are really good at print-making,” Anderson says. Lynndon is currently dating a trans man.
Hatch Youth Provides a Refuge
All three children attended the Montrose Center’s Hatch Youth program for LGBTQ+ teens. Anderson says she hadn’t been aware of the Montrose Center’s program, but she was happy to discover that there was a place where her children would be accepted just as they are. “They really liked being around kids who were just like them, and they made a lot of friends there,” Anderson says. Her three children are all very supportive of each other as they make their individual journeys into adulthood.
Turning to PFLAG
Anderson started attending PFLAG Houston in 2016. Although she felt prepared when Gwen came out as bisexual, she quickly called the PFLAG help line to get more information when Dean came out as a transgender male.
“I needed to catch up, both for myself and for my children,” she says.
After attending PFLAG for two years, Anderson was elected secretary. This past January, she was elected president. “I’ve had experience as the head of parent-teacher organizations,” she says, so the job seemed right.
One of her duties is to preside over the PFLAG board, which is made up of the organization’s committee chairs. She also helps organize the help line.
Anderson especially enjoys working the PFLAG information table at various events. One of her favorite venues is the Houston Children’s Museum. When she talks with parents who call the PFLAG help line, she likes to arrange a time to have coffee and talk face-to-face.
Looking to the future, Anderson says she has a great sense of hope. Recalling her days as the faculty sponsor of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Paul Revere Middle School, she says “there were 1,200 kids in the school, and 53 belonged to the GSA. They were all there to be supportive of LGBTQ+ youth.” Attendance went from 27 the first year to 53 in 2019.
Anderson was pleased that the school’s principal encouraged her to bring more LGBTQ students into the club. “There were some LGBTQ students who knew me, came to one meeting, but then didn’t return,” Anderson recalls. “I’d see them around campus, though, being themselves—holding hands and attending dances with their steadies. I believe that just knowing there was a place for them on campus made them more comfortable.”
This article appears in the September 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.