Pronouns and a letter to the teacher…

I was talking to a friend today about pronouns and was asked if I’d thought of trialing a pronoun for Jeremy, like she did with her daughter. So I talked to Jeremy this morning and explained that I was feeling uncomfortable using him and he these days, simply because neither seems to suit Jeremy anymore. I explained what happened regarding my friend and her daughter. It felt a bit like I was pushing Jeremy by saying I want to use they and them but at the same time Jeremy seemed genuinely happy with the pronoun they… for the most part…

Jeremy: Mom, the only problem with they is it makes me sound like I’ve got about fifty personalities.

Me: And all of them are fabulous.

Jeremy (grinning): Except for Jerry. He’s an ass.

They do have a point though. It’s going to be an interesting pronoun to use when I’m talking about a few people and Jeremy “… and then they’re going home. Not everyone though, just Jeremy”. I figure we’ll get used to it in time.

So Jeremy’s using they everywhere except school and with extended family; which means I’m using they everyone except for my main Facebook page, where I’ll refrain from using pronouns as best I can. I might need a list.

I’ve spent this morning writing a letter for Jeremy’s teacher as their first day of school is this Wednesday. And here it is:

Dear Mrs. Teacher,

I would like 2014/2015 to be a good year for you, Jeremy, and the rest of the class. Jeremy has spent the entire summer panicking about the upcoming year. I know he can be a handful and a half to deal with but he’s also feeling unwelcome and disliked; this in turn causes him to act up out of frustration. He’s already talking about leaving school as soon as he turns eighteen because he thinks no one wants him there.

A compromise needs to be reached regarding electronics. Jeremy never goes anywhere without a bag of electronic equipment, this is a comfort for him, a coping strategy, he feels safer with them. While I don’t think he should be spending the day playing with his electronic devices, he will be calmer and better behaved with something nearby, even if it’s just in a bag by his feet. I would like to buy him a stress ball, although these days they’re fairly hard to find, he concentrates better with something in his hand. He is also coming into school with my old netbook. I would prefer him to use a school issued one, especially since it wouldn’t require an external keyboard, but I’ve been told repeatedly that his language based learning disabilities and processing issues do not qualify him. This netbook will be used for writing, other than at lunch or during any other break when he’s allowed to play games. Also, Jeremy would like the opportunity to do his math assignments in paint as he finds operating a mouse easier than a pencil. If you have any math or science based websites he can work on, he’s welcome to use them as well.

Jeremy identifies as gender nonconforming. I’ve spoken to several people this summer and have read the information on the [local school board]‘s website. His identity falls under the trans umbrella and, as such, means he gets the same rights as the other transgender students in the board. This means no comments on his hair length or how long he keeps his nails, no encouraging other students to tell him to cut his hair, and no criticizing his hair dye (his hair is not going to fall out). In short, anything that is acceptable for a female student is acceptable for him and is not to be commented on in any negative fashion. He was made very uncomfortable last year when he was being taught only binary pronouns in English. Despite what I was told by you, via the principal, it is recommended to let the students know that there are other genders and other pronouns. There is nothing on the website referring to “invented pronouns” or only discussing them if and when a student changes pronouns. The school board is well aware that not all trans students are out and recommends acting as if you have a trans student in the class at all times.

I have referred to Jeremy as he/him throughout this letter. I, however, will be referring to him as they from now on as Jeremy does not identify as 100% male. Jeremy does wish to be called he/him at school for now at least. They will let you know if this changes.

I am enclosing half a forest of information from both the school board’s website and the government of Canada’s page. I have highlighted the parts that I feel pertain the most to Jeremy but the whole documents are very helpful.

I would enjoy a chance to sit down and talk with you, [principal], and anyone else who wishes to attend in order to provide the best outcome for this upcoming school year. I can be reached at [my phone number].

Thank you,

Michelle

Just stop staring!

Jeremy and I stopped into Shoppers Drug Mart yesterday afternoon to buy more hair dye for him. He was wearing his usual clothes; a purple polo style t-shirt, a pair of red silky soccer shorts, and a pair of black and grey sandals… all from the mens department. His hair’s faded to a faint purplish brown, it was loose and simply tucked behind his ears. He hasn’t shaved his legs in several weeks and he removed his toe nail polish directly before the family reunion. His fingernail polish is clear.

“I’m just checking the electronic section,” he informed me cheerfully.

The electronic section is a tiny corner near the front of the store containing a handful of cameras, a rack of video games, a couple of Wii consoles, and a variety of cords and headphones. No one but Jeremy’s excited by it.

“I’m not buying anything from there,” I warned him.

“I know,” he replied, still cheerfully. “I’m just looking for exercise games.”

We bantered briefly about his elliptical then I saw the man in the check out line. He turned slightly when Jeremy walked past then he completed his turn and stood there, back to the cash register, staring at Jeremy. I’m not talking a brief occasional glance or a couple of double takes… I’m talking full on, absolutely blatant staring. His face was expressionless; his eyes didn’t leave Jeremy once.

I don’t know how long the man stared. It was probably only about half a minute to a minute long but it felt like forever. I had no idea what to do. Jeremy was oblivious, happily rummaging through the games rack. I ended up doing nothing, I just put the box of purple dye on the counter and waited my turn. Eventually the man noticed me beside him, realized I was with Jeremy, and abruptly swiveled around just in time for the cashier to take his order.

Holy hell people can be creepy sometimes.

I just don’t understand people…

Some of you might not realize that Jeremy came out as bisexual last summer. As far as I know he’s currently identifying as straight but sexual orientation is a very prickly subject with Jeremy and one we discuss rarely. He also identifies as gender nonconforming and not as 100% male. So far he doesn’t identify as trans but he also hasn’t sorted out his gender yet. This means I’ve already been through a couple of instances where he’s “come out” and am sure I haven’t reached the last of them yet.

Jeremy can drive me right round the bend. As I write this, he’s sitting in his pyjamas in the living room. The dishes he was supposed to wash yesterday are in the sink and he’s dragged a tangle of computer cords into the bathroom (???). He’s also dumped a bag of electonics across the couch. So he’s not exactly in my good books right now. I just got home from work though and the mess can wait for a brief time.

That being said, my irritation with him has to do with chores. Not his pjs… or his perfume… or him eyeing some naked guy on the beach at camp. And even when I’m joking about punting him off our balcony, I’m sorting out what to buy him for Christmas this year and contemplating school lunches. The kid’s not going anywhere (except hopefully to take out the recycling).

I saw this today…

I don’t understand people sometimes; I really don’t. No matter what that mother said, this isn’t love or support and it certainly isn’t family.

Also there’s been a GoFundMe account set up for Daniel to help him with living expenses.

Jeremy’s camping trip…

Jeremy came home on Sunday evening with a suitcase full of mostly unworn clothes, his thankfully unbroken TARDIS mug, and my camera. The camera was important not just because it’s mine but because I’d asked him to take some pretty specific pictures. I’ve been thinking about camping there and wanted to see what the beaches, pond, campsites, hiking trails, and caves were like. Instead he came home with four shots of the same stretch of trail.

“Why didn’t you take a picture of the beach?” I asked as I flipped through the camera once more.

“There was a naked man on the beach. I didn’t think it would be right to take his photo.”

One of the beaches is clothing optional so the naked man wasn’t a surprise.

“Why didn’t you turn around and take a picture away from him?” I asked. Judging by his expression, that thought had never crossed his mind. Jeremy and logic often have barely a nodding acquaintance.

“We have to go there next summer,” Jeremy said excitedly. “It’s much better than where we usually go and it’s closer too.”

We usually go to a provincial park called Sibbald Point. It’s a wonderful campground with a long sandy beach, sheltered sites, a heritage museum, and a lovely (albeit buggy) hiking trail. We always camp at the same site too, right near a trail to the beach. Something I don’t mind sharing because the campground has almost a thousand sites.

I didn’t bother booking a site this year as I spent almost $200 for three nights there last year then couldn’t stop thinking I could have stayed at a hotel for that amount. I love camping but, seriously, that’s a lot of money for a short amount of time.

So I went onto the Unicamp site and discovered it would cost us $25 a night to camp there… or $150 a week. Versus $49.44 a night at Sibbald Point.

“We’re going to camp at Unicamp next summer,” I told Jeremy then watched as he grinned.

“That’s great,” he replied. “We’ll have to watch the times though. If we camp in July, that’s when all the youth campers are there and they don’t let you do some stuff. It’s better to camp in August.”

“Some stuff… you mean swimming naked on the clothing optional beach,” I retorted. “You just want to oogle naked people.”

I knew full well he wasn’t planning on going nude anywhere. He won’t even walk onto our own balcony without a shirt on, just in case someone sees him topless. Peeling off everything in public is beyond unlikely.

“Well yeah,” he replied honestly.

So we have our campground picked out for next August. And, since they don’t have any pictures on the website, I’ll have to wait until then to see what it’s like.

One more week until school…

I started off this day with a long walk in a nearby greenspace, listening to the wind in the trees while avoiding poison ivy. And in exactly an hour, Jeremy’s getting picked up to go to an end of summer pool party with the other UU youths from our congregation. It’s hard to believe while I’m sitting enjoying a leisurely summer day, that in one more week he’ll be at school.

I am not looking forward to printing out 40 pages of information for Jeremy’s teacher on our school board (and Canada’s) policies regarding trans and gender nonconforming youths. But then again I’m equally not looking forward to another year where she chides him on the length and colour of his hair, encourages classmates to tell him how much better he’d look with short hair, criticizes the length of his nails, and talks to the students about how boys and girls are supposed to behave.

I also need to write a letter to his teacher, not just regarding gender nonconformity but dealing with electronics as well. Jeremy finds writing a lot easier by computer, which makes sense considering he has fine motor skill difficulties, language based learning disabilities, and processing issues. His teacher has refused to do anything regarding this, claiming computers are for the kids with severe speech delays and he doesn’t qualify. Now he has my old netbook with an external keyboard and wants to bring that in. I’m foreseeing a lot of issues with this. I’m hoping they’ll look at what he needs instead of fretting over him “bringing gadgets to class”. Gadgets being their name for just about anything he wants to carry with him.

I get that he can be a holy terror at school, I really do. I mean he referred to his teacher as “the asshole” a couple of days ago so I know he’s not an innocent bundle of sunshine. And, yes, I call him out on this behaviour. The flip side is he’s planning on dropping out as soon as he’s 18 years old (his class runs through to 21 years old) because he feels the teachers and principal all hate him and don’t want him there. He’s spent a good chunk of this summer worrying about next year and fretting over things that have happened at school over the past two years. And he’s got some valid concerns.

Sigh, can I flip the calendar back and have it be July again?

Valiant attempts at healthy eating…

Poor Jeremy would be happy if he lived in a house that regularly served macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with meat sauce, ravioli (preferably canned), chicken, beef, and pizza with lots of gooey cheese. Instead he’s got me, his vegan mother. Yesterday I had a craving for kale chips with nutritional yeast and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. We’re not just worlds apart when it comes to food, I’m pretty sure we’re in entirely different galaxies.

But I try, which is why I made fettuccine alfredo this evening. The description claimed it was rich, creamy, and luxurious. Her husband asked for it for Valentine’s Day and she ate her first batch over the stove, loving it too much to grab a bowl and sit. The ingredients were ones I already had in the pantry (I even found a lemon tucked away in the back of the crisper) and I bought cracked black pepper fettuccine noodles to make our dinner even more decadent.

I boiled the cauliflower while carefully measuring the rest of the ingredients into the blender. At this point I got a message from my friend Lenny. I told zir what I was making and cheerfully said it smelled good. Then I added the cauliflower and turned on the blender. It made a glorping sound. I was reasonably sure it wasn’t supposed to do that.

The next ten minutes were spent mashing down cauliflower and hoping for the best. After a while the florets disappeared, which was good. Except my sauce had turned into a paste, which wasn’t. It was thick enough to spread as the worst, saddest frosting ever and it was gritty. That was my “screw it” moment. I dumped in half a jar of roasted red peppers, most of the liquid from said jar, a whole teaspoon of the hottest hot sauce I’ve found (it laughs at sriracha sauce), and more coconut milk. The sauce finally stopped glorping and started whirring.

That sauce ate a box and a half of noodles before it started looking like a pasta dish instead of a really bizarre soup and it filled three good sized storage containers. I stuffed two of them in the freezer. There’s no way Jeremy would touch it in any galaxy. I’m going to be eating this for well over a month.

Jeremy called two hours ago to say he’s on his way home and to ask if he could bring home a free kitten. He even held the kitten up to the phone so I could hear its plaintive mews. He’s not getting a kitten. We already have three cats.

I do, however, have chocolate peanut butter pudding cups waiting in the freezer as a surprise. They’re made with tofu, ground flaxseeds, and agave nectar. Just don’t tell him because they are really good and he’ll never know. Meanwhile, I’ve found a recipe for stuffed pasta shells that calls for tofu instead of ricotta cheese. What could go wrong with that?

We went shopping…

I hate shopping. More specifically I hate crowds. The last time I went shopping near Christmas, I muttered to Emma that the trip would be so much better if everyone else disappeared. She thought that was hysterical. I wasn’t joking.

Jeremy and I got off the bus and I stared at the parking lot in dismay. It looked like the week before Christmas instead of a weekday in August. The whole lot was full. If the bus hadn’t already left, I’d have turned around and climbed back on.

The first thing Jeremy did was drag me into Icing, a jewelry store chain, because he needed earrings. We ended up buying a package with nine sets of purple rhinestone earrings. He was thrilled. He was also thrilled when we took a trip into Purdys so he could have an ice cream bar with two kinds of chocolate dip and rainbow sprinkles. The cashier helpfully informed me that, while they have chocolate with no milk ingredients, all their sugar is filtered through bone char. Damn. Oh well, I can make treats at home.

Then we took a detour into Old Navy to look at their backpacks. It was a very brief detour. Years ago I bought Jeremy a backpack from there; it was plain brown but made out of a silky, shiny material and it came with a matching lunch bag. This year… well it was very gendered. I couldn’t see him wanting a backpack covered in glitter hearts or one with a giant shark face. I promised him we’d go to Electronic Boutique next, which turned out to be a surprise disappointment. I hadn’t realized he didn’t know the EB in EB Games stood for “Electronic Boutique”. He thought we were going to a store with all sorts of computer parts; not a game store.

And then it got interesting. I’d taken a quick peek at the pictures in Icing as I’m a sucker for both glitter and word art. Icing often combines the two…

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This is my favourite picture (and yes, I have silver mirror butterflies on my walls). Icing didn’t have any more pictures that I liked this time but Claires is run by the same company and often has similar products so I wandered in. Jeremy was horrified and left immediately, claiming it was too crowded. Whatever. If anything Icing had been more crowded. Two stores down was H&M. I had never been in there before but read it was a good place to shop, especially if you have a gender nonconforming kid. I figured they might have backpacks. I was wrong. And, once again Jeremy was horrified. Loudly and obnoxiously horrified. Then he disappeared while I was looking for a clerk. I found him in the mall a store away, pointedly looking anywhere but H&M. After the scene he’d pulled there and at Claires, I was briefly tempted to turn and walk the other direction.

“What was that all about?” I snapped. “Why the hell did you just turn around and leave?”

“That was a girls clothing store,” he retorted, visibly angry. “People were going to think we were shopping for me.”

It took me a moment to reply because his reply was not what I expected. Had he not noticed the entire mens section? Plus why would he assume people would think we were shopping for ladies wear for him, especially with me right there. My first thought was he was being very oversensitive. But he’s seventeen, that goes with the territory. I simply pointed out that the store was unisex. I was right, he hadn’t noticed the mens section.

We browsed at Dollarama next, which calmed Jeremy right down (he loves that store) then we found a sonic screwdriver keychain in another store (plus a stocking stuffer for Jeremy but he didn’t see me buy it). And then we went home.

We went to the mall to buy a new cellphone for Jeremy and a backpack. We left with earrings, a cellphone case for me, a sonic screwdriver keychain, and a small silver lamp for the living room (with tree cut outs in the shade). Then we got off the bus into a torrential downpour and came home completely soaked. The trip was not what I planned but was pretty typical for us.

His backpack from last year should be fine.