Adult bullies…

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I was bullied throughout elementary school. If there was a contest for the most bullied student from kindergarten through grade eight, I’d have won first place. That prize was a joint gift of anxiety and depression, which I’d trade in for one of those cheap carnival stuffed animals if I could. What I didn’t realize at the time was that adults can be bullies too, they’re just sneakier about it.

It was grade eleven. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up and the whole growing up thing was looming alarmingly close. I found a course called “Career Options” and figured it might help. I didn’t know what to expect from the class but thought the teacher would discuss different occupations and the education required for them along with a few personality and aptitude tests. I was half right.

I admit I started off on her wrong side. She asked everyone to write down their ideal career and I put down sinecure. It didn’t help that she had to look it up in the dictionary. Then she started on the tests and quizzes. Each time she’d tell us exactly what we couldn’t score and that would be my result. If she said we’d only end up with two categories, I’d have relatively equal results in three. If she said there would only be one category, you might have minor results in a second but they wouldn’t be equal, my two would be split 50/50. Two opposing personalities that would never, ever combine… I scored high in both. I ended up with 100% fine artist for my perfect career, despite her assurances that no one ever scores 100% and despite the fact I can’t draw. I’m sure she thought I was trolling her; meanwhile I was frustrated by her obvious dismissal of my results and my questions.

That year I saved up and bought myself a leopard gecko. We always had pets when I was growing up but this was the first pet I’d had of my own. I named him Leo and took tonnes of pictures. He had a comical way of crouching to stalk crickets; squatting low and twitching the end of his tail like a cat. Then he’d pounce and miss, ending up with a face full of bedding. His favourite treat was pineapple. The teacher asked us all to talk about our pets and I proudly mentioned mine. She looked at me for a moment.

“Michelle? Could you come here?”

I stood up and walked over to her desk with no small amount of confusion.

“Now turn around,” she said once I got to the front.

I turned to face my classmates. While none of my grade school bullies were in the class, none of my friends were in there either. I stared toward row after row of indifferent faces.

“Michelle likes to think of herself as unique but in reality she’s just weird,” she announced loudly before sending me, humiliated, to my seat.

She came to my cash register this morning. I wanted to yell at her but realized I had no idea what I’d say so I asked for her order instead. She gave no sign that she recognized me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her. Up until then I thought kids outgrew being bullies, that people simply grew up and became responsible adults. I didn’t realize some bullies grew up and became adult bullies.

And then there’s Jeremy’s teacher. She’s a bright and friendly lady who gave me a ride home last winter when our meeting went too long and I missed my bus. She’s got children around the same age as mine and an autistic child as well. Yet…

Jeremy stayed home last Thursday after zie begged me, almost in tears, to miss school because zie just couldn’t handle being there. Zie had a professional development day on Friday which meant zie had a four day weekend. Sunday night rolled around. I went to bed early as I had to be up before 5am. Jeremy woke me both just after midnight and at 2am complaining of a headache. I called zir in sick because two hours sleep isn’t enough for anyone to function and wasn’t nearly enough time to sleep off a bad headache. Then Jeremy’s anxiety kept zir awake all last night so zie stayed home again. Right now zie’s been up for 33 hours. Hopefully zie’ll go to school tomorrow but who knows since zie’s being bullied and it’s not by one of zir peers.

Jeremy’s teacher has a new tactic these past few months. Whenever Jeremy’s hanging out with kids in zir class, the teacher comes over and asks if “he’s” intimidating them. Do they really want to hang out with “him”? Is “he” making them stay there? Every casual walk down the halls. Every stroll outside. Every gaming session at the computers.

Is he intimidating you?

I’m sure the teacher doesn’t see this as bullying. I’m sure she has herself convinced that she’s protecting her vulnerable students from a teen who’s more verbally adept and brighter than most of them; a teen she sees as trying to manipulate her with every anxiety fueled rebellion. She doesn’t see that painting Jeremy as a manipulative bully to zir peers is in fact bullying zir. She doesn’t see how she’s intimidating zir. And, despite printing out the school board’s guide to working with transgender students… despite calling in PFLAG and a school board official… despite having said official come in to meet with the staff and explain the guide in detail… despite the teacher insisting she’s a huge trans ally who talks a lot about “transgendered” in the classroom… the teacher still refers to Jeremy as he and him. Zir pronouns are too confusing. I’m sure she doesn’t see this as bullying either.

We have our first PFLAG meeting on Thursday night then we meet people from Jeremy’s potential new school on Friday. Our school board is also holding meetings for LGBTQ students and their parents next month. We’ll be there for sure.

With any luck Jeremy will be out of this class soon and then zie’ll never need to see zir bully again.

The happy stuff…

Emma called me a week or so ago, she sounded bewildered and happy. Karen ran into her at a local store one rainy evening then drove her home.

“Does that mean I’m no longer disowned?” she asked then promptly followed that up with, “I don’t think I’m disowned anymore. She added me back on Facebook too.”

I agreed that sounded likely. We come from a family who react first and think later. Just because Karen was furious in August didn’t mean she was angry in November.

Then I got a call from my Mom. She wanted to know if I got the previous day’s newspaper. I don’t subscribe to the local paper so hadn’t.

“There’s an article about a transgender student in it. I meant to cut it out for you but forgot and put it in the garage. Just give me a minute…”

I waited while she headed for the garage and dug through their recycling bin (their cordless phones have amazing range). She finally found the paper and hurried back inside to read it to me. The student discussed bullying at his previous school then went on to talk about how great his new school was.

“Why are you trying to get Jeremy into [school]?”

“The class is small and it was recommended as a good fit,” I replied.

“I just wondered because the school this boy’s raving about is the school you’re trying to get Jeremy in,” she replied. Pages rustled in the background. “And did you know the school board is having a meeting on December 11th with transgender parents and parents raising transgender students?”

I did but hadn’t mentioned it to her, figuring she wouldn’t be interested; which was a mistake on my part. I don’t know what impressed me more. That my Mom read through a huge article on transgender students in the local paper because her grandchild’s trans, that the school I’m trying to get Jeremy in is considered good for trans students, or that my Mom made a point of sharing an upcoming LGBTQ event she figured I’d be interested in. I think it’s a three way tie.

Thursday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance and both Jeremy and I had the day off. I spent the afternoon dying zir hair purple…

ponytail

Emma gave Jeremy this lovely crushed velvet purple ponytail holder.

That evening Emma came over with a new bracelet for Jeremy…

bracelets

Then we went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant. The food was amazing but we should have gone to the local Coffee Culture for sandwiches instead as we were already rushed for time. It didn’t help that I thought I knew where we were going but we got there to find an empty sidewalk and the wrong street sign. I quickly logged onto Facebook for the address then to Google Maps. Luckily we were only three blocks away from the right address. Unluckily we were already 20 minutes late.

The first and second people we saw were members of my congregation, they’d set up a button making booth. The kids and I stood and listened to the speaker for a few minutes then there was a ten minute break. We hurried to find seats then wandered around the displays. Once again I asked people if there was a local group for trans youths and, once again, I found nothing. The break ended and I hurried back to my seat alone. The kids never came back. Instead they, along with our minister’s son, spent the rest of the time making buttons…

pins

Emma made the “Shut Up! I’m AWESOME” button for Jeremy.

Jeremy made two more buttons for me, coloured almost completely green. I have them on my jacket. One of my coworkers asked me if zie could make one for her too. Unfortunately that will have to wait until the next time we’re at a button making booth.

Afterwards I talked to one lady about Bill C-279 then she started talking to one of the PFLAG representatives. I asked the rep the same question I’d been asking all evening and she asked how old Jeremy is. I told her 17 years old and was told that was the perfect age, that quite a few youths attend their PFLAG meetings then break off into their own group… and that about 3/4’s of them identify as trans. The next meeting is this coming Thursday. Hopefully it goes well.

I posted earlier about a coworker of mine who’s been struggling with cancer. The lack of support for her bothered me and I asked my manager if I could start up a fundraiser. Despite working at a very small store, my coworkers have donated $300 and more said they plan to donate next week. This is going to be such a good surprise for her. I hope this brightens her Christmas a bit.

Jeremy had Youth Group on Friday through our UU congregation. There were going to be new kids attending and the youth leader called Jeremy to ask how zie’d like to handle pronouns. Zie decided on having everyone in the group introduce themselves and state their preferred pronouns then offered to go near the beginning, that way if any new kids were shy they wouldn’t be first and put on the spot. It ended up being moot because no new kids showed up but it was great that the youth leader called ahead of time.

And, finally, I talked to my minister today. I volunteered to do a talk on transgender issues back in the early fall because I was tired of people misgendering Jeremy and figured our welcoming congregation needed some education to be more welcoming. The minister thought it was a great idea and we set a date for the beginning of January. I was nervous for several reasons. One because I’m not good at public speaking (hopefully no one in the room will actually be expecting eye contact) and two because I’m not trans. I can give my experience at being Jeremy’s mother but can’t say what it’s like to be trans. I asked the minister how long I was expected to talk and was told for five minutes. She’s invited not one but three transgender people in to talk about their experiences. All three were at the Transgender Day of Remembrance and two are experienced public speakers (the third is a teenager). I am so happy! I wanted our congregation to get an idea of what it’s like to be transgender and what they can do to be supportive and it sounds like this is going to happen. I can’t wait for this service now.

The tree Jeremy made at Youth Group - the top is vivid purple.

The tree Jeremy made at Youth Group – the top is vivid purple.

 

An urgent warning…

So far I’ve read the same warning twice this evening, both times from trusted sources, so I’m sharing it here as well. Apparently there is a group of assholes on 4chan who are trying to infiltrate online trans groups to provoke trans people to commit suicide.

Please, if someone is harassing you, report them then block and ignore. If you are feeling suicidal or want to hurt yourself The Trevor Project has people available to talk to, chat with, or text 24/7. You can also email me although I might take a day to reply (depending on my work schedule and if Jeremy’s roped me into watching  Torchwood).

Everyone please stay safe and (((hugs))) to all who need one.

Edited to add: I just found two more numbers. If you’re in Canada or the United States and need someone to talk to, you can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. If you’re in the UK you can call the Samaritans at 08457 90 90 90.

Dear Don Plett

I read a letter you wrote to a member of a parenting group I belong to regarding Bill C-279. You seem very concerned about women who don’t want to share change rooms with trans women and one lone woman on a Native reserve who doesn’t want trans women (who are escaping assault and trauma) in the shelter she’s running. There are a few other people I’d like you to be concerned about.

I’d like to introduce you to my 17 year old child Jeremy, who is transgender and identifies as both male and female (also known as bi-gender). Jeremy uses the pronouns zie and zir. Zie replaces he/she while zir replaces him/his/her.

Jeremy is an amazing kid. Zie loves computers and electronics. I just watched as zie set up a webcam on our guinea pig’s cage and connected it remotely to zir cellphone so zie can check up on our piggy during lunch at school. Jeremy also set up our new printer a few days ago and connected it wirelessly to our computers and cellphones. I don’t know when I’ll ever need to print a document from my phone but if I do, Jeremy’s made sure it’s ready for me. Jeremy’s a huge Doctor Who fan and zir favourite colour is purple. Zie’s a kind child who always remembers to give me a hug before I leave to work in the morning.

I want Jeremy to grow up in a country where zie, and other trans youths, are supported and protected. Transgender people face extreme amounts of discrimination. They have high unemployment rates due to prejudice, struggle to find housing, face staggering amounts of verbal and physical abuse, and have correspondingly high suicide rates.

Last year I used to send my child off to a group for LGBTQ youths. Each night I’d sit by my phone hoping zie wouldn’t get beaten up on the way home. That’s not a worry this year simply because zie’s too scared to go out anywhere on zir own. Jeremy’s entire social life consists of going shopping with me.

Picture going shopping with your child and seeing person after person not just staring but continuing to stare after they’ve walked past, turning their heads back to continue looking. Picture standing in the line at the cash register as the person in front of you spins around away from the cashier to stare in blatant shock. You turn to realize they’re staring, open mouthed, at your child and continue staring for several minutes. Picture taking a quiet walk with your youth to the local greenspace while people scream obscenities out their car windows at your teenager. Picture walking home from the store while a couple of grown men laugh and point at your child, pretending to run away. The reality is there’s nothing Jeremy’s doing to stand out. All of Jeremy’s clothes are from the mens department and, while zir hair is just a bit below shoulder length, it’s not unusually long for someone who’s biologically male. Zie simply and naturally looks both male and female. Zie can’t try to fit in.

Jeremy had kids approaching zir in the boy’s bathroom in primary school, wanting to see zir privates to make sure zie had a penis. Zie had children harassing zir at 7 years old in the school yard, telling other kids not to play with Jeremy because zie was a he/she. And when Jeremy was around 8 or 9 years old we had an adult neighbour gather a group of local children and teach them to call zir “faggot” and throw pine cones at zir. We managed to get her evicted but what she taught lingered.

While you don’t come right out and say it, I get the feeling your biggest concern is sexual predators. You never mention trans men using male change rooms and washrooms, instead you focus on trans women in female change rooms and washrooms, as if all trans women are predators. The reality is they are no more likely to be predators than anyone else. We have laws to deal with predatory cisgender woman who want to sexually assault other women. Those same laws would deal with predatory trans woman and both incidents would be shocking simply because of how rarely they occur. If our sexual assault laws are weak then continue to work to strengthen them. Don’t strip a bill that’s designed to give some of the more vulnerable members of our country equal rights.

This bill also protects innocent children who are trans. These children look and act like the gender they identify with and they want nothing more than to be treated the same as their peers. Being able to use the same washroom and join the same team as their friends not only helps them emotionally but protects them as well. A young child who looks and identifies as female does not fare well in a male washroom.

Yes, some transgender people are gender fluid and some may indeed use one change room or washroom one day and the opposite the following day. This wouldn’t be for any nefarious reason but simply to use the washroom they felt safer in. I’ve talked to people who will not use the washroom for hours on end because they’re scared of the reaction they’ll face no matter which bathroom they try to enter. We, as a society, need to stop worrying so much about who’s in the bathroom with us and let people simply relieve themselves in peace. More single stall gender neutral washrooms would be a help as well.

You have a chance right now to protect truly marginalized people. You have a chance to allow people equal rights and the ability to simply be themselves. Please help keep all our children safe. Please give my transgender child a safe Canada to grow up in and let bill C-279 pass.

Thank you,

Michelle
(address and phone number redacted)

I feel like I’m losing myself…

We were sitting in my room. Jeremy sprawled on my computer chair, zir feet propped up on my footstool, while I sat cross legged on my bed with Blackie draped across my lap. Blackie was the only happy one in my room. Her purrs echoed loudly while she butted her head against my hand and arm for more scratches. The fur was flying, in a good (albeit sneezy) way.

We’d been in my room talking earlier or rather Jeremy had been talking. Zie’d quite animatedly explained zir plans for zir bedroom. Jeremy wants to build a kitchen counter with space for zir mostly working Tassimo and a real sink, one that has a tank for fresh water and a tank for used water. I’m not sure my insurance would cover a homemade working sink in Jeremy’s bedroom.

Jeremy’s hands moved while zie talked, they fluttered like butterflies. Zie looked very feminine. I called Jeremy over to my dresser and zie waited patiently while I spread bronze eyeshadow across zir eyelids, swiped a tiny bit of blush along zir cheek bones, and put on some lip gloss. I’d gone with the gloss because it’s pale but I should have gone with lipstick instead. The gloss has a gummy, sticky texture; zie winced as soon as it was applied.

Jeremy hurried into the bathroom. “I don’t like it. This isn’t me,” zie said urgently. “How do I get it off?”

“With a washcloth,” I replied. “No, in the closet beside you,” I added as zie reached for the hand towel. Jeremy smiled briefly and reached around the corner.

“This isn’t me,” zie repeated again, sounding scared.

“Come back into my room. We need to talk,” I announced when Jeremy’s face was clean. Zie rolled zir eyes, not really a good sign but hardly unexpected.

“Just let me use the washroom,” Jeremy sighed.

Zie took a while, which I also expected. This was less a break to use the bathroom and more time to work up some courage. I needed this time too.

Jeremy walked in and every bit of planned speech disappeared out of my mind. I was left staring at zir, positive everything I said was going to come out completely wrong.

“Your gender is not determined by the clothes you wear, makeup, your interests, or how you look. It’s determined by how you feel inside. In one way your Nana was right when she talked about clothing and appearance, they aren’t you. In another way Nana was wrong. She’s under the impression that you need to conform and fit in, ignoring your own comfort levels, because the inner you isn’t the same as the outer you. She’s saying this because she fits in; no one wants her to change her appearance. If everyone insisted she wore micro mini skirts and crop tops she’d be really uncomfortable.”

Jeremy smiled and nodded but didn’t try to speak so I continued.

“I want you to understand that I’m not trying to change you. I’m not trying to force you into gender roles. I just don’t know. When you were in the bathroom I couldn’t tell if you didn’t like the makeup because it didn’t suit you or if you were scared to like the makeup. And that scares me. I love you as you, you’re my child, and I want you to be happy with yourself. I want you to feel comfortable expressing yourself.” By this time tears were streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t try to wipe them off. I just kept watching Jeremy.

“When you were little, we used to joke you’d walk away with the mailman if we let you. You thought everyone was your friend and loved being around people. You got a bit older and I let you wander a little more, but not too much. You had to stay in front of the building where I could see you. This bugged you because your friends could go further.” Jeremy nodded zir head. “But considering they were going behind the building to play in the garbage dumpsters…”

I’d found that out later from one of my neighbours. Those bins had maggots in them, which apparently the kids knew because they were throwing them at each other. I’d have intervened if I’d known at the time. Unfortunately the neighbour hadn’t. Jeremy grimaced and nodded again.

“Then you got old enough to go around on your own. I’d walk into stores and have people tell me what a great kid you are. We’d be in [neighbouring town] and people would honk and yell, “Hi Jeremy!” out their car windows. Even when we first moved here, you’d bike around and meet up with kids. But these days the only times you go out are when you’re with me.”

“I feel like I’m losing myself,” Jeremy said hoarsely. “Like I don’t know who I am.”

My gaze focused on zir, waiting for some honest insight, something I could use to help zir.

“That’s why I need a soldering gun,” zie continued.

Or maybe not.

“Every time I make something, I put a bit of myself into it and then it breaks and I lose some of myself. If I had a soldering gun I could make my inventions stronger so they’d last and I wouldn’t keep losing myself.”

“You are not your inventions,” I protested. “You are more than that. You need to see yourself as more than your collection of electronics.”

“Like you are with your writing?” zie asked pointedly. “How would you feel if you couldn’t write anymore?”

I’d be devastated. I’d hate it. But at the same time, I’m more than my writing.

“Jeremy, I have other things. I have my scrapbooking, I talk with friends, I sing, I go for walks, I swim, I bake. You need to find other things-“

I broke off as music began playing in the living room. It was one of Jeremy’s favourite songs. Had zie set an alarm?

“It’s my ringtone,” Jeremy said as zie got up. “I changed it today.”

“Who’s calling?” I asked and zie shrugged.

“I only set a personal ringtone for you.”

It was Emma. They had a great conversation that lasted well over a half hour. My head was pounding by the time they finished. I’d taken some Advil and was crawling into bed.

Jeremy stayed home from school again yesterday due to stress and I’ve got the weekend off. Hopefully we’ll have another chance at an honest conversation. Hopefully I’ll be able to help Jeremy start finding zirself soon.

The Secret Keepers

secretmom2013:

Sharing because it’s important. Also (((hugs))) for those who need them.

Originally posted on Mended Musings:

secrets

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to share this post. Reblog it, share it on Facebook, tweet it. Someone out there needs to hear this message today. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who has been abused. Even if you don’t read the entire post.

About a month ago I was asked by Dawn at WTF words, thoughts, feelings to contribute an essay for an anthology that she and Joyelle are creating for parents who are survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse (learn more at https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology).

I submitted my essay but I also want to shine a bigger spotlight on this project because I fear that they may not get many submissions. Not because it’s not a worthy cause or because there aren’t enough people out there to contribute but because survivors of abuse are secret…

View original 1,196 more words

Jeremy’s in love…

Zie fell in love at Target and it was infatuation at first sight. At least on Jeremy’s side, I’m pretty sure the toaster was indifferent.

It wasn’t just any toaster though, it was this…chevrons
… an expensive, chevron coated toaster. Jeremy stopped so suddenly, I almost walked into zir.

“Oh wow,” zie breathed. “Mom! Look at those!”

“Yes, that’s a lot of chevrons.” I blinked rapidly. The patterns were blinding.

“We have to get them! At the very least the toaster!”

I couldn’t manage to stifle my sigh. By this time we’d been through all of Dollarama and half of Target with Jeremy begging for “just this” every few steps. If I’d bought everything zie wanted, I’d need to rent a U-haul to take it home. Besides…

“I bought a toaster this summer,” I reminded zir. It was zir turn to sigh.

“Our toaster’s boring. You have no sense of style,” Jeremy retorted. Zie gave the toaster a longing glance. “This is fabulous. We need it. Look! It has a bagel button.”

“Our toaster already has one.” Which was pointless because we might have two or three bagels a year. “I’m not spending $40 on a toaster we don’t need.”

I snapped a quick picture than we left with Jeremy muttering under zir breath about my decorating skills. I ignored the comments. I also didn’t remind zir about how much zie liked our toaster when I bought it.

And if this is a taste of how Jeremy’s going to decorate when zie has a place of zir own, I’m going to need to stock up on sunglasses.