Detransitioning…

“Mom?”

“Yes,” I said.

I stopped walking and stood in front of Colin’s bedroom door. He was sitting at his computer desk, his video game paused behind him; one of his car games that make me dizzy when he asks me to watch.

“I don’t want you to call me Emma anymore. I want you to call me Colin from now on.”

“Are you still female?” I asked and he nodded.

“Okay,” I replied and, with that, he swung back to his game and I continued on to the kitchen.

We’ve been living in limbo since mid December, with Colin announcing every few days that he’s probably going to detransition and go back to male because he wants children… but he might stay female so keep calling him Emma. I’ve let him know that there are women who stopped their hormones and began producing sperm again. One couple I heard of ended up with twins. But there aren’t enough cases and no studies we could find. And his doctor told him he’d become infertile. That, to him, meant more than a handful of internet stories.

All I’ve ever wanted for my children is for them to be happy, not just in general but as themselves. Going back to male isn’t being himself. But it’s his life to live and his time to stretch out and make decisions. This isn’t my decision to make.

So I changed my “about” page again and got his permission to change his name on Facebook. This was more for me than him because I’m the one who tags him in funny posts, knowing he won’t see them otherwise. But it also sends a message to family and friends on what to call him.

I don’t know how long he’ll stay pretending to be male. He says he wants kids first but he’s not dating and, right now his focus is on school. He could change his mind in months if the dysphoria becomes worse. It could be years. But some day, he’ll come to me for support and I’ll have to relearn calling him Emma. No matter what, I love him either way.

Emma's new kitty ear headphones

I’ve shared it before but it’s one of my favourite pictures of him and worth sharing again 🙂

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Yes guns kill people…

This Wednesday a young adult opened fire on his former classmates and teachers, killing seventeen of them. He obtained that assault rifle legally, despite the fact he was known to be unstable and people had warned the FBI about him.

Obviously so much went wrong. The FBI didn’t act on the warning and the store sold him an assault rifle. An assault rifle to a kid who wasn’t even old enough to drink. And now seventeen families have been torn apart. Seventeen futures are gone. Parents around the country are terrified to send their children to school. They have to answer questions like, “What if I get shot?” or “Will I get shooted in school Mommy?”

I live in Canada so the topic of guns rarely comes around in real life. But I’m also online and have many friends in the US so I get to read all the arguments every time there’s a school shooting. Which, sadly, is often. And those arguments infuriate me. Most of the reason is because people, quite often children, have just been killed by guns and part of it is because the arguments are so ridiculous.

I hope I never read another post claiming guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Followed along with, “If I put my gun down on the table, it does nothing.”

Seriously, are you that dense? Take the gun away and how many people would that shooter kill before he gets tackled? Probably none. Maybe a couple if he had a knife. Guns definitely need a person to operate them but they do kill people, and a lot more easily than a knife or other weapon.

Another argument that comes up often is that the gun is an inanimate object. When it’s left alone it does nothing, as all inanimate objects do. My water bottle is inanimate as well and it doesn’t do anything either. But if you pick up a gun and I pick up my water bottle, you have the potential to kill as many people as there are bullets in your gun. I have the potential to squirt someone and get them damp.

I can’t understand why people are allowed to buy assault rifles in the States. Guns are designed to kill but assault rifles are solely designed to kill people. One person tried to argue with me on that point but stopped when I asked if he was planning on shooting a deer fifty times. There is no reason to own an assault rifle. Absolutely none.

Then you get the people arguing that everyone should have guns. Could you imagine how many bullets would be in the air if everyone started shooting after the initial shots? The body count would be horrific. Besides, even trained professionals like police men and SEALs get shot and killed while alert and wearing a gun. If they can be shot to deal while armed and ready, what makes you think an already scared teacher or teenager has a chance. Arming teenagers and teachers is a recipe for disaster.

I don’t have any pat answers. I can point out that Australia banned certain kinds of guns after their only school shooting but the pro gun people claim it’s different in the States. The only difference I can see is an accent and the attitude that property is more valuable than lives. Pro tip, the court of law doesn’t not offer the death penalty for breaking and entering so neither should you.

I can also point out that the indigenous POC in Australia get harassed by the police, similar to how POC are treated in the States. Heck, I knew as soon as I read that the shooter was in police custody that he was white (or at least appeared white). Having armed police doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer for everyone. Yet I don’t see how having a gun would change that. Just as many people would get attacked, having a gun would mean getting treated worse, and using the gun would either end up with someone looking like swiss cheese or a lifetime in prison.

At the end of the day, I believe that if people want a gun they need to train on how to operate it safely first and pass a security check. They need to keep the gun unloaded in a place out of reach of children and the bullets secured in a second location. This would at least stop the heartbreaking deaths of small children playing with guns and accidentally killing a sibling, cousin, or friend. And there should be an age minimum. If you’re too young to drink then you’re too young to shoot. I’m sure an exception could be made for those who are currently in the armed forces.

I applaud the students who are planning on walking out on March 14th and April 20th. I hope enough of them leave to make the government take notice, although I’m not sure if Cheeto Hitler would even care. Maybe politicians in their areas will initiate changes.

But for now we’ll keep reading about school shootings until the US government realizes that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t the answer.

sketchers

Valentine’s Day

My morning started with a 7am call from my daughter Kait. She chatted as the sunlight streamed across my bed and three of our cats curled up around my legs. We don’t chat for a short time, we’re two hour long gabbers so we ended up chatting while I dressed, fed the oldest cats their wet food, and got myself breakfast.

Then it came time to wake up Colin. I’m a romantic at heart and woke him up by opening the bedroom door and yelling, “Stank love, sweat poo!” This, of course, confused the heck out of him until I explained they were Valentine’s Day wishes written by an AI. Then he thought that was amazing.

We needed to do a bit of tidying up as Colin’s claimed our storage closet as his own and relocated everything from the closet to the living room. I hadn’t worried about clutter in the closet, that’s what the door’s for. I’m way more concerned about the clutter when it’s on my living room floor and dining room table. Then I washed the dishes while Colin cleaned his beaded mini lamp. I’m sure everyone who tiptoes around the closet stuff will be in awe over his lamp shade. If they don’t trip first and land in the hospital.

It was creeping close to dinner when I showed Colin an article about students who couldn’t say no to someone wanting to take them to the Valentine’s Day dance. Colin was furious. First at feminists, who he was positive were behind this. I have no idea why. Then low-key mad at the school in the article and raging mad about his old school. He decided that what the school in the article needed to do was ask the students to write down their likes and dislikes, hobbies, and favourite things, then the staff could pair the similar students with each other. That way they’d at least have something to talk about. I agreed with his idea although chances are the girls would end up paired with the girls and the boys with the boys at that age. I’m not sure how well that would go in Utah.

“I liked the school dances at first,” Colin admitted, as he settled in to discussing his old school. “Then I slowly started to hate them. The only thing good about them were the snacks and I couldn’t always buy them.”

“That’s because you were going to at least one dance a month,” I reminded him.

From the look on his face, that was a surprise. Then again he wasn’t the one marking them down on the calendar.

“I would just stand by the wall because no one wanted to dance with me,” he informed me.

I wasn’t surprised. I knew the teacher was pushing his classmates away from him. When he was with his friends at lunch time, the teacher would come up and ask the kids if they really wanted to be with him. Were they sure? They could always walk away.

Every. Single. Time.

I would have complained but I’d already seen how far I’d gotten with Colin’s pronouns. They followed the rules when writing paperwork, once someone from the board told them they had to, but used he/him pronouns when they talked to him. And, when I brought that up in a meeting I got told they most certainly used zie and zir during the school day. Considering how often they misgendered him in the meetings, it was pretty obvious they didn’t. There was definitely no way they’d admit to trying to manipulate one student against another.

Then he told me that the students were warned not to be like Colin when they acted up. He was their bad example. “I know you don’t want to work on your spelling right now but you have to. You don’t want to be like Colin, do you?” I would have exploded with rage if I’d known that before he graduated. As it is, I can understand why he didn’t want to follow up with their bridging program. He might have been their “bad example” but he’s been a hardworking and well liked student in his current programs.

Colin joined me in the kitchen while I made brownies and started on the spaghetti sauce and I listened while he chattered about computer parts and the different tests he does on the computers. I have very little idea what he’s doing. All I know is one test looks like a fuzzy doughnut and another looks like an old time office. But he’s interested and that’s what matters.

And now dinner’s done, the brownies enjoyed, and it’s time to relax.

For those who are interested, Blackie is still doing well. She’s not eating nearly enough, just half of one of the big cans of Friskies (the ones that are the size of a tin of tuna). But she’s not losing any weight and is active. She loves curling up in my arms while I’m at the computer or lying between my keyboard and monitor. And she loves getting petted.

And, since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m writing out the brownie recipe we use just for you.

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a square brownie pan. Place 1/2 cup margarine or butter into a glass measuring cup and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Microwave for 35 seconds.

In a medium sized bowl add 6tbsps aquafaba (otherwise known as the water in a tin of canned beans) or 2 eggs. Then add one cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cups flour, a dash of salt, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. My kids hate nuts in baked goods so I add 1/2 a cup chocolate chips instead. Don’t mix yet. Now stir the melted butter and cocoa mixture and pour it over the rest of the ingredients. Now you can stir until it’s all mixed evenly. I’m pretty sure these brownies cause the blood sugar to rise in everyone in the near vicinity, they’re so sweet, but they’re worth it. Now try not to lick the mixing spoon. Try harder. I know the batter is really good but you can do it. It’s okay, that’s what the tap’s for, just rinse it off.

Pour the batter into the pan, leaving a bit of batter in the bowl for you, then set the timer for 30 minutes. Let cool (I toss mine onto the balcony in the winter but they can go into a self defrosting freezer for a bit too). And enjoy 🙂

Blackie on my desk

Blackie-Boo on my desk. Ignore the clutter, I’ve already cleaned up most of it LOL

The comment section…

I remember my first exposure to the comment section. I was reading an article from the Toronto Star and noticed they had comments. I eagerly went to read, thinking it would be like the letters to the editor, heavily moderated and edited for brevity. They were no such thing. People were battling it out in the comments, complete with name calling. Later I realized that was the same for almost all sites. The comment section is where you tread carefully because trolls abound.

Then Emma came out as trans. I joined groups and made friends with both trans people and with parents of trans children. And, of course, articles about trans issues began flooding my newsfeed. And the trolls quickly followed. Once the transphobic trolls are weeded out, I find there’s five questions that surface again and again.

  1. The gender nonconforming girl and it’s always a girl. No men ever step up to talk about their gender nonconforming days *cough* toxic masculinity. She wanted to be a boy so badly when she was growing up. Boys had more freedom. So she wore boys clothes and had short hair. She might have even tried to pee standing up. Then she became a teenager and, voila, she because super girly. Loved lipstick and makeup and pretty dresses. Now she’s happily married to a man. If she was born today she would have been labelled trans. But, no, that’s not how it works. Trans children are almost always insistent and persistent. They know what sex they are and say it loud and clear. I’m a boy. I’m a brother. When will I grow a penis? They don’t just want to be a boy, they are a boy. If she was growing up now, she’d be labelled “gender nonconforming” just like countless other children today.
  2. There’s only two genders! Except there’s not. There are cultures all around the world who have more than one gender. Some have as much as five (the Bugis people in Indonesia for example). In North America, the indigenous people had a third gender known as two spirited. They were revered as wise people because they contained both male and female spirits. Our modern culture isn’t the only culture in the world.
  3. Tagging along with two genders comments are the people who say things like “my XX children are girls”. Maybe they think adding a bit of genetics into their argument will make them sound more intelligent. Pro tip, it’s not working. No one seriously thinks you took your children in for genetic testing just so you could rant on Facebook. There are well more than five genetic variants, with things like single X, XXY, XXX for example. If you haven’t tested your child, you don’t know what their chromosomes are. You could be in for a surprise.
  4. There’s always some who trots out the “My kid pretended to be a dog. Should I have changed his name to Rover and let him eat off the floor?” We all know kids love pretend play. They pretend to be cats and dogs and superheros and princesses… and sometimes an amalgamation of several of those. But there’s a huge difference between pretend play and being trans. Trans children are insistent and persistent. They often become withdrawn and confused because nobody else sees them as the gender they know they are. Some, as young as four or five, try to commit suicide. It’s not a game. Pretend play is fun and passes within a few weeks at the latest. Trans stays. The child might pretend to be cis if they’re met with extreme negativity, derision, or threats of or actual violence but they still know they’re trans and most eventually come out, whether it’s in their 20’s, 30’s, or even sometimes in their 80’s.
  5. Last, but not least, are the people who worry about the children changing their minds. How are they going to revert back? The answer is easy and should be obvious. They start using their birth name again and get a new wardrobe and haircut. Reverting back to their assigned gender isn’t very common however and often the child turns out to be non binary rather than being a cis male or female. The people who ask this question are usually quite uninformed and assume that transitioning to male or female in childhood somehow requires surgery. It doesn’t. No one is performing sexual affirmation surgery on children. That doesn’t happen until the late teens at the earliest.

I will sometimes wade into the comment section of articles and dispense answers, not because I think I’m going to get a bigot to think but because of all the people lurking. The people who know nothing about trans people and are willing to learn, the parents of trans kids, and trans people who are getting disheartened by all the transphobic comments. Besides, even if I only change one person’s mind, it could make a life time of difference to their child.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Colin, when he was younger, in some of his favourite dress up clothes

 

Five more years…

Five more years. That’s the estimated time until I can get a one bedroom apartment through subsidized housing. It should also, hopefully, get Colin through a good chunk of his schooling and prepare him for living on his own.

Getting him to be independent has been a process, not a one shot deal. Since he’s autistic and delayed socially, I started teaching him in late elementary school by sending him across the street to buy a small amount of groceries on his own. Something that made him feel quite proud of himself. Of course back then he was using my debit card but it was a start. His high school teacher was speechless when she found that out. Apparently he was the first student, out of all she’d taught, who had grocery shopping as a skill. Now he has his own bank account and a pre-paid Visa. He can spend exactly what he put on there and no more. Giving him responsibility without the worry of overspending.

Our bills are split relatively even. I pay extra on the rent  and pay our insurance while Colin pays for our Virgin bill (phones and internet). We were doing our grocery shopping together until this month. I lent him my card to buy three items at the grocery store. He forgot my three items then went to Dollarama and spent $71. So separate grocery runs from now on.

Colin’s all excited about his new responsibility because that means he picks what he wants, namely canned ravioli and macaroni and cheese. I figure he’ll broaden his horizons food wise once he gets bored with processed junk. Tomorrow I’m going to teach him how to make real macaroni and cheese, starting with a roux. Tonight he’ll be learning how to prepare tofu. The sauce is in a bag but it’s a start.

I’d say it’s bitter-sweet to be preparing for him to move, but it’s not. We’re both ready for places of our own. Splitting expenses just makes the inevitable move a lot easier. I’m looking forward to visiting Colin, and his clutter, in his own place then going home to relax in mine.

The weird part for me will be living on my own. I moved from my parents’ house right into my fiance’s house then our marriage broke up and I lived with our two kids. Kait’s flown the coop and is doing amazing. Now it’s Colin’s turn. We just need to wait five more years.

p.s. For those who are concerned about Blackie. She is doing 100% better now. Gobbling up her wet food and running to greet people at the front door. I’ve put her euthanasia money into a savings account but I don’t think she’ll need it any time soon. Which is amazing considering it was only a week ago that I was dithering about getting her euthanized. The appointment had been scheduled for a week ago tomorrow at 3pm. I’m so glad I dithered and cancelled the appointment. She’s such a sweet kitty and she’d leave a huge hole in our hearts.

The February blues…

It’s early February and outside is buried under snow and slush, thankfully more of the former than the latter. Salt crunches on sidewalks and turns both the sidewalks and roads white. The elevator talk is all about the weather. How cold is it going to be? How many centimetres of snow are we going to get?

I’m doing a lot better this winter than last. Last winter I was hospitalized twice, once in January and once in February, but this winter I’ve stayed home. Maybe it’s the pills, goodness knows they’ve been adjusted enough times. Maybe it’s the support of family, friends, and community groups. Maybe it’s a bit of euphoria that Blackie is alive and now thriving. And maybe it’s because I can escape to my room, which has been decorated in a springtime theme.

Colin’s life is relatively on track. He has a doctor’s appointment at the end of February and sees his new psychiatrist toward the end of March. Hopefully the two of them can work on a new treatment plan for him. His prescription helped with his highs but he was, and is, struggling with depression and anxiety. Despite both, he’s finished his schooling at the John Howard Society and has moved on to a work at home program run through our local college. He goes in for four hours every Friday for new assignments and help with any of the previous work. He came in here to chatter earlier and is back in his room running speed tests on all his computers and comparing the results. The downside of having a kid who builds and fixes computers is a whole whack of computers around the apartment. The upside is free technical support on everything.

Kait’s doing well too. The hardest part of her job, for me, is her hours make it nearly impossible for us to connect. She’s in bed sleeping by the time I get up and gets up shortly after I go to bed. But we do sometimes connect and, when we do, we gab for about an hour about everything from her job to her fur babies.

Soon February will turn into March… giving way to April. Soon the snow will melt and blue bells, trilliums, and snow drops will push their way through damp soil. Until then I’ll be found ensconced in my swinging chair, pondering the next chapter of my novel and waiting for spring.

my room

Mental health isn’t just one day…

Every year, in Canada, Bell Canada has a “Let’s Talk” event. It runs for one day at the end of January and is supposed to stimulate conversation about mental illness. Which is great but mental illness doesn’t exist for just one day.

I had a rough day with Colin but it didn’t start today, it started back in August when he came home from his psychiatrist and informed me Dr. A was going to be away for a while. My first thought was summer vacation. It was the right time of year to go.

School and family and appointments went on until one day, I said to Colin, “You haven’t seen your doctor in a while… like a really long time.  Did you make an appointment with him?”. Colin reminded me that he hadn’t made an appointment because his doctor was going away. I remembered that conversation from months earlier. Surely he had to be back by now.

That was when we got a message from the pharmacy saying that Colin’s prescription had expired a while earlier and the doctor was not responding to their faxes or returning their calls. They could no longer extend his prescription and it was ending the following week.

I had a psychiatrist’s appointment that week and Colin’s grandmother was dying in the same hospital so Colin left school a little early on the day of my appointment and came up to meet me. The receptionist informed us that his doctor was on leave and Colin should have received a letter in the summer with his temporary psychiatrist’s name and a request to make an appointment. He didn’t get a letter. There was nothing they could do other than schedule an appointment now but the earliest date available was the end of March. This was the middle of January. We made the appointment. What else could we do? It turned out we could go down to the ER and speak to the on duty psychiatrist.

Colin visited his grandmother, while I politely waited in the hall, then we went down to the ER to wait for the psychiatrist. Well he did. I was struggling with anxiety and went home. He came home quite proud of himself after talking to the doctor and we both breathed a sigh of relief that the prescription had been filled. At least until two weeks later when his blister pack of medication didn’t arrive. We were informed then that the ER doctor only prescribes enough medication for one week. That was when Colin said he wasn’t taking his medication anymore. It didn’t make a difference and he wasn’t going to sit in the ER every single week. I knew it would make a difference but had to admit I wouldn’t want to sit there each week too. And it wasn’t like I could force him to go.

Sometimes it’s not just one thing but a bunch of little things that cause mental health issues. Colin was stable on his medication until those little things piled up and toppled him off. And, to be honest, he wasn’t very compliant with his medication to begin with, something people struggling with bipolar disorder are notorious for. I quickly took over his blister pack, doling them out three times a day, until the pills ran out. Because if I left it to him he’d “forget” two out of every three pills. And we bumbled along until, thanks to a bunch of things, the pills ran out. Then, over a week or two the meds slowly left his body.

For me, today started at 3am when Colin woke up and turned on his videos in the living room. I think he was in the living room, I didn’t even open my eyes, let alone get up. “Emma?” I called. “Can you please turn that down or put on headphones?”

Medicated Colin would have complied. Medicated Colin would have turned down the video or stayed in his room with headphones on because 3am is fricking early. Not unmedicated Colin.

“No! The video isn’t on that loud and I’m working on several different computers so I can’t wear headphones. You just need to learn how to tune things out.”

“Em-”

“Tune it out Mom!”

I ended up drifting back into an uneasy sleep, never knowing when I was going to get woken up again. At one point Colin frantically asked how far our furniture had to be away from the patio doors as our building is having all with windows and patio doors replaced.

“Umm, three feet,” I replied sleepily. “But they’re on-”

“Okay,” he interrupted.

“Emma,” I continued. “They’re on penthouse right now and they’re only doing three or four apartments a week. It’s going to be spring before they get to us.”

“But we only have 24 hours,” he told me earnestly. Sure enough, I got up to find all our furniture moved away from the windows. We can’t use half our table but the windows are clear.

Then came school. He’s started a program at our local college, which isn’t far from us, maybe 5 minutes by bus. He decided not to buy a bus pass this month, instead he’s going to walk or bike. A laudable choice but it’s February. One thing we can count on is snow and slush. I figured it would take him about an hour to walk, giving him time to wade through unshovelled snow and slush.

He wanted to get to school about a half hour early today, which is fine, but he didn’t start getting ready until after 9am for a 10am start. I’m honestly not sure what he was panicking about as much of it was aimed at himself and a bit indistinct due to yelling. He needed a water bottle, maybe a plastic disposable bottle or maybe a reusable one. I told him where we keep our refillable bottles but there wasn’t one. Chances are they’re all in his room somewhere but that didn’t stop the complaints.

He left then came back for something then left again then finally came back. I began to wonder if the door was revolving.

“The sidewalks are wet and slippery,” he yelled. This wasn’t news to me. I’d told him that when he suggested biking in the first place. I thought he was going to walk.

“I need your bus pass,” he continued as he rummaged through my coat.

Then came more yelling. I was horrible and mean for not getting up to help him. It was my fault he was going to be late for school because I didn’t help him get ready. I pointed out it was his school and his responsibility. He stormed out only to call me at 9:59am.

“I’m going to be late for school and it’s your fault,” he informed me. “I’m taking my computer monitor back. I only lent it to you.”

I pointed out that he built me a computer with a monitor but it was pointless to argue. He wasn’t in a position to listen. And besides, there’s no telling what mood he’ll be in when he gets home. He could be angry, exhausted, euphoric, or just simply happy about school. What I do know is the anger will come back and keep coming back until he’s on his medication again. Uncontrolled anger is a symptom of bipolar, along with the swinging moods. It’s a rage that breaks through giddy happiness and blends in with unchecked depression.

“You don’t care,” he’ll sullenly inform me. “You only care about your book.” Or my blog, or Facebook, or whatever I happen to be doing at the time. “I could kill myself and you wouldn’t even notice!”

The only difference between the two rages is his up rage is more vocal and direct while his down rage is more quiet and manipulative. But either way it’s there.

People joke about being crazy  like it’s fun. Sharing memes about driving the crazy bus and being close enough to walk. About using the fine line between creative and crazy as a skipping rope. But it’s not fun.

Crazy is screaming at 3am because the rage is bubbling in your soul and has nowhere else to go. It’s being so happy you’re floating above the world and can see eternity… until you come crashing down. It’s lying in bed unable to get up because it’s pointless. Every single day is exactly the same and nothing will change. You will live and die in ennui until the end of eternity or until you get the guts built up to jump and end it all. But you don’t have the energy for that either. It’s the little voices that whisper and pick. You’re stupid and worthless. You don’t matter. When people say they like you they’re lying. You’re a horrible friend. It doesn’t matter if they’re in your voice or in voices of their own… they sit on your shoulder and jabber away. Crazy is not fun.

This year’s “Let’s Talk” is done. The Facebook messages and posts are over for another year. And many people will settle back down in their lives and not give mental illness much thought until the blue splashed messages appear again.

Let’s talk. Let’s talk real. Let’s talk ugly. Let’s talk scared. And, most of all, let’s listen. We’ll be here waiting.

hope says try