On life skills and showing off Jeremy…

My ex-husband called me last week, wanting to know what I’m doing to socialize Jeremy. Aren’t I worried about him?

I definitely needed to pause before I spoke. This is a man who considers a two hour visit “long”. He offered to bring his girlfriend to Jeremy’s track and field meet at the end of grade six then had to message me to ask the name of Jeremy’s school. Zie’d been attending there since the beginning of grade two. Involved is not a word anyone uses to describe him.

“Yes, I definitely worry about Jeremy,” I began. “Zie belongs to our church’s youth group-”

“That’s exactly what I want him to do,” my ex interrupted. “My church has a youth group that meets once a week. It’s sports themed and I’d really like him to join.”

Sports? The only sport Jeremy’s played in zir entire life was soccer and that’s because a) zie loved the silky shorts and b) because the coaches wouldn’t allow bullying on the field. Zie “played soccer” for three years… where played translates to “stood motionlessly in the middle of the field”. Ironically, zir Dad only attended one soccer game and that was to show Jeremy off to a different girlfriend.

My ex was agnostic while we were together and has since joined the Mormon church. He celebrated his baptism with a cigarette, a joint, and a beer, which speaks volumes about his commitment to the church’s values. The church is committed to him though and, in return, he wants to show off the one remaining child who’ll speak to him. His trans, not-straight child… and we all know the Mormon church’s stance on LGBTQ issues.

“Jeremy’s not into sports,” I replied, which might be the understatement of the year.

“It doesn’t matter if he likes sports,” ex retorted. “It’s a chance for him to get together with other kids.”

Jeremy’s Dad hadn’t been into sports either when we were married. He liked baseball well enough and would watch hockey if the game was on but that was it. His real interests were Dungeons and Dragons, computer adventure games, and role-playing card games like Magic the Gathering. Maybe I could pique some mutual interests?

“Is there something else you can do with Jeremy? Zie loves cards, like Pokemon and Magic. And playing with RC cars and zie would enjoy learning D&D-”

“No, the youth group is good,” he said flatly. “Besides, what are you doing to socialize him?

Not that I hadn’t tried to tell him once already. I stifled a sigh and tried again. “Jeremy belongs to our church’s youth group. They meet twice a month and are going bowling in a couple more weeks. Zie also goes to PFLAG with m-”

“What’s PFLAG?”

What rock was he hiding under? And why couldn’t he stay there instead of bugging me?

“PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but it’s for anyone in the LGBTQ community. It meets once a month and has a youth group. There’s a young adult group too and Jeremy’s going to it this Thursday.”

The young adult group turned out to be a disaster. Jeremy’s mad at them because they discriminate against straight white men. Between Lenny and I, that comment triggered an eye roll that spanned the Atlantic Ocean and half a continent.

“It’s supposed to be a safe space for everyone,” Jeremy yelled. “How can they call it safe when they make fun of straight white men all the time? Besides, how are we supposed to get straight, white men to like us if we’re mean to them?”

“Honey, it’s not your job to get them to like you.” I paused, trying to think of an example that was relevant and would resonant with zir.

“It’s like black Americans and the police. The majority of the police aren’t against black people but it’s not black people’s responsibility to make the police like them. It’s the police’s responsibility to tell their peers to be more respectful and to go after the ones who are horribly racist. The majority has to stand up against the unethical minority.”

“I still don’t think it’s fair,” zie retorted stubbornly. “If it’s a safe place, it should be safe for everyone.”

“Is this because you identify as a straight, white male?” I questioned.

I have never seen anyone look more frankly horrified in my life.

“Or maybe others see you as one?” I guessed. There had to be a reason zie felt so strongly.

Zir horror turned to shocked bewilderment. “No one ever sees me as straight,” Jeremy protested, tossing back zir hair for emphasis. As far as I know everyone thinks I’m gay.” Zie paused for a minute. “I’m not sure if they see me as male either,” zie mused.

Jeremy met up with zir Dad at our local library and I asked how the meeting went when I got home from work that evening.

It was Jeremy’s turn to roll zir eyes. “Dad wants me to join his church’s youth group so I can learn life skills. He says he’s worried about what I’m going to do once you’re 70 years old if I don’t learn these life skills now.”

Because praying over table tennis is going to teach zir how to balance a bank book.

Lenny pointed out that I’ve already taught zir how to grocery shop, pay bills, do chores and cook simple meals; all of which are more important than a youth group.

I can’t help but wonder if my ex is thinking of what inviting Jeremy to the group would really be like. You know, when Jeremy shows up in zir favourite silky blue shirt and best perfume?

I also can’t help but wonder what this Thursday’s PFLAG meeting’s going to be like after Jeremy’s steadfast protection of straight, white men.

Dear “Christian” Conservatives…

It was just over a year ago when Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a transport truck. Just over a year ago since she was buried under a name she didn’t like and didn’t want. But you won’t use the name she chose. Unctuous sympathy drips from your mouth while you refer to her as Joshua. I’ve read your articles, the ones where you blame liberals for causing her death. You claim she died because of depression and that real therapy, which reassured her of her innate maleness, would have helped. Then you quote doctors from John Hopkins University and a study which claims that 80% of transgender youths end up cisgender by the time they’re adults. But do you know what you ignore? That study had flaws big enough to drive a truck through. The researchers lost track of a bunch of the youths and simply assumed they’d stopped being trans. That’s not research. That’s guessing and wishful thinking.

Know what else you ignore? Leelah Alcorn should have been your poster child for “curing” transgender youths. She had a traditional nuclear family and religious parents who loved and supported her as their son. They did everything the Christian conservatives suggested. They got her into Christian counselling with a counselor who treated her depression and encouraged her to be a straight male. They took away her access to liberal websites which supported her as a trans female. They brought her to church and consistently referred to her by her birth name. If your articles and views were right, she should be happily filling out college forms as Joshua.  But she’s not. She died hating her parents and begging people to change society. She died asking people to remember her as Leelah.

This new year is barely ten days old, we haven’t even hit a fortnight yet, and so far I’ve nearly lost two friends to suicide. Both friends are trans and both have families who, like Leelah, are reasonably sure this is just a phase. One has family who finally realize this is serious; they’re now making an effort at using the right name and pronouns. The other? Well this is his second attempt since October and he’s just lost an unsupported trans friend to suicide. All I can do is keep reassuring him he’s wanted and needed and hope for the best.

Meanwhile there are families doing everything wrong according to conservatives and right according to liberals. They (for the most part) have kids who are thriving. Granted, they have their own unique issues. Most families don’t have to remind their kids not to leave their breasts on the kitchen table or warn them the family dog is chewing their penis. But they’re the ones taking smiling photos of their kids dressed up for prom (complete with friends and dates) and scheduling college tours.

Please stop. Stop fretting about saving your daughters from terrified newly out trans women who just want to pee. Stop showing off your knowledge of grade five biology as if middle school is the pinnacle of education. Stop telling people you know them better than they do. Stop acting like six year old trans girls are gap toothed predators stalking their fellow Girl Scouts. And stop patronizingly referring to Leelah by her dead name. Your attitude pushed her into the path of a truck. Would you please let her rest in peace?

 

*If you’re trans and struggling, there are resources available. Please reach out. I assure you, you are wanted and needed*

Saying goodbye to 2015…

“Is it the new year yet Mom?” Jeremy asked.

I flipped over the last of the fries and put the tray back in the oven. “It depends on what year you’re talking about,” I mused as I started the timer. “It’s the new year compared to 2014 but then 2016 starts in a couple more days.”

“Oh,” zie sighed. “I wanted it to be the new year now. Everything I ordered off Amazon comes next year. How about now? Is it 2016 yet?”

According to the timer, about 25 seconds had elapsed. I sent zir out to buy a fuse and pizza dough after the fourth “how about now” question. We don’t need the pizza dough until tomorrow but I need a bit of quiet writing time and zie needs some fresh air (and a chance to redirect zir thoughts to something other than parcel delivery times).

I figured this would be a year of change and it has definitely lived up to that title. Within the first month of 2015, I had a friend walk out of my life; a friend I thought would be there for life. The second month had me almost lose my Dad to an unknown infection. And to put it as vaguely as possible, living with my daughter Emma for four months caused a huge setback for our relationship. Then I found out that a friend of mine died suddenly… or not so suddenly considering she’d been dealing with medical issues for a while that had been ignored with the advice to “lose some weight”. She shows up in my Facebook memories regularly and it’s a blow to the heart each time.

Depression permeated my life for most of the year and I’m still slowly digging myself back out. I realized this summer that I had stopped reading, which was horribly shocking since I’m the person who couldn’t make it a day without reading something. I’m working on incorporating books back into my life and even bought myself two new novels the day before yesterday.

I posted a brief bit of information about my family history on my personal Facebook account, along with a plea for people to not vote for Stephen Harper, and lost one of my uncles (who declared me to be the rudest, most arrogant person he’s ever met) and my sister Amy. She responded to my yearly, family Christmas card with “fuck off” and a request to never speak to her again. Love was written at the bottom in quotation marks. My uncle didn’t respond at all.

On the flip side, Jeremy had an amazing birthday celebration with one of zir good friends and we both had an incredible time at our Unitarian Universalist campground. We painted our rooms this year and love how they turn out; now we both have a safe place. And we went on some amazing walks. Never underestimate the power of a good walk.

I found two labels that fit me after years of feeling like I simply didn’t fit in anywhere; asexual and autistic. Asexual doesn’t need anything more than a self diagnosis. Hopefully I can find someone who can help me sort out the autism puzzle. I’m on a wait list for a psychiatrist and, presumably, he can help.

This year I took a chance and accepted a whole lot of friend requests with the end result of several new good friends. They make me smile every time I see their posts and I enjoy chatting with them.

And, just when I figured that 2015 was going to end with more bad times than good, my best friend Lenny asked me if I wanted to be in a relationship with him. That definitely pulled 2015 up into the positive :) Jeremy really likes him too.

My goals for 2016 are simpler…

  1. Focus on the family I have. We had a huge family gathering on Boxing Day and it was wonderful. Then, today, Jeremy came with me to work and walked over to zir grandparents’ house. Jeremy’s cousin specifically asked if zie could hang out today. Family, and I’m including Lenny in this, needs to be treasured.
  2. Relax and get back into writing. I have not written or edited a novel in over a year and I miss it terribly. One thing I’ve stopped doing is carrying around a notebook and I need to get back into that habit; that way I have somewhere to jot ideas and conversations. I found I’d do that on the bus then hurry home to add it in on the computer. And I have the cutest journal for that too.
  3. Take time for myself. I need to scrapbook, read, and take the occasional bubble bath. I can’t see myself lying on my deathbed saying “I should have done more dishes and mopped twice a week”. I’ve picked up a lot more frozen veggies so I can pare down cooking time. Hopefully this will increase my free time.
  4. Encourage Jeremy to find something to do outside of surfing the net and browsing for products. This one is going to be tricky considering Jeremy has very limited interests beyond the computer but I’ll work with zir and see what we can come up with together.

Tomorrow is the very last day of 2015 and then we’re on to a bright, shiny new year. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us!

Jeremy's rainbow unicorn snail

Jeremy with zir rainbow unicorn snail from Karen

 

Christmas chaos…

I had three days off in a row mid November and decided that would be the perfect time to decorate for Christmas. I just needed to take down our Hallowe’en decorations and convince Jeremy to move all zir RC car bits and computer parts to somewhere more inconspicuous than our couch and dining room table.

“Jeremy, we really need to clean up…”

“That’s a great idea!” zie interrupted enthusiastically. “I really need to give my room a thorough cleaning. It’ll probably be easier if the bed wasn’t in the way…”

This was so not what I had in mind!

This was so not what I had in mind!

And off zie went, dragging even more stuff into the living room while pushing the Hallowe’en decorations to, well just about anywhere (including under the couch). Luckily zie did clean up fairly quickly and we were able to bring up the decorations from storage the following evening.

Last year I figured I’d make decorating easier by leaving the tree set up with the lights and garland already in place. That way all we needed to do was put on the decorations. What could go wrong? That question was answered almost as soon as we opened the locker door.

“Mom? Did you notice the tree?” Jeremy asked.

At first I thought zie was talking about the two loose branches dangling from the side. No big deal, they’d be easy to fix. Then I looked down. The tree went to the storage locker with four plastic feet. Now it only had three. It leaned against the wall as if it had snuck into the eggnog and rum a month too early. I have no idea where it could have found alcohol but where ever that was, it had apparently left a foot. It was nowhere to be found in the locker; we even got on our hands and knees to look under the baseboard heater. And there was no way I could put our ornaments up unless I wanted to replace them all next year. I’ve been carefully collecting ornaments for the past thirty years so that would be a distinct no.

so many bins

Jeremy insisted on taking all the bins up at once while I carried up our tree. When we got back to our apartment I hurried to put the tree into the living room then came back down our front hall to let Jeremy in. Zie let zirself inside instead.

“I could have opened that for you,” I blurted as the door banged against zir skateboard.

“I’m a strong, independent woman,” Jeremy retorted.

Jeremy tossed zir hair back and placed a hand on zir hip, holding the bins steady with the other. “I can do it myself,” zie added cockily. Alrighty then.

I propped the tree up against the bookcase and informed Jeremy we were eating before doing anything about the tree. I don’t think well when I’m hungry. Theoretically we could run across the street to Value Village. It was early enough for them to be open and they might have a tree. But we’d only had this one for a couple of years and it was still good, aside from that damn foot. Maybe I could make a foot but it would have to not only be strong enough to support the tree but also bend to fit into the groove on the base of the trunk. If only we had a metal coat hanger… I got up and hurried to the closet. We didn’t but I found a sturdy plastic hanger and Jeremy’s wire cutters.

our recycled leg

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. At least the tree skirt covers it.

tree and living room

I’d say that the decorating fiasco is over except Jeremy’s now decided to rearrange all zir bins in the hallway closet, which means zie’s dragged half the contents of the closet into the living room and, for some bizarre reason, placed a bentwood rocker onto my bed. Blackie’s enjoying sleeping under it. There’s no way on earth I’d fit.

Then there’s the chaos of shopping.

I don’t like shopping. I don’t like crowds or noise and shopping seems to involve an abundance of both. One of my coworkers introduced me to an online China based website where I could order all sorts of items, which means shopping in my pjs at bedtime with no crowds (other than my cats). I immediately ordered a bunch of Jeremy’s presents including a wall art sticker which looks like a window into the Minecraft realm, a Five Nights at Freddy’s brass game token, and a small RC forklift (something Jeremy’s wanted for years). I also ordered a small purple RC car which fits into a soft drink can. This was back on the first day of September. It has yet to arrive. Neither has Jeremy’s light up gaming headphones. My new strand of glimmer lights haven’t arrived either. The good news is I have enough presents for Jeremy without them. I still want zir to have them though and not just because I’ve paid for them.

The presents which did arrive here promptly were the ones I bought for my nieces. I ordered them on a Saturday and had them show up that Monday, which would have been amazing if they were supposed to arrive here and not the other side of the country. Luckily my Mom shipped them with her gifts, reasoning that three little books wouldn’t cost anything to add in.

At least our Christmas outfits are sorted out. I have decent black jeans and several sparkly sweaters while Jeremy has teal leggings and my black velvet, glitter spangled top. I get the feeling sometimes that family thinks I’m pushing zir into feminine clothes. Meanwhile I gave zir the choice of three coats yesterday at Value Village and zie went immediately for a very feminine 50’s style coat in vivid purple with a double row of gold buttons. It sadly didn’t fit but zir next choice, a soft plum, did. It looks fabulous on zir.

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I booked a day off next week to shop for stocking stuffers and one last spontaneous gift. We were at the check out on Sunday when Jeremy spotted a stuffed animal zie absolutely had to have.

“OMG Mom… I need it! Look at how cute it is! Please!!! It’s only eight dollars and it’s adorable!”

“Ask for it for Christmas,” I replied idly as I flipped over the tag. It’s a phrase I say at least once a day for three months of the year. An orange Beanie Boo cat named Muffin, it wouldn’t be that hard to find again. Right?

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This is Tabitha…

This is Muffin

This is Muffin

I’m sensing a bit more chaos ahead.

Michelle’s introductory guide to trans…

There’s a good chance you’re reading this post because a friend shared it on Facebook and you’re curious. You’ve seen Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation via the media and watched Laverne Cox’s character on Orange is the New Black. Maybe you agree that they’re women or maybe you don’t understand why people think “he’s” a woman. Either way you’ve come to the right place.

The best place to start is with a definition. Transgender simply means that someone isn’t the gender they were assigned at birth. Assigned at birth is a common term in the trans community because, when you get right down to it, that’s what happens. If there’s something between the legs and it’s relatively long, the baby’s a boy. If there’s something there but it’s relatively small, the baby’s a girl. If it’s in between that’s what’s referred to as intersex. There is no biology or genetics done here, just a tired doctor eyeballing a newborn’s genitals and ticking a M or F box.

Sometimes people claim to be using biology as proof that trans doesn’t exist. All that does is prove the person really doesn’t understand biology. Gender is a spectrum; there is far more than xx/xy and penis/vagina. Claiming there’s no more to gender than two sets of chromosomes and genitals is akin to claiming algebra doesn’t exist because it doesn’t mesh with what you learned in grade two math. First, as I said above, intersex exists. Second, gender exists in the brain, not between the legs.

Gender and sex development occur in the womb. At the beginning, all zygotes look the same then they begin to differentiate according to hormones and the embryo’s chromosomes. Noticeable visual differences can be seen by the time the fetus reaches 20 weeks. But gender isn’t visible to the naked eye, that develops in the brain and can be seen in brain scans. To put it simply, the fetus’ genitals release small amounts of hormones which are supposed to trigger a hormonal wash to wire the brain. However sometimes the hormones aren’t detected and either not enough or different hormones wash through instead, wiring the brain with a gender that differs from the visible sexual characteristics.

People use the quote “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” on a regular basis and this goes doubly for gender. If you don’t want to be judged by outside appearances, why judge someone else? Women and men come in all different shapes and sizes (and so does everyone in between). I’m sure everyone’s had an incident where they’ve been told they can’t possibly know something about themselves, that someone else knows better. Maybe it was over something silly like developing a taste for a food you hated as a child and having your Mom refuse to serve it to you. Maybe it was over something serious like having your beliefs or sexual orientation dismissed as merely a phase or some sort of rebellion. There’s a frustration that boils up inside when people claim they know you better than you know yourself… an anger and discomfort at being ignored and patronized… a feeling of invisibility. Now imagine how much harder it would be to have the core of your identity ignored and devalued.

Your sex was the first thing other people defined about you as soon as you were born, usually even before your birth and often before your health. Your gender was the first thing people asked about you as a baby. It permeates every aspect of your life from the clothes you buy to the recreation you enjoy. If you’ve been arguing that trans people are wrong about their gender, it’s time to ask yourself why. Why do you feel you know more about their gender than they do? They know what genitals they have and are probably far more appalled* by them than you are. Isn’t it better to trust them to know such an integral part of their life better than you?

Sometimes when people disagree with being transgender, they bring up irrelevant arguments. Quite frankly, someone thinking they’re a dog is as relevant to an argument about trans people as someone wanting to marry their toaster is to an argument about equal marriage (whether it’s same sex or interracial). Someone thinking they’re black as an argument is a little more relevant since it happened recently. Rachel Dolezal splashed into the media this spring as a white woman who claimed to be black so incessantly that she got appointed the president of NAACP. As usual, the reality was complicated. She didn’t come up with this notion out of nowhere, she has black siblings and came from an abusive family. Rachel isn’t black, she’s a woman struggling through the aftermath of abuse who identifies with the people who supported her in early childhood. Colour really is skin deep. You can’t do a brain scan and determine whether someone’s black or white. Race is based on where our ancestors lived, a melanin umbrella for sun protection. The closer the equator… the darker the skin. Gender, however, can be recognized through brain scans.

I am a cisgender (or cis) woman. To put it simply, when I was born the doctor looked at me and said, “It’s a girl!” and I am one. Meanwhile the doctor told me that Jeremy was a boy and zie’s not. Cisgender is not an insult unless it’s been shortened to something like ‘cis scum’ and, in that case… seriously? What the hell did you do?

Don’t tell me, I don’t actually want to know.

It’s not a label you can refuse either (unless you’re trans). You can’t claim to dislike this one label when you’ve accepted every single other one. Claiming it’s an “invented word” doesn’t fly either. Is the rest of our language organic and free range? Were the other words all carefully hand picked off the etymology tree? This is a label that will turn up so rarely in your life that you don’t really have to worry about it. Even if you hang out with a bunch of trans people you’re far more likely to talk about phone cases, chocolate, and that amazing new Thai restaurant that just opened up down the street. Although honestly I’m more partial to the Chinese restaurant two blocks over (their homestyle bean curd is so yummy!).

My friends agree that dysphoria is the hardest part of being trans but there’s another difficult part… a whole bunch of misguided comments and cringe worthy questions. I’ve asked a few friends what comments or questions they get, but first I’m going to share a video made by trans activists:

As you can tell by the video, our society has a weird obsession with trans people’s genitals. My biggest tip is just don’t. When was the last time you asked someone if they were circumcised or if they shaved “down there” or you pondered the size of their labia? I’m really hoping the answer to all of the above is never. Give trans people the same respect. Plus let’s stop with the “chopped off his penis” comments. A trans woman’s penis is not cut off (presuming she chose to have surgery in the first place). The penis is very neatly divided and looped around to form a vagina, labia, and a (usually) functioning clitoris. This is done by a well trained surgeon and team, not the trans woman and a pair of scissors.

Alongside rampant discussions and questions about genitals comes a whole other debate. Bathrooms.

Cue the sound of trans people hitting their heads on the keyboard.

For most people, public washrooms are an irritation. Will there be toilet paper? Will the paper sit neat and clean in the dispenser instead of strewn across a waterlogged floor? Will it smell like a circus outhouse on a hot day or an artificial version of roses. Trans people get all that plus the added concern of being yelled at or beaten up and, in some cases, having security or the police called. Simply because they wanted to pee.

There’s a concern that some cis people have that men are going to sneak into the ladies room in drag, pretending to be trans, and rape someone. Won’t someone think of the children?!? This ignores the fact that a) that same man is going to have to walk through the store in drag, which is hardly inconspicuous (I’ve seen people literally turn in place to continue staring at Jeremy when we’re out) and b) there are trans children who need just as much protection as their cis friends and siblings. These fears also conveniently ignore a huge swatch of trans people, namely trans men. If people were forced to go into the washroom of their assigned gender, that means trans men would have to go into the women’s room…

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Yep, he wouldn’t be conspicuous at all

When people argue against trans people using their correct washroom, they forget about men like Michael Hughes. How exactly are you supposed to tell if he’s trans when he’s in the washroom? If a woman is scared of having a man in the washroom with her, I’d think she’d be more upset about a muscular bearded man than a woman who’s in there to pee and (possibly) check her lipstick. For that matter, how are people supposed to tell in general? Are we all to drop our drawers before we enter? Are they going by gender stereotypes? There’s already at least one cis woman suing in the States for being harassed and escorted out of the ladies room for not looking feminine enough.

Plus these arguments ignore one crucial fact. There has not been one single case of a trans person attacking or harassing a cis person in the washroom. Not one. The closest I could find was a case where a couple of young teens claimed to be exposed to a trans woman’s penis while changing for a team event. Not attacked, simply exposed. Plus it turned out that the two girls snuck into a member’s only section of the gym, an area they were clearly told was out of bounds, and then proceeded to open up a closed and private sauna room door where the trans woman and her friend happened to be sitting. Conversely, I wouldn’t have the space or time to write down all the times trans people have been harassed in the washroom from this year alone. It’s not unknown for trans people to suffer with bladder problems stemming from holding their urine for hours instead of using a public toilet. They’d rather suffer from bladder problems instead of being attacked (again). But they’d really rather be safe.

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So not a risk to anyone in the women’s room. Very much at risk in the men’s room.

There’s another act of violence against trans people, misgendering. This occurs when people refuse to use a trans person’s pronouns, instead using the pronouns the person was assigned at birth. Jeremy is continuously misgendered. Akin to misgendering is the act of using someone’s birth name, also known as their dead name in the trans community. Both can cause a great deal of emotional distress to a trans person, as well as disrespecting the right to their own identity. At least 22 people have been killed this year because they were transgender women. I say at least because some end up being dead named and identified as male. Their names were read at our Transgender Day of Remembrance service this year and an appalling number were identified by the phrase “unknown woman”. Outing someone is an act of violence. Telling people your female friend “used to be male” puts her at risk of being beaten up or murdered. Telling people your male friend “used to be female” puts him at risk of being beaten up or raped. If you have a trans friend that’s great. Don’t betray their trust by outing them so you can appear cool or trendy. Don’t betray their trust because you’re struggling with accepting your new information about their gender. Introduce them with their pronouns and chosen name then move on.

We are all human. We all have hopes, dreams, hobbies, and a burning need to know why Facebook keeps switching to “top profile” (the last one might be just me). Don’t let a label get between you and another person.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them honestly (and possibly by frantically messaging my friends). This blog is unapologetically a safe place. Any transphobic or homophobic comments are deleted and the person is blocked from commenting. I’ll make allowances for honest ignorance.

* Most, but not all trans people, deal with some degree of gender dysphoria. Some, like my teen Jeremy, are perfectly happy with their body including their genitals. One of my friends refers to her genitals as “that thing” or “the abomination”. Another friend of mine had to hide sharp objects for fear her daughter might try to cut off her own penis as a preschooler. Many of my friends have posted pictures which show a man and woman on opposite sides of a mirror, while saying that’s exactly how they feel. They feel themselves completely as one gender and it’s continually jarring to have everyone else see and refer to them as a different gender entirely.

Is there a diagnosis for weird?

The part I remember the most was that I actually had a friend over. She’d come over as my friend, wanting to hang out and do stuff with me. For the first time ever I could have someone in my room to share my toys and activities. I sat on the floor beside my closet and happily showed off my favourite books and toys. Then I asked her a question and got silence for an answer. I looked up and she was gone.

My heart pounded. I was positive she’d just been there a second ago. Where could she have gone? My room was silent… the hallway empty. I raced downstairs and ran into the kitchen.

“Mom! Mom! My friend just disappeared!”

My Mom gave me this sad smile. “Michelle, she’s right here,” she said as she pointed over to the table. There was my friend sitting calmly eating a snack. “She’s been downstairs for at least ten minutes.”

I don’t remember anything about that friend. I have no idea what her name was, her hair colour, or how we’d even met. What I do remember was the soul crushing shame as I realized I’d sat alone for at least ten minutes talking to myself. The realization that the things I was interested in really were boring and pointless.

I was the kid who collected worms off the side of the road so they wouldn’t drown. Who skipped instead of walked. Who sang in school. Who daydreamed through math class and read through everything else. Who took forever to get dressed because clothes were too finicky and the seams too uncomfortable. Who couldn’t wear jeans. Who couldn’t bounce on a pogo stick even once but could climb to the top of the tallest tree. Who struggled to ride a bike and tie my shoes but could run super-fast. Who hated water on my face but loved swimming underwater. Who mistook a classmate for my own sister because their faces were similar. Who forgets what their own sister looks like? Who can’t tell faces apart that badly? It was even more embarrassing than my Mom drilling me on my classmates faces after picture day and realizing I couldn’t name a single one.

One thing my Mom remembers about my childhood is how well I could hear. As a toddler I recognized my Dad’s step because his knee clicked slightly and, when I was a bit older, I recognized his car by the pitch of the engine. Right now I can hear the hum of my netbook’s fan and the clicking of the CPU. I can hear the cars on the road a block away and my cats breathing. Jeremy chatting in zir room. The faint hum of my ceiling lamp (thankfully not the whine of some fluorescent bulbs). People walking upstairs and moving a chair. I’m reasonably sure most people would say it’s quiet. Sometimes I plug my ears when I’m out. The sounds can get painful.

The school worried about me when I was little and so did my parents. I was sent to Sick Kids for testing in the mid 1970’s and the doctor gave my parents the very scientific results; I’m a square peg in a round hole. He went on to ask them not to let the school board chip my corners off. I wonder how that would fit in an IEP.

I tried to fit in for years, mimicking people’s behaviours and conversational techniques. The end result was an ever present label of “weird”. I talked funny. I sounded like a college professor. I finally gave up on trying to fit in because there doesn’t seem to be much point when the end result is the same. Most jokes confuse me, the raunchy ones especially. I love elephant jokes. They don’t hurt anyone and they make sense. My best social interactions happen online.

The first time the word “autism” intersected with my life was when Jeremy was a toddler and zir occupational therapist brought it up casually. The images my mind dredged up were vague impressions of head banging, rocking, and screaming. My happy, social child didn’t fit any of that. Then the school brought it up and finally Amy. Three separate times was enough to make me do some more investigating and, by the time zie turned seven, I was determined to get zir into testing. Jeremy was diagnosed through the school less than a year later.

Then people started using the word against me, this time as an insult. Amy, who insisted that I should get Jeremy diagnosed because she worked with autistic youths and knew the symptoms, was the first.

You’re so fucking autistic, Michelle. You have no idea how to relate to people.

I looked at Jeremy, who was friendly, helpful, and honest. Amy threw autism like it was an insult but there was nothing wrong with my child. However, she was right in one way; being a square peg in a round hole isn’t a diagnosis… neither is being weird. I joined a group for autistic women on Facebook, explaining honestly that I don’t have an official diagnosis. One immediately posted an online test. This was my result.

ASD online test

Apparently I’m an over achiever.

Jeremy and I are on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist who does talk therapy. I’m hoping he’ll be able to help Jeremy with zir anxiety and I’m hoping he’ll be able to help me with my depression and an actual diagnosis.

For now I need to remind myself that the things I like aren’t weird, boring, or pointless… they’re just uncommon. Because I need to be kind to myself too.